AC Update

Atlantic City began its long march toward not sucking in 2004, when the Tropicana's Quarter (a three-story bar/restaurant complex) showed that the once-blighted resort town was more than just hypodermics, rotting wood, and rotting Keno players. Now, just in time for Monday's holiday/sick day, AC's improvement trend hits a new highpoint. The best of what's new this year: The Pier at Caesars 1.800.HARRAHS; ThePierAtCaesars.comThis week, Stephen Starr (from still-blighted Philadelphia) opens AC outposts of Buddakan and The Continental, a patio-style restaurant/cocktail bar/sunken fire-pit lounge. Also unveiled: Boston's vaunted Sonsie bistro and Game On -- a sports bar that boasts 90+ high def TVs and a mechanical bull (so you can wager on your own testicular solvency). The Atlantic City Country Club609.236.4400; Harrahs.comOne of America's premier golf courses, this 109-year-old club was rigidly private 'til March, when Harrah's bought out Caesars and opened it up to any prole with the $175-$250 green fee in his pocket. The Borgata609.317.1000; TheBorgata.comThis summer, in addition to 36,120 new square feet of casino space, the Borgata also opened restaurants from Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, and Bellagio vet/Westcoast food hero Michael Mina. Booze-wise, they've added the mega-club MUR.MUR to a lineup that already included MIXX and B Bar, plus the "rock-and-tequila" themed Gypsy Bar -- a vast improvement over former AC staples "Steve, Edie, and Champale". Nuptials and More!In 2007, the ever-metastasizing Borgata will open The Water Club, while rumjungle (from Vegas' Mandalay Bay) will debut on The Pier. And tying everything together: One Atlantic Club, a chapel/reception hall with 22ft glass walls overlooking the ocean. There's a 3-day marriage license wait, proof that, even as Jersey frantically catches up, it still holds one singular quality over Nevada: dignified restraint.