Like any good restaurant, Evo has gone through multiple changes since opening in 2004. When it debuted inside Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, its swank bar, open kitchen, chic design and modern music soundtrack helped define the Atlantic City dining landscape.
As time passed, Evo has changed chefs and menus, but one thing remains constant: it’s one of the best places to dine al fresco — right on the Boardwalk under umbrellas as an attentive waitstaff can offer you everything from a full Italian meal to cold specialty cocktails as people stroll by.
A recent visit proved that Evo’s patio area remains a popular hot spot. As live music poured over the dunes from Trump Plaza’s Beach Bar, the outside tables were relatively full as people enjoyed everything from light appetizers to brick-oven pizzas to gourmet entrees.
While the inside of Evo remains attractive with its warm earth tones, mahogany furniture and a golden oak, it’s hard not to be enticed away from the flat-screen TVs at the bar to people-watch outside. With seating for about 80 people, white linens and real glassware make this a different outdoor experience than many al fresco restaurants offer. No plastic cups or silverware. This is the real deal.
Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Evo has changed from its once upscale, higher-priced menu to a more approachable one. In fact, unless you look hard, you will have a hard time discovering the a la carte menu. That’s because Evo basically pushes you to order its three-course, $19.95 option, a two-page menu loaded with choices. Once you do see the a la carte menu and its prices — most entrees range from $16.95 to $26.95 — it just doesn’t make sense not to order the “III Course Gourmet Special.”
Diners are given first-course options of Caesar salad, field greens salad, five-onion soup and seafood chowder. Second-course options are prosciutto and mozzarella, Evo antipasta, seafood salad and bruschetta. Then choose from more than 30 entrees.
What We Liked: It’s summer. You’re outside. You have to order one of the specialty drinks. And the two martinis we tried — both $12 — were quite excellent. The Crazy Russian, with vodka, Sour Apple Pucker, raspberry liqueur and cranberry juice, was perfect on a beautiful night under the stars, and the Ulimat Dirty Martini was served cold and strong, just as it should be.
Choosing from the “gourmet special” menu is a task itself. Offering everything from seafood to meat and chicken entrees, brick-oven pizza and an entire page of Italian specialties, there is certainly a great deal of variety.
We were relatively pleased with our Caesar salad, which had a decent dressing but wasn’t quite as cold as it should have been. And the antipasto was nicely presented with delicious, fresh prosciutto, cheeses, roasted peppers and a small green salad with balsamic dressing.
The entrees were the highlight, particularly the chicken parmesan, which was crispy and topped with an excellent, sweet gravy and fresh mozzarella cheese. Even though the calamari Arrabbiata had fried calamari — fresh, sauteed calamari is usually used in this dish — the calamari were tender, and the sauce was spicy, just like it should be.
Our server, Dante, and his support staff were on top of our every need, refilling water, making sure we were OK and offering replacements for the dishes were weren’t too thrilled with. The manager also was seen checking tables around the restaurant. A class act.
What We Didn’t Like: There were a few disappointments along the way. The less-than-mediocre bread basket would be a heckuva lot better if it was either served warm or featured better bread. And something other than butter — a special olive oil? — would help.
The seafood chowder was more milky than creamy, featured hardly any seafood and was under-seasoned.
And the seafood salad appetizer was so under-seasoned, it was inedible.
Insiders Tip: Diners should be aware that a few of the dishes on the specials menu are offered for $5 to $10 up-charges, including veal dishes, Kansas City prime steak, shrimp scampi and surf and turf.
The Bottom Line: When it comes to eating outdoors in the summer — particularly on the Boardwalk — there aren’t many options in Atlantic City. Consider Evo a solid — and affordable — one.