Ocean resort

We Stayed at the Ocean Resort Casino: Full Review of Atlantic City’s (Sort of) Newest Hotel

Lori M. Nichols | For NJ.com

By Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

If you were to stumble across the Atlantic City boardwalk — not noticing the new signage — and climb the glass escalators to the casino floor, you’d be sure Revel had just reopened after four years behind closed doors.

Given the structure, decor, and overall chic grandiosity remain virtually the same inside the 60-story locale that shines at the north end of the Strip, you probably wouldn’t assume the building just underwent a major overhaul. $175 million renovation, nor was renamed Ocean Resort Casino.

Lori M. Nichols | For NJ.com

But then you start walking around and you realize that there are, in fact, quite a few changes inside the 138,000 square foot space: new entertainment, new restaurants, new attractions and , oh, a brand new sports book just in time for the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey.

The rebranded Ocean Resort officially opened on Thursday, alongside the new Hard Rock (replacing the Trump Taj Mahal), and while my colleagues handled the news and ceremony of the day – and Mark Wahlberg betting the Eagles for win another Super Bowl – I was backstage, wandering without media credentials, spending the night and comparing AC’s (sort of) new casino to its predecessor Revel, which I’ve often visited over its two years operations, between 2012 and its bankruptcy and closure in 2014.

Here’s a rundown of what’s new, what’s good, and what you need to know before booking a room at Ocean Resort Casino.

Before you visit, know this

While most of Ocean Resort is open to the public, some shops and amenities are still under construction. For example, if you were excited to get the kids to make your own Cerealtown breakfast listed on the website, know that it’s currently just an empty room. The same goes for The Den, suitable for electronic sports. It’s not ready yet or doesn’t match its online description yet. Other halls were still being set up on Thursday, with ladders and construction crews working among guests.

Bobby Oliver | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The rooms

If you’ve stayed at Revel and dug the modern, minimalist decor — blacks, whites, grays, and geometric patterns — your room at the Ocean will be a blast from the past. In other words, the rooms are the same. The 1,399 rooms have been cleaned and polished for the grand reopening, but there has been no refurbishment, given that the spacious rooms were only two years old when they fell into obscurity. That being said, if your carpet had stains on it, it does now (mine did, anyway). And a pet peeve of the millennium: there was no Wifi information in the room.

If you can snag a north-facing piece, the floor-to-ceiling windows offer epic views of the water and the nearby Brigantine. Weekday nightly rates start at $149 — a bargain on the AC strip — while weekends start at around $300 a pop.

Lori M. Nichols | For NJ.com

What’s New: The Sports Book

The William Hill Sports Book – the first of its kind in Atlantic City – will be a major selling point for Ocean Resort as it hopes to entice players from competing casinos. The book, located in the center of the huge casino, was in full swing Thursday, as people strolled around, picked up odds sheets and made their first legal sports bets in the Garden State. I was one of those patrons, throwing a total of $5 on the Cowboys for winning less than eight games this year, because fuck the Cowboys.

The Book had a few helpful employees on hand to explain the overwhelming pile of odds sheets — ranging from scores in the first inning of the night’s baseball game to who will win the Super Bowl next year — to newcomers like me. It’s a big, open, inviting space with a bar and TVs to watch the fucking Jets blast and, in return, your savings.

Bobby Oliver | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

What’s new: Amada and other restaurants

The Ocean Resort offers 16 restaurants, some of which — like Wahlburgers, owned by Paul and his famous brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg — aren’t yet open for business, or even finished construction. Still, there’s already plenty to eat here, from fast food to fine dining, and let’s start at the top.

Not far from the main escalators at the casino level is Amada, an extension of Philadelphia’s famous tapas restaurant owned by iron chef Jose Garces. It was my dinner Thursday night, in a rustic open dining room overlooking the ocean as Spanish olives, patatas bravas, cheese plates, quinoa salad, clams and chorizo ​​and Pernil Asado (roasted pork) kept coming. Garces was on hand Thursday to help with the opening, and two of his subordinates were kind enough to take me back to the casino floor when I was done gorging myself.

Amada, returning after opening with Revel in 2012, immediately becomes one of the most popular resort restaurants on the Strip and is a great place for a special occasion. Just know that it’s not cheap; high-end tapas usually means lots of small plates to fill you up, and that takes a lot of money.

