Openings: Jose Garces is Back, At Long Last

The famed chef opens three places at the Tropicana in Atlantic City on March 4. Plus lots of other new places to try

Ready, set, reserve!

Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner Jose Garces will finally open his three new restaurants at the Tropicana in Atlantic City on March 4. Reservations are now being taken on Open Table.

The Philadelphia-based Garces operates more than 15 restaurants across the country, including Amada, Distrito, Tinto, Village Whiskey, Garces Trading Company, JG Domestic, Volvér, Rural Society, The Olde Bar, Buena Onda, 24 and Mercat a la Planxa, as well as a 40-acre farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“My team and I have worked hard at creating all-new restaurant options unlike any of our other restaurants,” Garces says. “Each of the three [Tropicana] restaurants has a unique look and feel that transports guests to either a Japanese streetscape, a seafront coastal town, or a beachside beer bar.”

Here’s the 4-1-1 on the trio:

Olón: Inspired by the tranquil beach town of Olón, Ecuador, and its coastal culture, it focuses on seafood and includes a 43-seat ceviche bar and lounge, where diners can watch chefs prepare ceviche and other raw seafood specialties. In the 128-seat dining area, every seat has ocean and boardwalk views. There are two private dining areas and, when weather permits, outdoor seating for 40. The menu features Garces’s family recipes, with a modern twist. Olón will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Okatshe: This is Garces’s playful, modern take on a traditional Japanese izakaya. The full-service, 80-seat restaurant will serve small plates, yakitori, ramen, sushi and sashimi. Yakitori skewers include chicken, beef, pork, vegetable or seafood. Ramen noodles are served in three styles: Tokyo, light chicken and dashi broth; tonkastu, rich pork broth; and Okatshe, lobster dashi. Sushi, sashimi, and maki include everything from scallop and wasabi tobiko to spicy rolls, black jack eel rolls, and a signature Tropicana roll. The bar will include a selection of Japanese whiskeys, 50 sakes, beers and specialty cocktails. Open from 4 pm to 2 am seven days a week, the restaurant will not require reservations.

Bar Olón: This 60-seat, double-sided, walk-around bar and lounge is located between the two restaurants. The setting includes a beach vibe with various seating types and an elevated platform with a stage for live entertainment. It will serve as the foundation of Olón’s extensive beverage program, including a custom, double-sided tap with 16 draft beer lines; 35 beers by the bottle; 20 wines by the glass; 75+ wines by the bottle and 8 hand-crafted specialty cocktails.  A menu of light foods will be available, featuring ceviche, sandwiches, and shareable small plates. It will be open from 11:30 am to 11 pm daily.

Overseeing the three restaurants are chef de cuisine Maria Schmidt, who worked at Amada, Distrito, Tinto and 24, and executive director of fine dining Patrick Sterr, a South Jersey native who has managed Garces restaurants in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago and New York.

Tropicana Atlantic City is located at 2831 Boardwalk. 609-340-4000


Now open:

Charlie’s of Bay Head, 72 Bridge Avenue in Bay Head. Once housing a theater and long home to a complex of shops, this site on Twilight Lake is a spanking new, and sophisticated, two-story dining destination led by chef Stephen T. Johnson and manager Mark Bernard. The bar sports 20 taps for craft brews while the upstairs offers a wine room for private dining. The New American menu spotlights seafood and locally grown produce. 732-295-1110

Paris Baguette, 185 Main Street in Fort Lee. Located at the Shops at Hudson Lights, the pastry-plus chain is open from 7 am to 10 pm daily. 201-302-0404

La Esquina Mexican, 429 East Main Street in Bound Brook. Mexican; BYO. 732-560-1111


Opening soon:

West End Smoke House, 100 Brighton Avenue in Long Branch. Southern-style smoker-cooked fare in the former West End Bar & Grill. They are looking to open the first week of March and offer a variety of games on weeknights to supplement beverages at the full bar and the barbecue-centered menu. Initially, the restaurant will be open only for dinner; the plan is to add lunch by early summer. 732-795-3686

Gigi’s New York Style Pizza, 1142 Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright. Yes, expect pizza, but also appetizers, entrées and Italian-American desserts. Open 10:30 am to 10 pm daily. 732-530-7499

Half Moon Point Tavern, 2154 Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant Borough. Remember the old Forte? This upscale-casual American is going in its old home, courtesy of the folks behind Harpoon Willy’s in nearby Wall Township. According to a spokesperson, “We’re coming soon! Early spring, we hope.” 732-223-8880.


Over the horizon, likely to open this spring or summer:

Wok to Work, 695 Broad Street in Newark. Asian in the Prudential Shoppes on Broad.
Wasabi Sushi, 435 Main Street in West Orange. Japanese.
Riverside Shawarma, 19 West Boradway in Paterson. Middle Eastern.
Blue Corn Grill, 56 Bridge Street in Milford. Opening in the former Sandy’s Bridge Street Grille locale.
White Rooster, 731 Fischer Boulevard, Toms River. In the former Rivoli’s spot. Cuban, plus tapas.


Got a question? Got a tip on a restaurant, old or new or coming soon? Email me at [email protected]

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