From left, Nero’s restaurant manager Betty McHugh and executive chef Keith Mitchell pose with signature dishes including Jersey baked clams, prime rib, lobster Francaise, short rib stuffed mushrooms and escargot crostini.

Michael Ein

Nero’s has been a successful restaurant inside Caesars Atlantic City for nearly 20 years for many reasons. Great food. Amazing view of the Boardwalk and ocean. Stellar service. Overall consistency.

But the main reason Nero’s remains a draw in a city full of celebrity chefs and chain concepts is that its staff consistently reinvents itself to remain relevant in Atlantic City’s ever-changing culinary scene.

“I think you have to constantly change and evolve and reinvent restaurants,” says Keith Mitchell, executive chef of Caesars and Bally’s Atlantic City. “When (current vice president of food and beverage) Joe Giunta took over here as executive chef about 10 years ago, he was letting us chefs be chefs and control the directions of our restaurants. That’s when we really started looking at keeping all of our restaurants very fresh. All of these new restaurants keep coming into the market, and I believe Nero’s is as viable today as any of those. I would put Nero’s up against any restaurant in the market.”

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Nero’s recently underwent another metamorphosis, and this one may be the best yet. Now called Nero’s Chophouse + Sushi Bar, the legendary steakhouse now encompasses the entire dining space that most recently housed both Nero’s and Atlantic Grill, which at one point replaced Caesars longtime Italian eatery Primavera.

The bigger and better Nero’s Chophouse + Sushi bar, managed by longtime customer favorite Betty McHugh, features a new menu that is more approachable in its cuisine while still challenging foodies with unique dishes, and has kept some signature items from the closed restaurants in an attempt to keep as many longtime customers happy while hopefully attracting new ones.

Atlantic Grill fans will be pleased to know they can get the same great sushi and raw bar — possibly Atlantic Grill’s best asset — at the new Nero’s, including jumbo shrimp cocktail ($5 each), Alaskan king crab legs ($20 per quarter pound), East and West Coast oysters ($4 each), the newly offered Key West stone crabs ($25 per quarter pound), spicy tuna roll ($14), sashimi (market price) and the Luxe Roll ($18) with spicy Kobe tartare and caviar.

“We added razor clams in season and stone crabs and sea urchins,” Mitchell says. “We try to make the raw bar a focal point. We took the best sellers of sushi and our goal is to keep it as fresh as possible. So we will offer plenty of special rolls.”

Other items formerly seen on the Atlantic Grill menu that can still be found at Nero’s include a variety of seafood that can be simply grilled, broiled or cooked in the Sous-Vide, including Jersey Coast swordfish ($30), tuna ($34), king salmon ($29), langoustines ($37) and Cape May Day Boat scallops ($30); as well as entrees such as the famous pretzel-crusted local flounder ($30) with potato puree, asparagus and mustard sauce.

“The fish for the simply grilled section actually comes from the raw bar,” Mitchell explains. “We use that fish for our sashimi. We added langoustines to that part of the menu as well as whatever fresh fish we can get. Whether it’s mahi mahi or whatever, we find out what came out of the waters this morning and we will have it on menu tomorrow night.”

Even Primavera devotees looking for familiarity will find it, including the signature lobster Francaise ($50) with jumbo crab, asparagus and lemon beurre blanc.

“The potato gnocchi ($28) and shellfish linguini ($44) we offer were not part of the Primavera menu but people looking for pasta can find it here, too.”

But the real reason to visit Nero’s is Mitchell’s modern American approach to the classic steakhouse. The steakhouse’s signature gigantic prime rib ($62), prime 14-ounce New York strip ($60), 14-ounce Angus New York strip ($54), 28-ounce porterhouse ($50), Heritage Kurobuta pork rib chop ($41) and the double-cut Colorado lamb chop ($50) may all be the main attractions, but there is so much here to explore.

“I think our final menu is eight renditions in and is a total team effort,” Mitchell says. “As we built it, we wanted to see how we could bring the best product into this market and still offer great value for our guests. So we have some prime, some choice, some Kobe and some small farm producers.”

