Showboat Hotel’s rebirth in 2016 was expectedly going to require some fine tuning to make the transition run as smoothly as most other properties have under the ownership of developer Bart Blatstein.
Among those transitional tweaks was replacing a management company that oversaw the Boat’s food and beverage operation with a local team of proven winners in the culinary field. And while the switch may have come too recently to fairly assess its overall impact, one member of that local team says things are definitely going in the right direction.
“Weekends have been great, we’ve just been trying to stimulate a little more weekday business,” says Bill McGinnity, who has partnered with Norm Imber and Lou Freedman to operate three sites inside Showboat — Atlantic City Eatery, Worship Surf Bar, and, most recently, 12 Bar lounge. “It’s all very casual and laid back. We want you to be able to come in off the beach, or come as you are, and feel relaxed. We’d also like to establish ourselves as the go-to place where employees of the two new casinos can stop by during lunch breaks, or just hang out after work.”
Showboat Hotel is located directly between the newly opened Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino on the north side of the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
“We’ve actually just started an 11 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) happy hour on certain appetizers and drinks,” McGinnity says, “and we’ll have an ongoing ‘In The Biz’ happy hour for all members of the hospitality industry.”
The prevailing culinary theme of the three Showboat restaurant/bars — all located immediately off the Boardwalk entrance to the hotel — may be low-key, and their primary demographic more of a bar-food crowd, but that should not mistaken for lack of quality or kitchen skills.
McGinnity has been the head chef and owner of Cousins Restaurant, a beloved Ocean City establishment specializing in seafood dishes and Italian cuisine, since 2006. The Academy of Culinary Arts graduate has also partnered with Imber to create Nobil Food Services, an upscale catering company. The third part of the triumvirate, Freedman, operates a popular Margate eatery called Bocca Coal Fired Bistro, and hails from a bloodline of Atlantic City restaurateurs renowned for adhering to top-shelf quality.
Atlantic City Eatery — dubbed ACE on its menu and elsewhere throughout the establishment — has an 8-ounce Angus beef burger served with lettuce, tomato and onions on a brioche bun for $10. It also offers a quarter-pound grilled beef hot dog for $4 — caramelized onions are $1 more — and a buffalo chicken cutlet sandwich topped with bleu cheese dressing for $12.
“Our burgers are a brisket-cut blend that are delicious, and we also have some of the biggest wings that you’ve ever seen ($12 an order, tossed in a choice of buffalo, sweet Thai chili or barbecue sauce),” McGinnity says. “Our southern-style pork sandwich ($12) is topped with hand-breaded onion and is also very popular.”
Popular orders at Worship Surf Bar include the salt-and-pepper fried calamari with remoulade and lemon for $12, and the char-grilled chicken BLT topped with Swiss cheese and remoulade on a brioche bun, and served with ranch fries for $12.
ACE, Surf Bar and 12 Bar all have menu specials going throughout the summer, including three fish tacos topped with mango salsa for $12, three shrimp tacos with salsa and guacamole for $14, the Showboat Shrimp Po Boy for $14, or a blackened tuna sandwich topped with lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun for $15.
There are more than a dozen specialty frozen drinks available at all three establishments throughout the summer, most priced $8 for a 16-ounce drink or $15 for 32 ounces. Among them are the Beach Bum’s Surf made with Cruzan pineapple, coconut rum, banana liqueur, lemonade and lime juice, or the Boardwalk Breeze, made with Cruzan pineapple, Blue Curacao, and fresh squeezed fruit juices.