Robert Wiedmaier of Mussel Bar is one of the key cuisine players at Atlantic City's Revel resort.
It’s 3 PM in Atlantic City, about three hours away from his Bethesda hot spot Mussel Bar, and chef Robert Wiedmaier—having just led a beer and cheese pairing workshop as part of Food & Wine’s Taste of Revel event—lets out a heavy sigh. “Please excuse me," Wiedmaier says. "I’m hungover.” This sort of confession might not fly inside District limits, but in America’s Playground, it seems to fit the bill.
Far from standard Atlantic City—a narrative that snakes its way through smoke-filled casinos, old carpeting, and seedy nightclubs—the newly opened Revel resort offers a super-luxe incarnation of New Jersey’s most infamous city by the water. Just ask Kim Kardashian, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, and Jay-Z, who all made appearances at Revel during the Memorial Day weekend grand opening, which centered on a series of four concerts by the one and only Beyoncé.
The smoke-free 6.2-million-square-foot property boasts 14 restaurants. This includes not only the second outpost of Mussel Bar, but also O Bistro and Central by another DC favorite, Michel Richard, plus 1,800 hotel rooms with ocean views, myriad watering holes, two nightclubs, a strip of high-end shopping, and—of course—a giant floor of opportunities to win big.
And Revel’s image as a more upscale casino seems to be succeeding. “I hate casinos,” the former Four Seasons DC executive chef says flatly. “When [Revel] came to me four years ago, they said, ‘Would you like to put a restaurant in this new casino we’re opening up in Atlantic City?’ I said no. Then after I found out what they were going to do here, I said, you know what, I like that. This isn’t really a casino. It’s a resort with gambling.”
Michael Prifti, principal of Philadelphia-based BLT Architects, Revel’s executive architect of record, shares Wiedmaier's sentiments.
“It’s [Revel CEO] Kevin Desanctis’ vision to make Revel a resort proper that happens to have a casino in it,” Prifti says. “The property in its physical manifestation is an expression of that vision. By design, the elevators from the hotel towers don’t go to the casino. And the casino is different in its aesthetic, design, and layout than other casinos in Atlantic City.”
Wiedmaier, the man who utilizes beer bottle chandeliers and functional Harley-Davidsons to decorate his dining spaces—now numbering four in the DC area, including Brabo in Alexandria, and Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck inside city limits—has a valid point. The 130,000-square-foot casino at Revel was helmed by Scéno Plus, the same creatives who designed Cirque du Soleil’s theater in Orlando.
“[Atlantic City] is only three hours and 10 minutes away from DC,” Wiedmaier says. “You can come for the day, stay in the hotel, go see [a concert], go out to the great restaurants. I think it’s just a great place to get away for a day, have fun, go sit on the private beach, go to the spa. And if you want to gamble, go gamble, but that’s not the reason why you have to come here, which is very rare for what goes on in Atlantic City.”
And as far as his home turf is concerned, Wiedmaier has a few (admittedly card-free) tricks of his own.
“We’ve got a couple of projects in the making,” he says. “We’re getting ready to sign a deal to open up a Mussel Bar in Virginia, and I’m opening up Wildwood Kitchen by RW in Maryland in September. I stay busy, and I love DC. It’s a small town. You can’t compare it to New York in any ways or means, and I kind of like that. It’s a clean city, it’s beautiful, and there’s so much history there.”
Atlantic City might not be as squeaky clean, but Revel is sparkling—and perhaps that’s why Wiedmaier fits right in. 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-225-9851