About 200 people toasted the Knife & Fork Inn’s 100th birthday Thursday night — and raised close to $30,000 for college scholarships doing it.
The Atlantic City landmark hosted the party and will donate the $150-a-person ticket price to the Joseph and Arleen Dougherty Scholarship Fund at Atlantic Cape Community College. The Knife & Fork is owned now by Maureen Shay and her husband, Frank Dougherty, who started the scholarship fund to honor his late parents.
All three floors of the restaurant were crowded with cocktail-party guests, many of them with decades of Knife & Fork memories and stories — and a few gamely wearing the Roaring ’20s-style outfits the party invitation suggested.
Still, it’s doubtful that anybody had links that went as far back as two guests who probably traveled the farthest to get there, sisters Dianne Riddle Tracy, of Charlotte, N.C., and Anne Riddle Bristol, of Milford, Conn.
They came because their grandfather, William Riddle, was one of the founders of a restaurant that started in 1912 as a men’s club for local businessmen — on land owned by their great-grandmother, Mary Riddle.
A relative in Brigantine sent Tracy a copy of a story from The Press of Atlantic City about the restaurant’s 100th birthday, and the party to celebrate it. Tracy called her sister and talked her into a meeting in Atlantic City — and they both talked their husbands into joining them. The Tracys drove 10 hours from North Carolina, the Bristols about 3 1/2 hours from Connecticut and they spent much of the evening set up in front of the ’20s-style swing band, the Gin Canaries.
They plan to look more into family history on this trip, but Bristol, 71, knows one story about her grandfather, who was also Atlantic City’s mayor about the time he was helping start the restaurant.
“And when he was mayor, they almost ran him out of town,” she said. “Because he wanted to bring casinos to Atlantic City.”
The Riddle sisters got to meet the current owners, who run into lots of customers with old Knife & Fork connections — but not many that go all the way back to the start.
“This was a first for us,” Shay said.
In a short formal program, Dougherty took a minute to ask the crowd to remember former Knife & Fork owner Mack Latz, a local legend who died last week at 95.
“If it weren’t for the way he ran this restaurant, I don’t know if it would be around for the 100th birthday,” said Dougherty, who bought the restaurant from Mack Latz in 2005. Latz and his brother, the late Jim, took over the Knife & Fork from their parents, Milton and Evelyn Latz, who started running it in 1927.
But most of the party was about the free-flowing cocktails, the food and the Knife & Fork memories.
Ed Kline, the former Brigantine mayor and state assemblyman, said he’s been going to the restaurant since he was a kid — which he would only say was “more than 40 years” ago now.
Once, in his younger days, he went in for dinner to celebrate the fact that he’d just bought a sweet, new, yellow Lincoln Continental. And after the valet parker got the car for him to leave, he headed home in a nice, yellow Lincoln — only not his own.
His car was already gone — the valet parker had mixed up the two cars, and Kline had to hold his breath and wait to get his back. But at least he got a great cocktail-party story out of it, a small footnote to the Knife & Fork’s Atlantic City legend.
Contact Martin DeAngelis: