Trop more diverse than ever with six new restaurants

Broadway Burger Bar Operations Director Donna McCarthy shows off the Hub Cap Burger, black bean roasted corn salad, Peppermint Pattie Shake and Smokey Short Rib Mac and Cheese.

It's a big deal when a casino opens one restaurant. This month, Tropicana Casino and Resort opened six.

The casino resort known for its already diversified offerings inside The Quarter and its casino just got much more diversified … and whole lot more impressive.

The anchor of the new eateries is Chickie's and Pete's Crab House and Sports Bar, a two-story, gorgeous sports bar that continues the Philadelphia-based restaurant chain's amazing expansion across the East Coast. There's also another Philadelphia institution with Tony Luke's, known for its great chicken cutlets, pork with broccoli rabe and, of course, cheesesteaks good enough to earn Zagat's "Best Cheesesteak in Philadelphia" distinction.

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Broadway Burger Bar takes the place of Red Square inside The Quarter, offering gourmet burgers, sandwiches, craft brews, live music Thursdays through Sundays and more. Casa Taco and Tequila Bar becomes the second Mexican restaurant inside an Atlantic City casino, offering more than 50 tequilas and Mexican menu staples. Perry's Pizza features Italian specialties, while Marketplace Express offers gourmet coffee, sandwiches, wraps, salads, pastries and more.

"I think we needed to diversify the experience at the Tropicana even more," says Tony Rodio, president and CEO of Tropicana Entertainment. "I think before we did this, we already had the most diverse nongaming experience than anyone in Atlantic City. And this takes us to another level. It's hard to think of a food and beverage concept that we don't offer at this point."

Chickie's & Pete's is all about its amazing Crabfries and mouth-watering cheese sauce, and while the new Tropicana restaurant has them, the Trop location will focus on seafood, including crabs, lobster, shrimp and other delicacies from the sea, taking advantage of the Boardwalk seating on the first floor and the amazing ocean views on the second floor. Encompassing 16,000 square feet, Chickie's features more than 50 TVs, a full menu with everything from pizza to sandwiches, great craft beer and its PLAY2 Interactive Sports Bar concept, which enables customers to create their own interactive entertainment experience while indulging in food and beverages inside "pods," where people can do everything from pick what they want to watch on TV to play golf with Tiger Woods and bowl on the Wii gaming system for hourly rates. It's like bottle service but way more fun.

"It has really exceeded our expectations," Rodio says. "One of the beauties of the space is tht it takes advantage of the boardwalk and ocean frontage with a wall that opens to boardwalk seating on the first level, and then an unbelievable view with plenty of windows on the second floor. Not too many places have that kind of view. And it's beautiful that the bar is right on the boardwalk. So they are going to leverage that oceanside and boardwalk opportunity. What are better things to eat overlooking the ocean than clams, shrimp, mussels, crabs and lobster?"

Lcated in the Marketplace section of the Trop, Chickie's opens to the casino floor, offering sunlight on the casino floor, a rare treat for gamblers anywhere.

"The casino floor has existed here for 32 years without seeing a speck of daylight," Rodio says. "The traditional thinking was that you don't want clocks or windows so players don't have a sense if it's night or morning. But that's old-school casino thinking way past its time."

Broadway Burger Bar, from the Ark restaurant group that also owns Gallagher's Steakhouse and its burger bar inside Resorts Casino Hotel, features 225 seats and offers visitors an approachable, casual option in The Quarter that will focus on great burgers but also offer signature sides, sandwiches, 20 beers on tap, and much more. The second Broadway Burger, following the original location in Las Vegas' New York - New York Hotel & Casino, has a more extensive menu than the original with more apps and interesting items such as oversized warm pretzels, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with different toppings and more. The centerpiece of the menu, however, is the distinctive burgers, which include meat ground fresh daily and then cooked over an open flame. Diners can then choose from an array of 15 toppings. The bright d�cor features a spacious bar, hardwood floors, wood ceilings, flat-screen TVs and a private dining room.

"I wanted a burger bar because I think it fits perfectly with the young element that frequents The Quarter," Rodio says. "We have the fine dining there in places like The Palm, but Broadway is such a better fit than Red Square."

Restaurateur George Siganos opened four concepts in The Marketplace, including Tony Luke's, bringing another taste of South Philly to the Trop. Casa Taco & Tequila Bar will offer another great casual option with outdoor seating available. Perry's Pizza is an authentic pizzeria; and The Marketplace Express is similar to his Tazza concepts.

"Of all the concepts he has here, I think Tony Luke's is going to be the biggest," Rodio says. "Before it was open, people were trying to get in the door. And there have been lines sice it opened."

Rodio doesn't believe the Trop can have too many options.

"I don't think so," he says. "The burger bar fits an existing need. Tony Luke and Chickie's & Pete's are going to drive people here because of their popularity. And we used to have the best sports bar in town with A Dam Good Sports Bar. Now we have the best two. I think any time you can increase foot traffic, there will be ancillary benefits, whether they are getting drinks somewhere, putting $20 in a slot machine or whatever. People will become more and more comfortable here because of all the diversity we offer."

The Trop will celebrate with a free, open-to-the-public grand opening Thursday, July 11, beginning with an 11 a.m. pep rally on the Boardwalk with live performance by the Philadelphia Eagles Pep Band, Mummers, Philadelphia Soul cheerleaders and the team mascot "The Soul Man," Boogie Nights characters, food samples and more.

An 11:30 a.m. ribbon cutting follows at Broadway with samples and the ability to pose with the 24-ounce Hubcap Burger. A 12:30 p.m. sandwich cutting takes place at Tony Luke's with a 6-foot cheesesteak and samples as well as an appearance by Tony Luke Jr.; a 12:45 inauguration of Casa Taco & Tequila Bar will include an authentic mariachi band, samples of fish tacos and signature guacamole, as well as senoritas pressing fresh corn tortillas and pouring virgin margaritas; a 1 p.m. grand opening of Chickie's & Pete's will feature a live remote by WIP's Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow with menu samples, appearances and autograph opportunities by celebrities including Dan "Voice of the Ballpark" Baker, Jerry "The Geator with the Heater" Blavat, Soul cheerleaders, The Soul Man and live entertainment.

A special celebration room rate of $109 is available for Wednesday and Thursday, July 10 and 11 and include two VIP grand opening passes and a $20 drink credit at Tango's or Rumba lounges.

Trop not done

As if six new restaurants weren't enough, the Tropicana will add another new franchise to its roster in two weekend when Wet Willies makes its Atlantic City debut,

The frozen drink bar, which is mostly seen in southern Florida and Las Vegas, will feature virgin and alcohol-fueled frozen drinks in a variety of flavors. The bar, and its array of frozen drink machines, will be located in a former Tropicana logo store that is adjacent to Zeytinia market.

"It's going to be a nice addition and perfect for The Quarter," Rodio says.

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