Chefs at Beer Park and Hexx serve barbecued gator, other projects

Updated May 23, 2017 - 6:09 pm

It may have been the most unique off-the-menu special ever in a Las Vegas restaurant. While Beer Park guests enjoyed a beautiful Friday afternoon of barbecue and bar games, Chef Edward Manukyan brought out a large smoked alligator, set it on a picnic table and began removing the meat.

As he worked, a crowd gathered to take pictures of the once-fearsome beast, head and feet still attached, with the chef occasionally handing them pieces of its smoky flesh to sample. Stuffed with andouille sausage and bacon, brined for three days in Budweiser, herbs, spices and lemons and finished with mayo and Cajun rub before being placed in a beechwood smoker, it packed plenty of flavor and kick.

As this was going on, the masterminds behind Beer Park and its sister restaurant Hexx — Matt Silverman and Matt Piekarski — were surprising weekend revelers just a block to the north with another rooftop party at Chayo in The Linq. The pair were recently brought in to re-work the menu with Chef Rafael Medina, and added a daily 2-6 p.m. happy hour, kicking things off on Friday.

The projects, and the way they surprised guests at both venues, are typical of Piekarski and Silverman. The team that created Las Vegas’ only bean-to-bar gourmet chocolate for Hexx — traveling to six countries to hand-select cacao farms to supply each variety — seems to revel in creating things that are cool, fun, delicious and unexpected.

Gator grapple

Some of Piekarski and Silverman’s best ideas, such as barbecuing an alligator, grow out of disagreements.

“We’ve been talking about doing an alligator for a long time, and he (kept) saying no,” Piekarski explains. But his partner’s objection didn’t stop Piekarski from promising one during a recent TV appearance.

“They said ‘It’s National Barbecue Month, are you going to do anything cool?’ And I said ‘Yeah, we’re gonna do a whole alligator — maybe.’ “

He was half joking. And the idea might have died there. But someone in their organization brought it up a few days later at a meeting and, probably just to annoy Silverman, the chef decided to move forward. They ordered three from a farm in Louisiana. At $7 a pound, and 10 to 12 pounds apiece, it wasn’t a ridiculously expensive experiment. On Friday, gator meat was the star of tacos and po’ boys distributed for free to adventurous customers.

They were a hit.

“I loved the smokiness and the spiciness and the succulence of the meat,” Daniel Lindzon of Toronto said after polishing off a taco.

“It was really good, not too tough, the texture was really good,” offered local Michelle Mayer, before adding the almost obligatory comparison that it was “almost like chicken.”

Over at Chayo, Silverman said the surprise launch of the roof party, complete with music, food specials and $1 Coronitas (seven-ounce Coronas), was even more successful.

“The entire weekend was awesome,” he said proudly. “It was full, and at most points it was hard to find a seat.”

But that’s just the first step for the spot. Silverman and Piekarski also plan to expand the mall patio to almost double its capacity and add a taco cart to offer grab-and-go to customers who want a fast bite en route to the High Roller.

The team is also re-writing the entire menu, which has proven to be a little too ambitious for tourists at The Linq. Chef Medina will remain in charge of the kitchen, but Silverman says he will “take it a little bit more toward the mainstream.”

Beer pork for Beer Park

Expect more surprises from this chef team, especially at Beer Park and Hexx. They recently brought in chef and co-founder of Summerlin’s popular Due Forni Pizza to run the Hexx kitchen. And Silverman is working with his partners at Anheuser Busch to raise a line of heritage pigs that will debut at the restaurants.

“I’m working with executive chef for Anheuser Busch, and we’ve created a program where we’re growing Berkshire hogs in the St. Louis area, feeding them all the ingredients that are used to make Budweiser.”

Describing them as “the wagyu beef of pig,” he said the free-range animals are being fed hops, barley and non-alcoholic beer. The first full harvest is expected in time for Oktoberfest, when the two chefs plan to have 40 200-pound slaughtered hogs for their restaurants. Expect a whole pig roast at Beer Park to launch the product, and higher-end dishes like chops downstairs in Hexx.

In the meantime, given the good response and his desire to continue thinking “out of the box,” Piekarski predicts alligator dishes will return from time to time as advertised specials.

“Everyone is doing a whole pig or something like that,” he said. “I think this brings some uniqueness to what we’re doing.”

Contact Al Mancini at amancini @reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Meow Wolf opening an 'otherworldly' art experience in Las Vegas
Meow Wolf opening "otherworldly" art experience in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing