When Kyle Williams opened Scales, his second restaurant in Gardner's Basin, following the successful Back Bay Ale House, he was hoping to duplicate the same long-term success story that the building's previous tenants - the Flying Cloud - enjoyed for many years.
Two years later, Williams watched his large investment and relatively new restaurant, which was totally renovated, get destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
"We had three feet of water inside," Williams says. "It was devastating. That, combined with some pre-existing damage to the roof that the landowner was in the process of fixing led to the building being torn down."
The landowner - the City of Atlantic City -has yet to determine the site's future. With the decision of a full-scale restaurant being rebuilt in limbo, Williams, a savvy, creative entrepreneur, did not want to lose a summer season overlooking the bay.
So he bought a food truck - an awesome food truck - and he parked it right on the site of the former Scales and named it Scales Woody Wagon. He also built an outside bar - a hybrid tiki- and gazebo-style structure - and brought out all the relatively new tables, chairs and umbrellas from Scales to piece together a casual, hip, summer dining experience with one of the most beautiful sunset views in Atlantic City.
"We scaled down the menu, added some new things and still have the same number of seats than we ever had out here," Williams says. "We want to have a great summer season. We could have more than 200 people out there."
With four beers on tap - Shock Top, Landshark, Goose Island IPA and Bud Light - the outdoor bar can become a hot hangout. But once people taste the food, they will make that the primary reason for going there.
Diners who frequented Scales will see many similarities to the menu. The famous mahi fish tacos ($15) with sour cream slaw or crispy shrimp tacos ($15) with pineapple slaw are back and also feature queso blanco, sour cream slaw and pico de gallo, and are served with black bean salad and Jersey corn. Scales' always super-delicious crab cakes can be devoured as a platter ($18) or as a sandwich ($13), both with house-fried chips. Crispy fried shrimp ($16), the Philly cheesesteak ($10) with melted Jack cheese, the New England lobster roll ($16), Buffalo wings ($10), shrimp cocktail ($11) and one of the best New England clam chowders ($7) you will ever sample are all return favorites, as well.
However, there's some new items that are worth the trip alone, particularly the Korean beef taco ($13) or sandwich ($10) with pulled BBQ beef and pineapple slaw. There's also a Cuban pork taco ($13) with ham and pickle slaw; Louisiana shrimp boil ($17) with shrimp, clams, mussels, Andouille sausage, potatoes and Jersey corn; the West Coast crab boil ($20) with all of the same ingredients except Dungeness crab replaces the shrimp; a crispy shrimp Po' Boy ($12) with lettuce and roasted red pepper aioli; the Bayou fish sandwich ($12) with grilled mahi and Cajun mayo; and shrimp ($12) steamed in Old Bay seasoning served with butter and lemon.
"I think the food is outstanding," Williams says. "Everyone has given us positive feedback of the food. It's the best sunset view, we usually get a great, cool breeze coming off the water, and it's really a laid-back, awesome vibe going on here. It's a great place to relax."
Williams hopes to enjoy many more summers on the Scales site.
"We have become an institution with the Back Bay Ale House," Williams says. "We've been there for 11 years, and most of the city knows us. We want to do the same at Scales, and be known there like the Flying Cloud was."
More About Scales Woody Wagon
Scales will offer live music starting 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, including Mike Crosson this weekend. On Sundays, enjoy a sunset celebration with discounted drinks and countdown to the sunset. And on Friday, July 12, it will be Food Trucks on the Bay day at Scales from 11 a.m. with Scales Woody Wagon, Tony Boloney's Farm to Table Truck and Tony Boloney's Mustache Mobile offering everything from seafood to fresh-made mozzarella to indigenous pizza.
Scales Woody Wagon
WHERE: Gardner's Basin, 800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City
WHEN: Open noon to 10 p.m. daily.
HOW MUCH: Specialty tacos range in price from $13 to $15; entrees and sandwiches $10 to $20; soups and snacks ($7 to $12); sides $2 to $3.
SERVICES: Liquor license. Accepts all major credit cards. Dock and dine. Disabled access, but no disabled bathrooms. There are disabled bathrooms nearby. No children's menu. Eat in. Takeout. Private parties. Catering.
MORE INFO: ScalesGrill.com
BETWEEN YOU AND ME: The ocean breeze that comes off the bay in Gardner's Basin is so cool that it could cool off a sweat lodge in Mexico.