El Charro's Flores family opening restaurant in Vegas

2013-12-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T10:24:26Z El Charro's Flores family opening restaurant in VegasBy Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucson’s first family of Mexican food will open a restaurant in Las Vegas later this month.

The Flores family, which runs several El Charro Cafés and Sir Veza’s Taco Garage, is partnering with MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to open Hecho en Vegas in a 10,000-square-foot space near the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The restaurant will open Dec. 28.

“The Flores family was selected to partner with MGM Grand because they are one of the most respected families in Mexican cuisine and their passion for providing an authentic experience is unmatched,” said Jason Shkorupa, MGM Grand’s food and beverage vice president, in an email interview.

El Charro Café, which opened in 1922, is the oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the United States.

Flores family matriarch Carlotta Flores said Hecho en Vegas will marry the Sonoran flavors of El Charro and Sir Veza’s.

“It will have the Mexican hot dog, but then it will have a really chocolaty, rich tasting mole,” said Flores, who has run the 91-year-old restaurant for more than 40 years. “It’s a marriage of all the different foods ... with the rich history and culture of our family.”

El Charro President Ray Flores said the menu also will include El Charro’s legacy dish, the chimichanga, alongside its popular Tamale Temptation Trio and Carlotta’s Chicken Mole Enchiladas. In addition to the Sonoran dog, Hecho en Vegas will serve Sir Veza’s Chopper Shrimp Skewers.

The family’s enchilada sauces, beef birria and salsa tomatillo, all produced at its Tucson-based, USDA-certified Carlotta’s Kitchen, also join the mix, he said.

Carlotta and Ray Flores pitched the idea of Hecho en Vegas to MGM officials in September when the casino was looking to replace Diego Mexican Cuisine, which closed in September. Ray Flores said other restaurants also were in the running, and the MGM team spent considerable time in Tucson vetting El Charro chefs and staff before narrowing its short list to three candidates.

MGM decided to join with El Charro in late September, and Carlotta Flores said she has spent the months since commuting weekly to Vegas to get ready for the opening.

Carlotta Flores, 67, said she will continue commuting to Vegas to oversee the restaurant, but will not move there. MGM employees will run the day-to-day operation, executing her menu and her recipes, she said.

Hecho en Vegas will join MGM’s roster of chef-driven restaurants that includes Joël Robuchon, Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio and Wolfgang Puck.

Ray Flores said having a restaurant in Vegas has “been a longtime dream of mine.” It also is a tribute to his mother, he said, who will be in the company of some of the country’s top culinary talent.

“To have her amongst that group is pretty cool. We’re very proud of the opportunity,” he said.

Shkorupa said MGM anticipates more than 200,000 people will dine at Hecho en Vegas annually.

In addition to its five Tucson restaurants, the Flores have the months-old Pub 22 Vintage Flavor Co. in Sahuarita and three Phoenix restaurants — a Sir Veza’s outpost at Sky Harbor International Airport and fast-food versions of El Charro and Sir Veza’s at US Airways Center.

The Flores family is not the first Tucson restauranteurs to stake a claim in the Vegas market. Former Tucsonan Sam Fox, whose Fox Restaurant Concepts is now based in Phoenix, opened Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in August 2012.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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