Winnie and Ethel’s Downtown Diner Competes in a Local Coffee Shop Giveaway

The pair combined their passions to cook up a concept, which has led them to be finalists

Social media was a crucial ingredient for the sweet beginnings of a Las Vegas couple. It not only played a major part in their love story, but it also led them to entering “The Great Las Vegas Coffee Shop Giveaway.”

“Honestly, that is the first and only time I have direct messaged anyone,” says Mallory Gott. Mallory, Founder and Creative Director at G+A, an experiential design firm, recalls the first time she reached out to Chef Aaron Lee.

“It wasn’t just this one night that he caught my eye,” she tells Off The Strip. Mallory remembers seeing him while he worked at Esther’s Kitchen in the Las Vegas Arts District. “But I was like, ‘how am I going to go off and talk to this person when they’re literally in the middle of working?’”

Finally, after nights of swooning, she got the nerve to DM him on Instagram. The next morning she received his reply. Less than a handful of days later, they went out. “It’s just been Kismet ever since,” says Mallory.

Spoiler alert: This wouldn’t be the last time social media gave the seasoned duo a serendipitous moment.

“Kismet,” as Mallory says, is the perfect way to describe their relationship. The pairing would have a considerable dose of good timing added to the base of a love concoction.

Since they first met in March 2021, the couple has spent most of their time together. Call it training for a future they both are hoping to cook up. Timing in the kitchen, as it is in life, would prove to be the foundation of this pairing’s professional and personal life.

The second time social media turned up the heat on the duo was in December. The couple had been brainstorming for ways to blend both of their passions. Perhaps his passion for food and her desire to turn spaces into experiences would add up to a winning blue ribbon recipe somehow, but how? 

Well, that question was answered while Mallory was scrolling through her social feed. The opportunity of a lifetime stared right back in her face.

“The coffee shop contest came across my phone and we looked at it and I texted it to him when I got home,” says Mallory. “We were like, ‘Yeah, we got to give this a shot. We got to throw our hats in the ring.’ And so we did.”

They submitted a proposal to enter “The Great Las Vegas Coffee Shop Giveaway” after a weekend of celebrating a family birthday in Reno. Family, as it turns out, is the cornerstone of their concept.

What is ‘The Great Las Vegas Coffee Shop Giveaway’?

Here in Las Vegas, casinos are packed with slot machines, table games and more eateries than said gambling devices. Long ago, that list might have included a good old fashioned diner.

Their idea was to recreate a restaurant modeled after the classic 1940s diner with cooking so good it tastes like grandma made it. Pair homemade style plates with coffee so strong it cures a hangover and it makes for the perfect Mom-and-Pops cafe.  Sadly, those diners have all but disappeared. Hopefully, it’s not for long.

The people over at Dapper Companies want to see those diner days come back, badly. So badly, in fact, that they are serving up one lucky winner—or pair of winners—to own a diner.

This led the development company to launch “The Great Las Vegas Coffee Shop” contest. Dapper Companies and several “highly esteemed” businesses have teamed up to build the winner’s dream diner. The location of the diner was set at the start. However, the winner gets to create everything from the aesthetics of the space to the menu. 

When the competition was announced, the applications poured in. They narrowed the contenders down into six finalists. Mallory and Aaron were among the remaining contestants. Their proposal: Winnie and Ethel’s Downtown Diner.

Since early April, the finalists have cooked up a storm by way of a public pop-up at Las Vegas Test Kitchen. Mallory and Aaron will give Winnie and Ethel’s a go this Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Vegas Test Kitchen. This is when the community gets their first taste of Winnie and Ethel’s Downtown Diner. 

Drawing Inspiration from Grandma

The home cooking approach is appropriate for the couple and their Winnie and Ethel’s diner concept. The restaurant’s name is a nod to both of their grandmothers. 

Winnie, Chef Aaron Lee’s grandmother / Image Courtesy of Winnie and Ethel’s Downtown Diner’s Instagram

“We cooked to make our family happy, it’s like it’s always a big thing,” says Chef Aaron. “We always gather around the table and eat together, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do. We just like getting that same feeling that I had growing up in my family. It’s really important and I really hope that you guys get a chance to bring it to Las Vegas.”

The menu is looks as it sounds. The offerings include mouthwatering comfort foods like Nutter Butter French Toast, Classic Meatloaf Sandwich, House Ham Eggs Benedict and Winnie’s Chocolate Pudding.

Classic Meatloaf Sandwich / Courtesy of Winnie and Ethel’s Downtown Diner’s Instagram

Did we mention there is a bottomless cup of coffee for only 25 cents? Nope, that’s not a typo. For only a quarter, guests may enjoy a bottomless cup of joe.

It is the epitome of a neighborhood restaurant for and by the neighborhood.

Nutter Butter French Toast / Photo Courtesy of Winnie and Ethel’s Instagram

“It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re going to get really, really great food,” says Chef Aaron. “You know, if we do win, we’re definitely going to have our staples on the menu that probably never change, but I definitely want to keep things interesting for people.”

He continues. “I mean if you have a favorite restaurant that you always go to, eventually you’re going to eat everything on the menu and more.” And boy, do Mallory and Aaron want so badly to be your new favorite neighborhood restaurant.

‘The Stars Just all Aligned’

Many ingredients come together to make a great dish. Similarly, many things quickly came together in Mallory and Aaron’s personal lives.

“We’ve been dating since March of 2021,” says Mallory. “A little bit over a year now. We got engaged in December. And yeah,” she pauses, “we’re getting married in November.” 

When asked how their life has changed since they met last March, she says, “It was kind of like, you know, the stars all just aligned. I guess it sounds a bit like we’re making it up, but we’re not. It’s true.”

Winning “The Great Las Vegas Coffee Shop Giveaway” would be oh-so-sweet for Mallory and Chef Aaron.

Sounds like kismet to us—a social media kismet that is.

Register for this weekend’s public pop-up event featuring Winnie and Ethel’s family-inspired dishes. Mallory and Aaron will be serving their food for the official judges early next week. The winner will be announced later this month. Follow their Instagram for updates.

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