Industry experts believe Revel is Atlantic City’s second coming when it comes to dining. They believe Revel, which will open more than a dozen restaurants in its $2.4 billion casino, can further expand on Borgata’s success in making people come to Atlantic City to eat and be entertained, even if they aren’t gamblers.
“Revel is really going to step up Atlantic City as a food destination, just like Borgata did (when it opened in 2003) with Old Homestead, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina and others,” said Robert Irvine, star of the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” and executive chef in various Atlantic City casinos from 1997 to 2004.
“Borgata was the beginning of the change of the old guard. I think it’s an exciting time in A.C., even in this down economy. It will bounce back, and so will Atlantic City. And with Borgata, Revel and other places, I think Atlantic City will become a dining destination on the East Coast.”
The grand opening for Revel is Memorial Day weekend, although it’s doing a “soft opening” Monday. By Memorial Day it will feature two Iron Chefs — Marc Forgione and Jose Garces. An Iron Chef is someone who has been named so by the Food Network and has competed as one on the show titled “Iron Chef.” There are less than 10 Iron Chefs in the long history of the show, which began in 1993. Atlantic City will now have five: Puck, Flay, Geoffrey Zakarian, Garces and Forgione
Also at Revel by Memorial Day will be internationally known innovator Michel Richard, New York-based concepts with the Italian cafe Lugo, and the female-friendly One steakhouse by STK.
Respected chefs that may not be well known to the masses but are adored by foodies will include Robert Wiedmaier and Alain Allegretti. There may even be local representation, with a casual concept by Luke Palladino, who already has restaurants at Harrah’s Resort and in Northfield.
“I definitely think Revel looked at Borgata as a model,” said Scott Feldman, president and CEO of Two Twelve Management and Marketing, a New York-based management company that handles high-profile chefs, including Garces, Iron Chefs Michael Symon and Zakarian, Food Network chef Anne Burrell and “Top Chef” host Tom Colicchio.
“Borgata understood they needed strong talent for their share of the market, Revel is doing the same. Revel is being very smart, offering someone for everyone. Jose has a strong Philly connection, and is a great restaurateur and community leader. Marc Forgione is new to the scene and has a great buzz. And others may not be as well known, but are just amazing chefs.”
There will be no buffet, there is no food court. All of Revel’s restaurants — many are upscale — are owned by outside companies, which means they will compete against each other for diners’ dollars.
Gina Hamadey, travel editor for Food & Wine magazine, believes Revel’s restaurants will bring much-needed attention to Atlantic City.
“I remember when Borgata came on the scene, what a huge splash it made and how it changed the perception of Atlantic City with vacationers at large,” she said. “It put them on the map. It used to be a kitschy place where you would gamble and have saltwater taffy. Then it was like, ‘Oh, we can also have a delicious Bobby Flay meal.’ It was a big game-changer. And Revel should be a similar game-changer. It should open Atlantic City to a new clientele.”
Revel, like Borgata and The Quarter, is going after essential nongaming revenue. Kathleen Squires, a freelance writer for the Wall Street Journal and Zagat, isn’t sure if Revel will change how people perceive Atlantic City, but she said Revel can certainly enhance it.
“When you look at Las Vegas, their nongaming income far surpasses its gaming income,” she said. “And that’s been going on for a long time now. It’s about time for Atlantic City to catch up with that trend, and Revel and Borgata are looking to food and beverage in a big way to make up that gap. It’s very smart for any hotel to bring in celebrity chefs that are going to attract more, different people to the city.”
But is the culinary lineup strong enough to make people come to Atlantic City, even New Yorkers or D.C.-area residents who don’t have the highest opinion of Atlantic City?
“I’m not sure,” Hamadey said. “My initial thought is it will attract more clientele from D.C. and New York because it sounds incredibly fantastic and classy. Revel could make people take a quick weekend trip there instead of jumping on a plane to Vegas. They might say, ‘Let’s do it’ if it’s so jaw-dropping. Who knows, maybe people from Florida can come up and spend a few days in A.C.”
Feldman said Revel, like Borgata, seems to be all about changing the dynamic of Atlantic City to attract nongamers.
“It’s about going to Atlantic City for a lifestyle experience,” he said. “And that’s great. That’s what Atlantic City needs. And places like Revel and Borgata broaden Atlantic City’s appeal. It starts to get people’s attention everywhere so people can drop the, ‘Oh, that’s the old A.C.’ mentality. It used to be known as a quick jaunt from wherever for gambling to a vibrant culinary scene with great talent and while they are there, they can gamble, shop, see a show, whatever.”
Irvine is impressed with the roster of chefs, even the ones that aren’t on TV.
“I can tell you Robert Wiedmaier is awesome, and Michel Richard is one of my all-time heroes,” he said. “Just the two of them alone are really raising the bar for Atlantic City. Whenever I am in D.C., I go to Michel Richard’s Central. Marc Forgione is young, energetic and vibrant. He eats and breathes food. They are blessed to have Jose Garces in so many ways. It’s just an impressive group.”
Squires said the most important thing about the lineup is its authenticity.
“Jose Garces’ tapas restaurant (Amada) stands out because you don’t see a lot of good tapas in A.C., in general,” she said. “And I think it’s pretty smart to include someone like Garces, who is basically a local hero. They know a big bulk of their audience comes from Philadelphia, so they said, ‘Let’s get the biggest Philadelphia guy we can get.’ And they did the same in New York with Forgione. Plus, they have people like Richard for the foodies.”
“They are certainly going for it,” Hamadey added. “I am really impressed with how much they are going for it. They are certainly not going halfway.”
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