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
This 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 Club
One 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.
This 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.