The Top of Binion’s Steakhouse sits on the 24th floor of the iconic and historic Binion’s Gambling Hall. Far away from the chimes of the slot machines, this steakhouse offers an unexpected touch of elegance and serenity high above the ongoing party happening down on Fremont Street.
With a menu spanning from vegetarian delights to surf and turf staples, head chef Andrew Hilyer has used his expertise to create a dining experience worth highlighting.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Chef Andrew Hilyer and learn more about him and what makes the Top of Binion’s Steakhouse a true gem of downtown.
Q. How long have you been working at Binion’s?
A. I’ve been with the company for about five years now. I moved to Vegas with my wife five years ago because we wanted to try something new and I wanted to give the desert a go.
Q. What is your culinary background?
A. I attended Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon and received my associates of Occupational Studies. I’ve been in the Industry since I was 13. I started washing dishes at a local places to help earn additional income for my family and realized that I was good at cooking and I liked doing it. I’ve held several different culinary positions. I worked on cruise ships in Alaska, as well as bistros and hotels in the Pacific Northwest and East Coast. This is the first company that I have worked for in Las Vegas and I still love it.
Q. What makes Binion’s unique?
A. The rich history of the company for sure. The idea of this place still being here after all these years and everything its endured really stands out to me. The internal company management and ownership as well, they work hard to keep their staff happy and make sure they are treated fairly. Their values stand out to me. I love being a part of the history of this place. This place has helped pave the way for what Downtown Las Vegas is now. The Executive Director of Food and Beverage, Ken Johnson, has really been a mentor to me here.
Q. How much control do you have over the kitchen and menu?
A. I have control over every aspect of the kitchen here at Binion’s and at the Four Queens. My current job title is Corporate Chef. I enjoy going through the individual restaurants and making tweaks to keep them modern and competitive. I like to try new ways of doing things and new concepts. Right now I am working on Magnolia’s Cafe in Four Queens and making adjustments to make it that much better.
Q. How big is your staff at this steakhouse?
A. The kitchen staff has about six people in it on a busy night, the kitchen is quite small but we know how to work together and around each other to keep everything moving efficiently.
Q. What is your favorite item on the menu?
A. The steak, obviously! Additionally, the vegetarian dishes are so good and I am not a vegetarian but I want to make sure that the menu is inclusive for most. I love the stuffed shells. We also have some really great classic appetizers that are very authentic. The Crab Louis is always a hit. It features king crab and Louis dressing all made by hand, micro greens, hardboiled egg and avocado. It is light and delicious.
Q. What is your philosophy on food and dining?
A. To keep it simple. Keep it honest and keep it fresh when it comes to cooking. For dining, which is more refined, it’s to have the best possible service. I try to not ever say “no.” I like to find solutions for people. I want people to be happy and treated how I would like to be treated. I want their service and experience in my restaurants to be flawless. Customer feedback is everything to me.
Q. Do you have any secret ingredients that you utilize?
A. Really the most important tool for any chef is understanding the proper balance of using salt, sugar and acid. It’s simple to extract that extra layer of flavor by using one of these basic components.
Q. What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
A. My French knife, for sure. Even though it was made in Japan, it’s still called a French knife. I could replace every other knife in my bag but never that one. It’s like an extension of my arm.
Q. What is your favorite question to ask a new line cook?
A. I like to ask them what they know about the organization. It goes a long way to me to meet someone who knows about the food here and the history of the property. Someone who has done their research and takes that extra initiative to learn about the company that they’re interviewing for goes a long way with me.
Q. Favorite cookbooks?
A. My favorite book is “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee, which is actually more of a textbook than an actual cookbook. There are recipes in it but what makes this book so significant to me is that it is a scientific approach to cooking. It tells you what the ingredients do rather than just how to combine ingredients together.
Q. So for the downtown visitor, why Binion’s?
A. That’s easy. It has the best view. You really need to see and experience it. The best service and damn good food!