Step into Cuba Libre at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. Just past the red, white, and blue 1951 Buick Super Convertible parked at the entrance, you see (and smell) something new: the wood-burning grill set up in front of a 12-seat dining counter.
Does an eight-foot stainless-steel grill qualify as dinner theater?
Inspired by Latin a la parrilla cookery, it’s poultry in motion as you sit and watch chef Kevin Couch and his crew turn steel wheels to raise and lower the grates.
This beast burns oak and ash, as well as charcoals made from hardwood and coconut.
Seemingly everything goes — chicken, steak, seafood, even the grilled jalapeños for the Paloma Ahumada cocktail, made with Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit juice, and club soda.
The prep for the half-chicken was inspired by Peking duck: a 24-hour brine, followed by a second 24-hour marinade, a smoky ride over the coals, and the topping of an Asian-inspired sauce.
Chef-partner Guillermo Pernot says the other three Cuba Libres (Old City, D.C., and Orlando) may get similar grills.