The appetizer menu is worth the visit alone. The stuffed mushrooms ($11) are the best in the city and are loaded with short ribs and fontina cheese and covered in a pumpkin puree and chimichurri. The escargot crostini ($13) will convert anyone who is turned off by snails thanks to the whipped brie cheese, roasted garlic and parley and pesto sauce. The house-smoked pork belly ($13) melts in your mouth and will have you craving more apricot-mustard glaze and 10-year balsamic vinegar. And the French onion soup ($9) made with sherry, gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses is as good as you will ever have.

“Part of our idea was that we wanted people to come in and not feel like they have to have three courses,” Mitchell says. “They can come in and it’s OK to have apps and a burger or apps and a dessert or an app or two and a drink. And the response to our apps has been great. I think the best part is when you go to the dining room and someone tells you something is phenomenal and they love something. We know we did our job.”

Other great additions to the menu include steakhouse burgers, including a hand-ground prime sirloin ($16) on a grilled brioche bun, and the 10-ounce Kobe burger ($18) with foie gras, applewood smoked bacon, port wine sauce. Both are served with fries; a mixed grill section featuring a grilled Kobe rib cap, crab cake and American lamb chop ($71), surf and turf ($81) with filet mignon, lobster tail and king crab, and slowed braised short ribs with scallops and garlic shrimp scampi ($51).

Amazing sides include the lobster-brie tater tots ($9) served with a red pepper sauce, mac and cheese ($9) with trofie pasta, cheese sauce, truffles and mushrooms, and BBQ giant white beans with brisket bits ($8).

“Steakhouses are big on apps and sides and we had fun putting all of it together,” Mitchell says. “So we wanted to put sides out there that were familiar but also ones with some neat twists. And we accomplished that.”

Of course, no steakhouse is worth its fat without a fun dessert menu, and Nero’s has that covered, too, including soufflés ($12) – one of the only restaurants in the city to serve them – including chocolate with Grand Marnier or white chocolate and Frangelico; baked Alaska ($10) with vanilla-raspberry ice cream, crisp chocolate and meringue; salted-caramel goat cheese Cremieux ($8) with vanilla bean, goat cheese custard, buttered shortbread crust and thyme-scented caramel; and chocolate cherry bombs ($8), crispy-fried croissants with Amarena cherry chocolate liquid centers.

The transformation of Nero’s is not yet complete. The main front wall of the former Nero’s main dining room will be knocked down and replaced by a beautiful glass wine wall. And that former dining room will now be used for private parties.

“We just try to do right by our guests,” Mitchell concludes. “We have some of the most loyal guests around, and without them we are just another restaurant. We try to do right by them and keep everything fresh and relevant.”

The cocktails at Nero's are awesome

Now that Nero’s Steakhouse + Sushi Bar is super-sized it’s one of the most comfortable and scenic places to grab a drink.

The newly revamped cocktail list is an attraction in itself thanks to Peter O’Connor of the Spike reality TV series “Bar Rescue.” The drink expert and master of whisky personally trained Nero’s bartenders to create some of the best concoctions in the city.

Separated into vodka-, gin-, tequila- and whiskey-based drinks, standouts include the Sucker Punch ($14) with Belvedere vodka, triple sec, passion fruit puree, simple syrup and cranberry juice; the Samurai Shake ($12) with Tanqueray gin, St. Germain, lemon, grapefruit juice, TyKu sake, egg whites and a splash of club soda; Loose Lucy ($10) with Bombay Sapphire gin, passion fruit simple syrup, topped with bubbles; and Trouble on the Beach ($12) with Bushmills Irish whiskey, Liquor 43, Captain Morgan original spiced rum and apple juice.

There are also tableside cocktails, including the fan-favorite dessert drink titled the Frosted Biscotti ($20) made with Faretti Biscotti liqueur, Brattleboro maple liqueur and White Godiva liqueur flambéed tableside and served with biscotti sticks.

The bar also features a wide array of spirits and a notable wine list, including an impressive wine-by-the-glass selection that includes Numanthia Termes’ Tempranillo, Jordan’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and Stags’ Leap’s Petite Syrah

Enjoy those cocktails and more at Nero’s happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. every day it’s open.

Food specials include various flatbreads for $7.50, $4 deviled eggs and $7 California rolls. Featured wines by the glass are $5, and the Loose Lucy and Little White Corvette — Silver Tequila, triple sec, Goldschlager and passion fruit puree — are $7.

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