If you wish you could step back in time to old Las Vegas, back when it was just starting to glimmer with the excitement of the first casino openings and visits from Hollywood celebrities, you’ll want to check out Siegel’s 1941. Opened in June at the El Cortez Hotel, this eatery with an American brasserie theme pays homage to Bugsy Siegel and other mobsters that helped make Vegas — after all, Siegel was one of the owners of the El Cortez (not to mention the Flamingo, the oldest still-operating resort on the Las Vegas Strip). Siegels’s 1941 has old-school glamour and a great, moderately priced menu featuring classic dining, comfort foods and superior cocktails.
Siegel’s is open 24 hours a day, which explains why its vibe is partly steakhouse and partly coffee shop. Near the entrance the feel is more casual and open, suitable for a casual meal, but saunter back to the gorgeous red booths and you get a more intimate, steakhouse experience perfect for an intimate dinner prepared by talented Chef Aaron Neeley, who has worked at top steak and seafood restaurants around the country
The look here is red booths, classic rattan Parisian bistro chairs, gleaming wood tables, a tiled ceiling, vintage-style lighting fixtures, large black and white photos of Siegel and his beautiful girlfriend, Virginia Hill, add up to a dining room with a stylish, classic-Vegas aesthetic that tips its hat to 1941, the year the El Cortez opened.
The slow-roasted, hand-cut prime rib is juicy and flavorful. The Double-Cut Berkshire Pork Chop with demi-glace and glazed apple compote was fantastic. I was also impressed with the Kale Caesar, redolent with anchovy, the lump crab cake with remoulade, and the creamy, well-balanced salted caramel turtle pie.
I’d gladly go back to try the Fat Irish Green Corned Beef Hash, the poutine, the Flatbush Avenue Old-School Meatballs, the matzo ball soup, the carnitas omelet and more selections from the dessert list, which also includes not-too-predictable choices like bourbon bread pudding, key lime pie, banana cream pie, old-school milk shakes and strawberry ice box pie.
The cocktails are impressive, and only $10 each — a great price for well-crafted drinks made with high-quality spirits. A Gentleman and a Scholar is recommended for the bourbon lover. It’s a medley of Gentleman Jack, Benedictine, fresh lemon, honey and ginger beer. Another tasty concoction is the Bootlegger: Templeton Prohibition Rye, Gifford Madagascar Vanilla liqueur, Lustau Sherry and a cherry. The classic Side Car is another great choice. There’s also a selection of wines and beers, along with Bloody Marys, Mimosas and an assortment of coffee drinks for those in need of rocket fuel.
There’s also a good selection of after-dinner drinks, featuring classics like the Brandy Alexander and Irish Coffee, the “Night-Cappuccino,” a cappuccino topped with a float of vanilla cream and Kahlua, and “Have a Cigar,” whose 12-year Zaya rum is complemented by espresso, vanilla, and hand-whipped cream.
As far as the music goes, you won’t find any EDM here. They play classically cool mid-century classics by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
If you enter the El Cortez through the casino and haven’t been there before, be forewarned: the casino is anything but glamorous. But the aura quickly changes as soon as you enter the doors of Siegel’s 1941 and approach the marble-topped hostess station.
There are a few other reasons to check out Siegel’s 1941: the excellent service. Ask for Mark, one of the best, most attentive servers I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Also, the Steak Frites special is a pretty amazing deal. In addition to the steak and fries, you also enjoy a salad and bread board for $19.41. Another great special: from 11pm to 11am, get a breakast sandwich and coffee for just $5.