Corky's at the Trop knows first-hand about Memphis barbecue
Does living in southern New Jersey qualify us to recognize genuine southern cooking and barbecue? Dining at Corky's Ribs & BBQ at the Tropicana is one good place to begin the taste test. The franchise restaurant boasts it only serves authentic southern foods and sauces. The food at Corky's just may be good enough to cheat a bit on your diet.
Corky's is a franchise of a well-known Memphis-based operation. Corky's prides itself on the special foods and sauces it prepares and their cooking style revolves around slow, low temperatures for their meats, cooked in open and closed BBQ pits with hickory chips and charcoal. Pork shoulders are slow cooked for 22 hours! Ribs for more than seven hours.
With the benefit of an established long-term relationship with the Aztar Corporation (the Tropicana's parent company) Corky's opened at the Tropicana in April 2004. Corky's also has locations at Aztar's riverboat casinos in Missouri and Indiana.
Corky's casual beachfront location is accessible to both the casino hotel and the Boardwalk because it opens to the Trop's Marketplace. The several rooms of the restaurant are all designed differently.
The front area features Corky's memorabilia, including T-shirts, a cookbook, sauces and other souvenirs for sale. Flat screen plasma television screens are located throughout Corky's, both in the bar and the dining rooms.
Following the recent reopening of the casinos, my husband Norman, my friend Sheree and I ate at Corky's prior to seeing the Tropicana's fabulous new show, Floorplay.
It was a Monday night, and we did not know how crowded it would be. I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the tables occupied. The sign posting says that Corky's can seat approximately 400 for a maximum occupancy, so they were doing good business that evening. Customers also occupied several outside tables for al fresco dining.
We sat in the Memphis Room. Because the company originated in Memphis, they pay tribute to their favorite son, Elvis Presley. The room commemorates his legacy with framed posters of many of his movies.
The menu is divided into several sections. Appetizers, soups and salads are priced from $5 to $14. This starter grouping offers the usual onion soup and Caesar salads, but adds some interesting southern choices like Delta Catfish Strips, Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo and a croissant-wrapped Andouille sausage.
Corky's encourages choice, not only in the variation of meals it serves, but also in what ingredients are combined. From the "create your own" section for eight-ounce burgers or chicken, I selected a $10 grilled chicken sandwich. It included a list of at least 10 toppings.
Corky's does not charge per item, so I chose sautéed mushrooms, roasted red peppers and grilled onions, all topped with melted Swiss cheese. I could also opt for three types of sauces, plus other items like bacon and blue cheese. The sandwich was served on a large, fresh Kaiser roll, with lettuce, a tomato slice and crunchy homemade French fries that still had the skin on them.
Norman decided that it was a waste to come to Corky's and not order some ribs. His half-rack were six soft baby backs, which slid off the bone. They were delicious, but a small portion. The platters are served with French fries, fresh cold slaw and a small cup of baked beans.
The half-rack is priced at $16, and a full rack is $22, which sounds like a better value. We would have chosen that if we weren't going straight to the show, limiting our ability to carry out any leftovers.
Again, diners may create their own BBQ platters, combining ribs with smoked turkey, pulled pork, Andouille sausage or BBQ chicken. You can choose two items for $16 or three for $18.
Sheree ordered the pulled pork sandwich, also served on a Kaiser roll. The wonderful slices of meat were soft and chewy. The kitchen also did not overload the sauce, which would block the flavor. These four sandwiches also cost $10, and regular sandwiches range from $8 to $12. Fries accompany all sandwiches.
Because not everyone likes ribs or chicken, Corky's has a selection of several steak, seafood and pasta items for $15 to $28. Soup or salad may be added to all entrée platters for another $3. Several a la carte side dishes are also available to order.
Due to our time constraints, we skipped dessert ($6), but the pecan pie, turtle cheesecake, apple crumble with ice cream and chocolate cake with ice cream sweets all sounded enticing.
Corky's Ribs & BBQ is located at The Marketplace in The Tropicana, Brighton and The Boardwalk, Atlantic City. The phone number is 345-4100. Open 24 hours daily, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. No reservations necessary. Live reggae music on Sunday from 4-8pm, with drink specials. Takeout available and major credit cards accepted. Parking on the street or in the Tropicana garage.
To find those juicy, soulful delights, one typically has to travel to southern New Jersey’s hinterlands, seeking out hidden, home-based operations often run out of buildings not much larger than a good-sized shed.
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