Nucky Ate Here. Shouldn't You?
Over the past century, the Knife & Fork Inn has led a long and colorful life, making it one of the oldest and most historically charged establishments in Atlantic City. Standing where Atlantic, Pacific and Albany Avenues converge, the Knife & Fork was originally established in 1912 by then Atlantic City Mayor William Riddle, the Commodore Louis Kuehnle, and their cronies as an exclusive men’s drinking and dining club. The second floor was graced with curtained dining alcoves and a separate “ladies lounge” where women, who were not permitted at the bar, waited to be summoned. Private rooms on the third and fourth floors were used for gambling and, perhaps, other activities.
During Prohibition, rebellious club members defied the laws of an alcohol-free society and continued to openly serve liquor at the bar. The club survived without being raided for some time, perhaps due to the influence of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the reigning political boss, who was a Knife & Fork regular. Eventually, however, federal agents decided to crack down and, in true roaring twenties style, entered the bar and destroyed all of its contents.
After the raid, the club’s membership declined and in 1927 the building was sold to Atlantic City’s Latz family. Convinced Prohibition was here to stay, the Latz’s removed the bar, which once occupied what is now the Hearth Room, and converted the building into a public restaurant. During the depression, Milton and Evelyn Latz moved the family into the third and fourth floors of the restaurant, where they lived for several decades.
Milton and Evelyn successfully managed the Knife and Fork until Milton died in 1948. Their sons Mack, a decorated war hero, and Jim, an accomplished runner, then took over and redefined the business through the post war decades, surviving the advent of gambling in Atlantic City. Over the years, the Knife & Fork became a favorite of local politicians, wealthy vacationers, and Hollywood celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Vic Damone. In a famous scene from the movie “Atlantic City,” Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon dined in the restaurant’s popular porch, now known as the Terrace.
In 1985, Mack and Jim, famously unable to get along, decided to part ways. Mack bought out his brother, becoming the sole owner of the Knife & Fork, and continued to operate the restaurant with his own irascible style for more than a decade. As Mack approached 80, however, he decided to retire from the grueling restaurant business. Unfortunately, Mack’s attempt to find a buyer for the Knife & Fork was unsuccessful and the historic restaurant closed in 1997.
Two years later, Mack’s son Andrew leased the restaurant, reopening in 1999. By 2003, however, Mack once again decided to find a buyer for the Knife & Fork. His search eventually led to Frank Dougherty, a friend and member of the family owning the other Atlantic City dining landmark, Dock’s Oyster House. Frank had always been intrigued by the iconic building, and could not pass up the opportunity to restore the legendary restaurant. In January 2005, Frank and his family purchased the historic restaurant and embarked upon an extensive renovation project to refurbish the landmark and wow a whole new generation of guests.
Mack and Jimmy eventually reconciled and celebrated Mack’s 90th birthday together at the Knife & Fork surrounded by friends and family. Mack can still be seen at the Knife & Fork, enjoying Friday lunch at the bar.
The 2005 Renovation and Restoration
The 2005 renovation of this legendary Atlantic City steak and seafood restaurant was designed to recapture the look and feel of the Knife & Fork’s Prohibition era roots, including rich mahogany millwork, hand-painted ceilings, a sweeping staircase, and lushly appointed dining rooms. The Knife & Fork’s famous red roof tiles were removed and replaced to allow for the repair of the roof. Gone is the peeling exterior, replaced with a fresh white stucco surface, just like the original. The distinctive crossed knife and fork emblems, many of which were broken or decaying, were reproduced in a more durable material and continue to adorn the façade.
The original solid brass door was refurbished and now welcomes guests to the reception area, featuring a sweeping staircase leading guests to the dining rooms upstairs and a custom built wine storage display. The dramatic new entry also opens into the expanded bar area, which has once again become the place to see and be seen in Atlantic City.
The vaulted ceiling of the Main Dining Room, marred by water damage and years of cigar and cigarette smoke, has been restored to its former elegance. A prohibition-era mural replaces an old service station and dumbwaiter, removed in the renovation. The small downstairs bar, which had to be removed to make way for a handicapped-accessible restroom, was refurbished and moved to the main dining room to service the guests seated upstairs. Dramatic new chandeliers also grace the ceiling.
The Ladies’ Dining Lounge, while open to all, is a nod to the Knife & Fork’s early years as a private men’s club when ladies were required remain in a side room adjoining the Main Dining Room. Stained glass windows were replaced with clear glass to take advantage of the magnificent ocean views, which are also visible from the Main Dining Room.
The third floor, formerly part of the Latz family’s apartment, has been transformed into our Wine Room. One section of the room is devoted to our glass enclosed, temperature and humidity controlled wine “cellar,” where the bottles on our award winning wine list are impressively displayed on floor to ceiling racks. The Wine Room features ocean views, wood floors, and exposed brick and is a perfect location for private parties and special events.
The only aspect of the renovation that was not a nod to the past was the kitchen. The Knife & Fork’s kitchen has been completely redesigned and now features all new, state-of-the-art stainless steel equipment, including a large grill on which the finest steaks and seafood are meticulously prepared. Experience the Knife & Fork for yourself, and discover the restaurant that again has everyone talking. Tell ‘em Nucky sent you.
The Dougherty Family Tradition
For Frank Dougherty, the restaurant business is not a part of life; it’s a way of life. As a fourth-generation co-owner of Dock’s Oyster House, he literally grew up in the only restaurant in Atlantic City older than the Knife & Fork itself.
Dock's was established in 1897 by Frank’s grandfather, Harry Dougherty. Harry’s vision of a fine neighborhood restaurant has been upheld by three subsequent generations who shared his commitment to quality and service. That commitment has established Dock’s as a local institution and the Dougherty’s as Atlantic City’s premier restaurant family.
The most recent addition to the Dougherty family of restaurants is Harry’s Oyster Bar, named after the founder of Dock’s. Harry's is located in yet another historic location: the Courtyard of the Dennis Hotel, which is now a part of Bally’s. Just steps off the Boardwalk, Harry's serves fresh, top quality seafood, sandwiches and steak in a casual and inviting atmosphere. With a 40-seat mahogany bar, massive raw bar display, 18 flat screen TVs, and indoor and outdoor dining, Harry's has something for everyone!