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100 years of history at Knife & Fork Inn

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 2:44 pm

When it comes to landmark restaurants in Atlantic City, it’s hard to beat the Knife & Fork Inn.

With an exterior resembling a tiny castle, the inn has ruled over the city for 100 historic years. And it’s not just locals who have noticed.

The restaurant has served celebrities such as Duke Ellington and Bob Hope as well as infamous leaders including Atlantic City’s Enoch “Nucky” Johnson.

When riding Albany Avenue into the city, you run right into the Knife & Fork on the corner of Atlantic Avenue. This location makes it the perfect welcome to Atlantic City.

The restaurant was originally built as a gentleman’s club for the political elite in 1912 under William Riddle, who became mayor of the city in the same year.

Riddle was extremely strict and specific about the quality of the building materials at the Knife & Fork Inn, demanding rust-proof copper nails, a brass door and hardwood floors imported from Belgium.

After finding out workmen were painting the heads of nails copper to cut corners, Riddle had a portion of the building torn down and rebuilt to fix the problem.

With stucco walls, stepped gables, stained glass and a terra cotta roof, Riddle’s building certainly stood the test of time and stands out among other architecture in the city.

Riddle operated a bar through the Prohibition era and authorities eventually stopped turning a blind eye to the operation, forcing him to look for a new operator.

Milton and Evalyn Latz took over the Knife & Fork in 1927 and added their own touches to it over the course of seven decades. They added an enclosed patio area, which was featured in the Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon 1980 film, “Atlantic City,” and replaced private booths on the second floor with tables. Then, they converted the third and fourth floor into an apartment for them to live.

In 2005, Frank Dougherty took over the Knife & Fork. Just four years later, James Latz passed away.

Dougherty, who also owns the 1897-established Dock’s Oyster House on Atlantic Avenue, used a five-month, multi-million-dollar renovation of the restaurant to get it back to its 1920s glory days.

With most of the décor and fabrics picked from themes of the Roaring ‘20s, Dougherty has made the interior space as warm and inviting as the restaurant’s history.

And its food is just as accommodating. Considered a fairly formal restaurant, most patrons visit the Knife & Fork for special occasions. The eatery’s elite service and modern takes on classic dishes is what keeps it in business in Atlantic City.

While people may be drawn to the Knife and Fork because of its history, people come back to the restaurant for its fusion of classic and contemporary cuisine with gourmet flair and presentation such as lollipop lamb chops, lobster spring rolls, kobe beef carpaccio and mini burgers, prime steaks, various fish dishes, sauteed softshell crabs, inventive sides and homemade desserts. And the bar scene is always hopping with local celebrities mixed with the average Joe as they sip on craft beer and more than 320 wines.

The Knife and Fork is truly a legendary Atlantic City institution that is worth checking out.