The Tropicana looks the same on the outside but will have new dining options on the inside.
The Tropicana looks the same on the outside but will have new dining options on the inside.Caesars Entertainment

Casino File: Tropicana AC to roll out 8 new food and drink options; Kelsey Grammer says ‘Cheers!’ at Hard Rock

The Trop is adding barbecue, Japanese, farm food, and fun, enlarging longtime tenant il Verdi and bumping up the liquor options.

If Tropicana Atlantic City is looking for a new marketing slogan, “Let’s Eat!” will definitely work. That’s because between this month and the end of the year, the 41-year-old casino-hotel will be introducing eight new hospitality operations, five of which will offer food service.

The quintet of eateries includes:

Wild Honey Smokehouse and Tavern: The 5,000-square-foot casual-dining restaurant showcases various regional barbeque styles from across the country (e.g. St. Louis, Memphis). It recently had its “soft opening;” the grand opening is set for Memorial Day weekend.

Ossu Japanese Tavern: The focus is on small-plate items like yakitori and sushi (opens Memorial Day weekend).

Hash House A Go Go: The popular national chain that’s celebrated for its “twisted farm food” and large breakfast menu (opens this summer).

The Royce Social Hall: Billed as a combination American beer hall and “adult rec room,” this 10,000-square-foot space will offer casual, shareable dishes along with a variety of games and activities including ping-pong, bowling and shuffleboard. It will occupy the long-empty space that originally housed the ill-fated Sound of Philadelphia restaurant/performance venue (opens this fall).

il Verdi: Atlantic City’s third-longest continuously operating casino restaurant (after Capriccio at Resorts Casino-Hotel and Nero’s Italian Steakhouse at Caesars Atlantic City) will move from its smallish longtime home in a somewhat hidden corner of the casino floor to a much larger space overlooking the beach and ocean that was most recently home to celebri-chef Jose Garces’ Olon (opens this fall).

The remaining three new spots are all adult hangouts: The Purple Zebra, which will open July 4, is a daiquiri bar; Gin Rickey’s (summer opening) will be a lounge offering a “dueling pianos” format while Hawthorne & Cork will be a traditional saloon offering bespoke cocktails and a selection of fine wine.

According to the Trop executive who oversees the property’s dining and drinking operations, the newly initiated emphasis on food and drink was the result of, among other things, the gaming hall’s parent company, Caesars Entertainment, providing it with tens of millions of dollars for capital improvements (part of the $400 million shared by the Trop and its AyCee corporate siblings, Caesars and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City), a thorough evaluation of what was working and what wasn’t in terms of financial viability and, not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID presented us with a number of unique challenges, and one of those was to reevaluate our overall strategy, including the food-and-beverage strategy,” explained Christopher Rippy, Tropicana’s vice-president of food and beverage. “So, we looked at outlets that were maybe not making a lot of sense financially, or just weren't the right fit for our guests. And, during the last two years, we've taken some time to step back and reevaluate our [overall] strategy.”

Rippy added that while five of the operations are owned and operated by the Trop, three—Hash House A Go Go, Gin Rickey’s and Royce Social Hall—are from outside entities, and that finding the right match “took us a long time.”

In addition to the changes at il Verdi, Tropicana patrons will notice that while Ossu is pretty much offering fare in line with the space’s previous tenant, the Garces-run Okatshe, the new dining room will be a lot easier for guests to find: Okatshe’s gimmick was that to enter it, patrons had to walk through what appeared to be a Japanese candy store (the restaurant was hidden behind the far wall).

Rippy acknowledged this speakeasy-like approach was “cool,” but ultimately not practical, as it made the restaurant inaccessible to anyone who wasn’t already aware of its existence. As such, he said, “We’re going to tear off the former candy store and turn it into more of a formal vestibule, and move our hosts out front so they can talk to guests as they come by. You'll be able to see directly into the restaurant rather than having to know what what's hidden back there.”

Ultimately, Rippy suggested, the goal of the upgrades and additions is to return Tropicana to the operating philosophy it introduced in 2004, hen it opened The Quarter, its Havana-themed retail, dining and entertainment complex.

The idea, he said, was “one-stop. You come in, you have dinner, you have a nightclub, you can see a show and you can do everything underneath one roof. And I think we've gotten away from that over the last two years. And it'll be nice to get back into the full swing of things, where we have as many offerings as we did before.”

Grammer brews up Hard Rock visit

Sitcom heavyweight Kelsey Grammer will be at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City May 13 and 14 to promote his Faith American beer brand.

Grammer, whose portrayal of pompous psychiatrist Frasier Crane began on Cheers and led to four Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series Emmy Awards for the Cheers spinoff Frasier, will be playing the role of guest bartender from 5 to 7 p.m. May 13 at the Lobby Bar and on May 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lobby Bar, 7:30 to 8:30 at the Center Bar and 11 p.m. to midnight on the casino floor.

But wait! There’s more!

On May 13, Grammer will be showing off his vocal chops by joining the Karaoke crowd at the Hard Rock Café beginning roughly around 10 p.m. (the fun starts after the Sting concert at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena concludes).

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