With graduation only two months away, I lit up when I heard that the ceremony would be held at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. I’ve spent all my life walking the boards, picking up fried Oreos and memorabilia in the tiny row of shops. Playing mini golf isn’t my favorite but all I can remember is the warm night and the sound of laughter from my family.
My eyes glazed over when I saw the view from the top of the Merry-go-round on the pier. I spent sweltering days on the beach watching the air show, and cool Saturday nights being hypnotized by fireworks. As I grew older, my cult classics began to vanish. Buddahkan, The Continental, and the shopping mall that had the only Lush within a 50-mile radius. When Harry’s Oyster Bar on Pacific Ave shut down, it was my last straw.
The death of my favorite spots meant I had to get out of my comfort zone. With the help of friends, family, I managed to find the perfect spot to celebrate your graduation, birthday, anniversary, or simply life. Cheers to that.
On a Monday night, I left my house in a black and white dress. A group of my friends and I were about to surprise someone with an unexpected birthday dinner. Our reservation for Izakaya was at 8:15. I arrived at Borgata promptly around 7:50. Once we arrived at our table we set out the birthday balloons. The group was giddy and couldn’t wait to see the look on our friends’ faces. To start the night, I ordered a Cocktail, the Shirihama Surf. The Coconut infused Sake, Rum and Pineapple transported me to a soft sandy beach with a flirty surfer in the background. We welcomed more guests with cheers and laughter, the birthday girl was going to show up any minute.
As she came around the corner we stayed quiet, suddenly, a roar. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Her jaw dropped and a huge smile lit up the darkroom. She took her seat at the very end of the table. The pack was ready to feast. “You MUST try the soup dumplings,” said my girlfriend, “The California Roll is my favorite,” said another.
I was not holding back that night, I started with Tempura cheese curds in a sweet and spicy yum yum sauce, the perfectly fried layer of tempura melted right into the center filled, stretchy, cheese. Next, was the BBQ short rib. When it hit the table, I looked like a dog with a bone. The meat was tender and perfectly paired with bulgogi sauce.
Another plate came out, my soup dumplings were ready to be devoured. I have a very high standard for dumplings, but the chicken, scallion, and sesame seeds knocked me right out of the park. My dress was fitting tighter than before, but my last request, before I popped, was the duck scrapple bun. The maple teriyaki, cucumber, chili stuffed perfectly in between a soft, plump rice bun topped it off. We shared crispy, glazed Brussel sprouts, fried chicken bites, Chilean sea bass rolls, and more.
“It’s time,” I thought to myself. I looked over to the waitress and secretly ordered nine sake bombs. A sake bomb is when you balance a shot of sake over a glass of beer with chopsticks. Altogether, the table counts to three and bangs the table, causing the shot to fall into the glass. The beer fizzes violently, and the whole table throws back their glass in an attempt to chug their drink first. We made sure to get all the extra plates and cocktail glasses out the way.
The mess of beer was expected. “WHO ORDERED THESE” demanded someone from the far side of where I sat. The sound of nine people banging the wooden table made everyone in the restaurant turn heads. Laughter filled our corner of the room. I was full and blessed to be surrounded by those I loved. True bliss.
Izakaya is a great location for large gatherings or small intimate dinners. Their menu has a variety of small bites and filling platters of rolls. In fact, Izakaya is the Japanese term for “Stay-drink-Place”. A spot to grab a drink, settle in, and get comfortable. An informal affair. It had been a long time since I had walked around Borgata. Although it was slow for a Monday night, we brought the party.
Categories: Argo Eats