Revel Casino Hotel certainly has its share of restaurants … great restaurants. Whether it’s Robert Wiedmaier’s inventive and always dazzling Mussel Bar or Iron Chefs Jose Garces’ four restaurants and Marc Forgione’s American Cut, there’s plenty of star power. In fact, Revel has more than 10 restaurants to choose from.
But aside from Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace, Luke Palladino’s casual, grab-and-go eatery, Revel lacked an affordable sit-down alternative to the higher-priced, upscale eateries that garner all of the attention.
Now they have one in Relish, a 24-hour, seven-day café located in the former Lugo space near Mussel Bar and Garces’ Guapos Taco Truck.
How inexpensive? How about a $3.99 “All American” breakfast available midnight to noon with eggs any style, crispy bacon and seasoned potato wedges? Or maybe the $9.99 New York strip with fried shrimp and green beans available noon to midnight? Still not sold? Then check out the $4.99 cheeseburgers available all day.
Those specials, which do not appear on the menu but are advertised throughout the resort, are one way Revel and new President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Kreeger are hoping to lure gamblers to the resort who may think Revel is too rich for their blood.
“It’s been nonstop since we opened,” Kreeger says of Relish’s success. “We were successful in the former Relish space, and the reason we moved is that we needed additional capacity. And the move has been fantastic. You’re always worried about a move and how it will go. But from the time you walk toward the place it is bright and welcoming and we’re telling you what’s on the menu before you walk in the door because it’s on the awnings. I think people needed an alternative, and we are very approachable because we are trying to create nice, casual, comforting food that is familiar to the average customer and, specifically, the gaming customer.”
The inexpensive specials aren’t the only reason to check out Relish. For starters, the décor of Lugo, which moved closer to the casino floor earlier this year, remains intact, meaning Relish still boasts a multi-million-dollar design scheme complete with checkered floors, beautiful bar, open kitchen and a pizza bar, where people can watch chefs create fresh, traditional white and red pizza ($12 each) or more adventurous truffle mushroom or basil pesto flatbreads ($11).
Chefs Brian Vandergast and Jerry Costello manage the culinary side of Relish and take pride in the entire menu, with Costello particularly paying close attention to the pizza.
“It’s made fresh in-house from scratch,” Vandergast says. “The fact that we are doing everything in house, except making our own cheese, makes it a great pizza. And the stone-fired oven brings it to another level.”
The concise but tempting breakfast menu starts the day off right with items such as homemade corned beef hash with two any-style eggs ($9.95), flat-iron steak with two eggs ($15.95), Eggs Benedict ($12.95) with home fries, and even French toast ($7.50) and buttermilk pancakes ($8.50). One of the most popular choices, however is the make-your-own omelet section, where diners can choose three items including cheeses, veggies and meats for $10.95.
“We wanted to go straight down the middle and appeal to everyone and get everything out fast to people, that’s why it’s not a 16-page breakfast menu,” Vandergast says. “Our customers want to wake up, get a good breakfast at a good price and get back to the tables. I would rather do five or six things great then do 100 things that are mediocre.”
The lunch, dinner and late-night menu is far more elaborate, offering more than a half dozen salads such as the beet and goat cheese salad with candied pecans and orange vinaigrette ($9.95) and the BLT Wedge ($10.95) with crumbled blue cheese, bacon, tomato and ranch dressing. Soups include turkey chili ($8) with fried potatoes, cheddar cheese and scallions, as well as split pea and ham soup ($4 cup, $6 bowl) and even matzo ball soup ($6).
The “snacks” menu is fun with items such as $1 wings available with BBQ, spicy buffalo or sweet chili garlic sauces; potato and cheese pierogi ($8) with sour cream and caramelized onions; and even chicken quesadillas ($12.95).
Aside from the special $4.95 burger, you can also try about a half dozen other burgers and hot dogs such as the Firebird Burger ($10.95) made with ground turkey and topped with jalapenos, Jack cheese, caramelized onions and chipotle sauce; the breakfast burger ($10.95) with sunny-side-up egg, bacon and cheddar cheese; the Dirty Dog ($6.95) with turkey chili an cheddar cheese; and The Kitchen Sink ($9.95), a foot-long hot dog on a cheesesteak roll with fried egg, French fries, chili, cole slaw and cheddar cheese sauce.
