El Cortez gets set to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, and instead of keeping everything the same, big changes on are on the horizon for the resort once owned by Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway who bought it in 1945.
The resort pays homage to those former owners with the new Siegel’s 1941, the restaurant taking over the former The Flame Steakhouse in the heart of the casino floor. The Siegel’s in the name recognizes those old mobster ties while 1941 tips its hat to the year the resort opened.
And on Monday, June 8, it debuts to the public with a 24-hour restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between.
"We have people who’ve been coming here for 30 or 40 years, coming in to the restaurants three to four times a week," says Alex Epstein, executive manager of El Cortez. While she’s sat back to watch the changes taking place in the surrounding Fremont East neighborhood — new bars such as Commonwealth, new restaurants like Glutton and Eat and even the Downtown Container Park — the instinct was to satisfy locals who returned time and again to the restaurant and a new, younger demographic who spent time on Fremont East.
So El Cortez went with an American brasserie — "something I would see in New York City," Epstein says. "We look forward to the future with one eye to the past."
Jeffrey Kalt of Epicurean Strategic Partners, came on board to help El Cortez define this new restaurant. With so many people coming to Downtown Las Vegas to drink late at night, it made sense to bring in a restaurant that could cater to 24-hour needs.
Siegel’s 1941 plans to keep many of the classic dishes from The Flame’s menu such as matzo ball soup, stone crabs and the ever-important liver and onions. That dish is so popular that when it was removed from the Cafe Cortez menu, longtime diners were upset. "This restaurant needs to be accessible," Kalt says.
With 180 seats, diners will have 50 more places to sit. The ceiling was elevated and the entrance moved to the side of the space. Windows look out on the casino floor. Other touches remain from The Flame, such as the large circular booths that moved to the rear of the space. White tiles, red upholstery and black accents paint the space that features large images of Siegel and his pals.
Also of note, Cafe Cortez will shutter at 9 p.m. on June 7 before Siegel's 1941 opens the next day.
Take a look around before it opens.