An upgraded room at the MGM Tower in Atlantic City.
An upgraded room at the MGM Tower in Atlantic City.Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Borgata transforms the Water Club into the MGM Tower; Anthony Jeselnik transforms bad taste into great comedy

Also: Rivers Philly fast-tracks a boutique hotel; Shane Gillis, no longer cancelled, dives into Ocean.

Fifteen years ago this summer, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa underwent a major expansion project whose linchpin was an ultra-luxe, 43-story “boutique” hotel tower dubbed the Water Club for its location on the bay side of town.

To celebrate the facility’s 15th birthday its owner, MGM Resorts, spent $55 million on a major renovation project that included a thorough makeover of the property as well as a rebranding: It now bears the imprimatur of MGM Tower.

The very first impression one receives is that guests are greeted at what remains the most upscale reception area in town. And even before arriving at a guest room, the changes and upgrades are evident: Hallways are covered in new, blue carpeting highlighted by asymmetric splashes of primary colors, which gives the corridors a less-stuffy feel than before.

There is no debate the refurbished units are as good as it gets in AyCee. Standard rooms clock in at a well-above-average 460 and 480 square feet. Keeping the tower’s original nautical motif, the shades-of-blue carpet is set off by white/off-white walls, drapes and furniture, creating a “beachy” ambience.

The rooms are well-equipped for the modern (read: digitally-equipped) traveler. The ultra-modern bathrooms boast a glass-enclosed shower with built-in-seat; linens and towels offer an appropriate (and expected) level of luxury.

All of that said, what is arguably the best amenity of all is an immutable holdover from the Water Club days: The to-die-for views. Those fortunate enough to have east-facing units are provided a spectacular panorama that takes in the Boardwalk skyline; the inlet and ocean; neighboring gambling dens Harrah’s Resort & Casino Atlantic City and Golden Nugget Atlantic City (with its Vegas-y tower-encompassing LED displays and adjacent Frank S. Farley State Marina) and nearby Brigantine Island, as well as the causeway that connects it with Absecon Island.

For those looking to splurge (or playing at an appropriately high level), there are also 40 Vista Suites. Located in the corners of each floor, they have the same design elements as the standard rooms, but they are scaled larger and are even more elegantly appointed.

Incidentally, Immersion Spa, which was a highly touted part of the Water Club, has been transformed into a 9,000-square-foot event space. But guests in need of physical and mental rejuvenation can avail themselves of the many pleasures of Spa Toccare located in the original Borgata tower.

For more, click here.

B-Prime time

Also new this year at the Big B is B-Prime Steakhouse, which has replaced Bobby Flay Steak.

There has been no major interior-design re-do, but a recent meal there suggested that not only has the quality of the fare been maintained since the days celebri-chef Flay had his name on the signage, it may very well be a notch or two better.

This is a typical casino beefeteria; those in search of more exotic/adventurous fare are pointed in the direction of Philly-based stove-jockey Michael Schulson’s Japanese-immersive Izakaya which, incidentally, is the only high-end Borgata dining room remaining from the original 2008 expansion. But meat/seafood-and-potato types should certainly walk away from their meals more than satisfied.

Nonetheless, what impressed this diner most was what transpired when my ribeye filet arrived more than a little overcooked (it had been ordered medium rare; it was barely pink): Without question or comment, our server, Svet, removed it and, in a surprisingly short amount of time, returned with a slab of beef that fulfilled my original request.

That the kitchen got it wrong to begin with was inconsequential: Things happen, especially in a busy commercial operation like this. That the issue was resolved so quickly and professionally was what was important.

Rivers rooms

While we’re on the subject of gaming-hall hotels, Rivers Casino Philadelphia is taking the plunge with what will be known as Riversuites.

The ultra-high-end inn will be erected at the mixed-use development known as The Battery in Philly’s Delaware River-fronting Fishtown neighborhood. It will boast 62 one-to-three-bedroom luxury suites clocking in between 854 and a whopping 2,266 square feet. Every suite includes a full kitchen; several apartment-style suites feature patios or bi-level lofts, with sleeping rooms upstairs and living room and kitchen below.

The property’s public spaces will include co-working areas, a billiards table and an indoor basketball court. If all goes according to plan, Rivesuites will be welcoming guests by the end of the year.

Jeselnik’s still got it

During the first of two July 7 sets at Borgata’s Music Box, Anthony Jeselnik re-confirmed his status (to this comedy fan, at least) as the smartest, most hilarious standup comic on the boards today.

Brandishing a smug, slightly condescending persona, a measured-bordering-on-deadpan delivery and total fearlessness in the face of the current “wokeness” that permeates show business, the Pittsburgh native turned in a typically brilliant set chock-full of jokes about many of the things that are never supposed to be the subject of comedy, including death (“I watched a 60-year-old woman plunge 30 floors; I quit my day job doing elevator repair”) and his gleeful contempt for children (“The only time a kid shows up on my phone and I’m happy with it is an Amber Alert”).

Obviously, Jeselnik is not for the more sensitive or politically correct among us. But for those of us with a twisted sense of humor and stomach (and funnybone) for such material, his Borgata set was an absolute joy.

Gillis at Ocean

In the summer of 2019, standup comic Shane Gillis was named part of that year’s incoming class of Saturday Night Live cast members. But almost instantaneously, the internet exploded with news of a 2018 podcast in which Gillis—who cut his standup teeth in Philadelphia’s comedy scene—made derogatory remarks about Chinese people on a podcast he co-hosted.

But that obviously did not put an end to his nascent career. Had that happened, Gillis wouldn’t be headlining at Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort on July 15 (nor would SNL overlord Lorne Michaels have cast him in the Peacock streaming series, Bupkis).

The show is sold out, but tickets are available on the secondary market.

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