“The Kitchen Sink is our attempt at appealing at our late-night guests, the younger crowd that is cool with something crazy and out there,” Vandergast says. “It’s something people will talk about. It’s great for our club crowd. They love it. The flavors work great together.”
There’s also a variety of sandwiches including a Philly cheesesteak ($11.95) and reuben ($11.95), pasta dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs ($11.95) and three-cheese ravioli ($11.95) in a basil pesto cream sauce; and sides that won’t break the bank including fries ($3), mashed potatoes and gravy ($4), zucchini fries ($5) and even cornbread ($4).
But Relish really excels with its entrees, which are a real bargain. Standouts include the fried chicken ($11.95) served with cornbread and cole slaw; chicken pot pie ($10.95) with carrots, onions, peas and a flaky crust; fish ’n chips ($10.95) made with beer-battered white fish); brisket pot roast ($13.95); and a complete turkey dinner consisting of turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce for just 14 bucks.
“We wanted the ultimate comfort food menu for people,” Vandergast says. “But we are also having fun with it. There are higher-end places to eat, but you can’t do that every time out. Sometimes you just want great comfort food at a great price point.
Unlike many casino cafes, Revel makes nearly all of its desserts in house thanks to Executive Pastry Chef Marcello Guevara and his staff. The large dessert menu, featuring about 18 items includes $5.99 offerings including white chocolate bread pudding, lemon meringue pie, chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, strawberry shortcake and profiteroles stuffed Neopolitan-style with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream. The $3.99 baked cookies and crumb section offers ricotta-filled cannoli, coconut macaroons, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies, French macaroons and homemade doughnuts served warm.
“The presentations are ridiculous,” says Vandergast, who likes the strawberry shortcake the best. “The presentation and quality is unparalleled for the price point. Most places would have something out of a box, and these desserts are special. People love them.”
Relish is certainly catching on. Lines are common all day and night. And the restaurant served approximately 2,500 people on a recent Saturday, including about 600 burgers.
“I ask people what they think, and they love it,” Kreeger says. “They love the price point and they love the food. They are expecting to get a greasy spoon, lackluster burger and they go away saying it’s the best burger for the price they ever had. We have to cater to everyone in the casino business. We are going to keep having fun with this and adding new things and be creative with it.”
More deals at Revel
Relish isn’t the only restaurant at Revel trying to prove to customers that they don’t have to take second mortgage on their homes to eat there. And Revel President and CEO Scott Kreeger says he’s happy to see other Revel restaurants offering value, as well.
Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace features breakfast wraps starting at $3.50, and lunch and dinner fare includes crispy chicken parm over spaghetti for $11.99 or baked pasta for $9.99. You can also buy a pizza and get one half off every day.
Robert Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar features one of the best happy hours in the city, including $1 oysters noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Diners can also feast on an old-fashioned French dip sandwich for just $6.99 and Gulf shrimp scampi for $12.99 Mondays to Thursdays, plus $3 Palm draught beer every day, all day.
Azure by Allegretti, Revel’s upscale seafood experience, is even offering some great deals with a two-pound lobster prepared any style for $25.99 on Thursdays. On Tuesdays, head to Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s American Cut for a four-course Taste of American Cut menu with wine pairings for just $55. Lugo, a great Italian restaurant, offers lasagna for $8.99 Mondays through Thursdays. And Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Distrito Cantina features a great happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. daily with chicken tacos for $3 and $4 Coronas.
“The approach of Relish is helping everyone,” Kreeger says. “I went to Mussel Bar and that was the best French dip sandwich I ever had. They are actually baking the bread on premises. Azure is absolutely killing it on Thursdays with their lobster promotion. It’s really great to see celebrity chefs having fun at creating something that will draw people in, too. It’s not in any chef’s DNA on this property to offer poor-quality food. That’s what makes it so great.”