The popularity of burgers across the nation continues to grow, particularly in Atlantic City, where a number of burger bars and restaurants have opened recently.

The latest is right on the boardwalk as Empire Burger recently opened inside The Pier Shops at Caesars in the former Phillips Seafood Express location. The takeout burger joint is owned by Phillips Seafood, which is still offering its fresh seafood on the third floor of The Pier.

"One of the biggest issues we had at the Express window is that people really want boardwalk grab-and-go items and the price point of Phillips Express was a lot higher," says Executive Chef Paul Drew. "We mostly had platters that were $13 to $15, and they weren't really that boardwalk friendly items. So we decided to bring the price point down and open a burger place because it's the only one like it on the boardwalk here. Now, people can grab a nice burger with some awesome toppings and walk down the boardwalk and eat it."

Empire promises to offer "the juiciest gourmet burgers to Atlantic City's boardwalk" with premium USDA choice beef, 18 tasty toppings and the ability to build your own burger just how you want it.

The regular burgers use

3-ounce USDA Choice beef patties and can be had as a single patty ($4.50, $4.95 with cheese), or a double burger for $2 more. However, the signature burger is the Gourmet Prime ($11.95), a

7-ounce, juice Prime beef patty on a toasted brioche roll with applewood-smoked bacon, crispy onions and cheddar cheese.

While Empire Burger has the usual fixins such as peppers, bacon and sauces, its premium toppings include guacamole, crab cakes, buffalo shrimp and more.

Drew designed the menu to be interactive.

"People just love to build their own burgers," he says. "So we have a great deal of toppings so that people can order them just like they want them. We have actually let people pick their own toppings. It's not like another place where it's predetermined that is has this or that on it. We want them to pick their own and enjoy it the way they want it."

The menu also includes grilled chicken sandwiches ($5.95), all-beef hot dogs ($3.95), seafood favorites such as fried shrimp platter ($9.95), crab cake sandwich ($8.95), crab cake platter ($15.95) and New England clam chowder ($4.50) as well as chicken wings ($9.95) and a grilled cheese sandwich ($4.95).

"It's taking off very well," Drew says. "There are often lines in front of the store. I think the bright lights on the Hollywood-style sign creates some excitement. We think we are on to something. We are going to see how people react and we will adapt the menu if we need to. We have some very loyal customers and we want to be loyal to them."

There are also smoothies, a Boardwalk Bites section of the menu with gourmet mac and cheese, hush puppies, fries, cole slaw and potato chips, and more. For more information, call

609-348-2868 or go to

Celebrate National Daiquiri Day

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar inside The Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort continues its annual tradition of celebrating National Daiquiri Day and the birthday of Nobel Prize-winning author and Cuban rum enthusiast Ernest Hemingway by offering some new concoctions.

First off, Cuba Libre will feature the new Papa's Pilar super premium rum cocktails along with special surf and turf menu additions from Chef/Partner Guillermo Pernot, a two-time James Beard Award winner.

"There is an enduring mystique around Ernest Hemingway, an intellectual who also deeply enjoyed the physical pleasures of life, including fine food and drinks. This menu is a tribute to his excellent taste," says Chef Pernot in a statement. "Our holiday offerings include exceptional new rums from Papa's Pilar along with festive menu additions inspired by what Hemingway himself may have enjoyed on his birthday."

On Friday, July 19 - National Daiquiri Day - surf and turf bar bites will cost $5 to $6 from 5 to

7 p.m., including steamed mussels poached in lobster broth with roasted garlic, Berkshire pork belly, caramelized onions, steamed kale and slow-roasted tomatoes; a plantain-crusted crab cake with gazpacho vinaigrette and cucumber-herb salad; and Perro Caliente Tots, all beef hot dog and russet potato croquettes with mustard dipping sauce.

For dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 19 to 21, Cuba Libre will serve the Hemingway-inspired Mar Y Tierra, grilled filet mignon ($29) "churrasco" with grilled shrimp, broccoli rabe-enchilado stew and cilantro b�arnaise.

Of course, daiquiris will be the main draw, including The Hemingway, a classic recipe with fresh lime, blonde rum, ruby red grapefruit juices and maraschino liqueur.

Call 609-348-6700 or go to You can always leave a message.

Lobsterfeast at ACCC

Atlantic City Country Club Executive Chef Ed Daggers will once again blow lobster lovers' minds on Thursday, July 18, when he presents his annual Lobster-feast.

Priced at $69.95, the 6 to 9 p.m. event includes all-you-can-eat whole Maine lobster with drawn butter, BBQ chicken breast, Jersey Fresh corn on the cob, fine ripe tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, fresh veggies, salads and more.

Of course it wouldn't be a feast without desserts, so Daggers is rolling out fresh baked apple, blueberry and cherry pie accompanied by a homemade ice cream station.

Indoor and outdoor seating will be available, and there will be live entertainment all night by Mike Fairhurst. Atlantic City Country Club is located on Shore Road in Northfield and is owned by Caesars Entertainment. Call 609-236-4400 for reservations.

Celebrity Sightings

Cyndi Lauper, in town to perform at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, met with Atlantic City Bottle Company Executive Chef Kevin Cronin and Beverage Consultant Jessica Vitagliano, who presented the recent Tony Award winner with wine, cheese and carpaccio from their new bar and lounge, which just opened on Albany Avenue. Owner Mark Callazzo's sister Missi owns Megaforce Records, Lauper's label. ACBC recently opened the retail part of the operation, which will feature a plethora of craft beverages. The bar and lounge, speakeasy part of the operation will open this week. ACBC is located across from Bader Field and will eventually feature a small plates menu handcrafted by Cronin.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition models Molly Sims and Chrissy Teigen attended Borgata's 10th Anniversary Concert with The Roots, Aziz Ansari, Slash and Jill Scott.