Bobby Oliver | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Upscale dining continues at Ocean with the new American Cut steakhouse and a modern Italian restaurant called Dolce Mare. If you’re looking for something cheaper, head to Cafe 500, a restaurant-style eatery with matzo ball soup, tasty salads, and burgers. On Thursday, the staff were in weeds and almost everyone around me was missing something from their dishes, but the staff apologized – day one nervousness – and quickly corrected. My 500 salad, filled with dried cherries, candied cashews and eggs, came out right away and was just fine, though.

Also inside Ocean right now is Distrito, Garces’ street taco truck, a typical brunch spot called Harper’s, and Zhen Bang Noodle and Sushi. Come hungry.

What’s new: Entertainment and nightlife

Ivan Kane’s famous burlesque club Royal Jelly has reopened and its scantily-clad performers take to the stage Thursday through Sunday, from 10 p.m. until dawn, while the Royal Jelly bar remains on the casino floor, with dancers weaving on catwalks and prancing on bars as patrons slip dollars into their stockings.

And Revel’s HQ nightclub – the only club I’ve ever been to where my shoes weren’t fancy enough to get in – has barely been renamed HQ2 and will host a roster of celebrity DJs throughout the summer to bring back the people in the door. This Weekend Alone features Diplo, Kaskade and Jermaine Dupri.

Bobby Oliver | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

If you don’t need to dance, the coolest new nightlife spot has to be Villain and Saint, a beer and live music bar located at the back of the casino. The list of curated beers was extensive between drafts and bottles, and a brewer nerd sitting next to me kept commenting on how reasonable the prices were, considering the selection. And he was right; $6 for something loud like Troegs Troegenator is a relative flight to Atlantic City. It’s a fun, dimly lit, and ostensibly naughty space with a motorbike dangling above the bar, seafood and burger platters, and a small stage where bands played all night long.

Speaking of bands, the real wildcard in Ocean Resort’s entertainment scene will be the renovation and eventual reopening of Ovation Hall, a magnificent 5,500-seat arena that has brought in major talents like Beyonce, The Eagles and Blink. -182 at the casino between 2012 and 2014. Get some solid lineup booked there to rival the new Hard Rock – which already has a sizable entertainment schedule – and this place will be off to the races.

Bobby Oliver | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

What’s new: Top Golf and other amenities

Ocean Resort on Thursday opened a new entertainment area called Top Golf Swing Suite, with 11 virtual golf bays and games for large groups to swing clubs and try not to kill each other. It’s $125 for an hour – pretty reasonable depending on how many ways you split the bill – and sounded like something that would be fun for maybe a few minutes: you hit a real golf ball on a projection screen, then a virtual ball flies on a virtual course.

Eh. I’d rather go to Edison and play real Top Golf. Anyway, there’s a large sports bar in the space with TVs for watching games if you don’t want to hang on to the Sports Book.

Lori M. Nichols | For NJ.com

There’s a swanky indoor/outdoor pool overlooking the ocean on the floor above the hotel lobby — which, in turn, is two stories above the casino — with a ton of lounge chairs and huts to house beautiful people who scroll endlessly through their Instagram feeds. It’s a nice space, not particularly large, but if you really want to pamper yourself, there’s a new Exhale Spa with acupuncture, facials, massages, and more. I can’t speak to the quality of the services, but it looked like a nice professional space.

Oh, and there’s always free parking at The Ocean Resort! More major. And at least on Thursday, they had lower-stakes tables on the casino floor; players were thrilled that there was a $10 blackjack where they could lose their money more responsibly.

The bottom line

Ultimately, if you liked Revel, you’ll love the Ocean Resort Casino. The style and structure are not significantly different. But now there’s more to get you in: you can bet on sports, there’s better food — my first child, boy or girl, will be named Amada — and generally more to do and see. Ocean Resort will again rival Borgata, as Revel did, as an Atlantic City casino that doesn’t feel lost in time, and if you’re coming for a weekend with friends or planning a bachelor party bachelor’s life, this remains a modern place where you can make bad decisions.

Bobby Olivier can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. To find NJ.com on Facebook.