Hard Rock Atlantic City adds late-night sizzle to its steakhouse; Penn & Teller heading ‘home’

The new program at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood adds another post-show option for concert-goers and other guests.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City expects a more chill vibe at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City expects a more chill vibe at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood.Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

The calendar may say “mid-winter,” but things are definitely heating up on the nightlife landscape at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

This weekend will see the introduction of a new concept for the casino’s Council Oak Steaks & Seafood: A disc jockey who, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to midnight, will be playing tracks to create an environment far different from that which can be found at Lobby Bar, the casino’s main party pit.

The extremely popular Lobby Bar’s environment is that of a raucous rave propelled by high-energy, groove-intensive “party bands” like Don’t Call Me Francis and the unit fronted (and named for) local lounge institution Dane Anthony. That, insist Hard Rock execs, is exactly what Council Oak’s lounge won’t offer.

“We’ll have a DJ who’ll bring his ‘old-school’ records and create a really cool vibe,” offered Peter Brattander, the Rock’s vice-president of food and beverage.

“We're excited about the DJ because a good DJ can really feel the room, and we think after the concert, or after dinner, it's a great place to stay and have a cocktail and sit at the bar and watch the people walking by.

“It’s the weekend; you're excited to be there, excited to be in Atlantic City and that just kind of drives the vibe.”

According to Michael Woodside, the gaming hall’s vice-president of entertainment, the idea is that the Council Oak lounge is designed to be more sophisticated—grown-up, if you will—than Lobby Bar.

“I think the vibe at Council Oak is not going to be so much a ‘dancing vibe,’ but more, think Boz Scaggs and a craft cocktail,” said Woodside. “It’ll be a place with great background music you can bring a date to and have a great cocktail. It will have a great energy. It’s about the energy of the whole space—a beautiful lounge.”

Indeed, the room—which is definitely one of AyCee’s lesser-appreciated spaces, is a little gem. It’s separated from the property’s first-floor concourse by a large, rectangular bar. The opposite end of the room boasts a small, slightly elevated platform (more about that below). Between the bar and the stage are 10 tables and plenty of room for dancing, should the mood strike.

The overall goal is to give visitors-especially those who attend headliner performances--another post-show option in addition to heading to Lobby Bar, the casino, hotel room or home.

As for the stage, it has been used Thursdays through Sundays for a few weeks as a showcase for small musical groups. That format will remain, with live music being presented every Thursday and Sunday evening.

And if those who avail themselves of the Council Oak’s Thursday-through-Sunday-night  activities have an attack of the munchies, rest assured they won’t go hungry: The “late-night” bar menu features the Oak Burger (a cheeseburger with fries); steak frites; mussels Posillpo; fried shrimp; tuna tartar; calamari; Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail.

A much-needed getaway

Actually, checking out the Council Oak lounge (where I enjoyed the sounds of a jazzy trio called ESQ) was my final stop at Hard Rock last weekend.

Between the recent miserable weather and general nonstop craziness in the world, a one-day vacation was definitely in the cards, and Hard Rock was absolutely the prescription for what ailed me.

My day began with a soak in the crazy big (we’re talking like 30 feet long) hot tub at Rock Spa, followed by a stress-busting (and muscle-soothing) 50-minute Swedish massage (props to my therapist, Andrea, who expertly and exactly followed my specific requests and directions). Then it was back to the tub, followed by a typically stellar dinner at Council Oak (the Lobster Mac & Cheese lone is worth the trip, as is the two-pound lobster grilled in a Josper coal oven.

A great night’s sleep (in a room with a panoramic view of the Boardwalk, beach and ocean) provided the perfect end to a pretty darned-good day. Hard Rock Atlantic City may not be in the Caribbean or South of France, but it was definitely a pretty convenient option for escaping reality, if only for less than 24 hours.

Penn & Teller coming ‘home’

We certainly can’t leave Hard Rock without sharing the awesome news that Penn & Teller will be performing there (in the Sound Waves theater) May 16 and 17.

Although neither Jillette (western Massachusetts) nor the mono-monikered Teller (Philadelphia) hail from Absecon Island, Atlantic City is, in a real sense, their professional home. That’s because the brilliantly hilarious (or is that hilariously brilliant?) magic-and-comedy team began their ascent to superstardom in earnest some 35 years ago when they made their casino debut at the defunct Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino.

Before that 1988 gig, the duo had established itself nationally as a “cult-act” that appealed to a primarily young-and-hip crowd. But the late Joel Fischman, who was the Plaza’s director of entertainment, had a hunch that the pair’s oddball act would connect with an older, more-mainstream audience. It took some convincing, but P&T—who were pretty certain Fischman had taken leave of his senses–finally relented and agreed to the booking.

Their debut’s success there—and that of subsequent Plaza gigs–led to a residency at what was then Bally’s Las Vegas (now the Horseshoe), which they followed with a move, 23 Januaries ago, to the Rio Las Vegas—where they remain to this day, performing their one-of-a-kind act five-night weeks some 40 weeks a year. Last fall, they signed a contract extension that will keep them at the Rio at least through the end of 2026.

For tickets, click here.

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