Good things come, eventually. In a city full of neglected culinary forces in constant search of a permanent anchor, painfully talented chefs and bright ideas often seem to float haphazardly with no center of gravity, lacking any sense of community. Absolute talent rarely lingers long, all too often leaving Phoenix behind when serious notoriety or success is reached. Many examples exist to the contrary, but unfortunately skill here is often overlooked for more generic pastures by far too many.
Chef Justin Beckett is one of the latest local characters to push against the forces that frequently burden Phoenix’s culinary map. The adept, severely affable chef not only made a name for himself here, he decided to stay put when things took a negative turn. Chef Beckett’s cooking career ascended most notably several years ago after the rise and crash of Canal, downtown Scottsdale’s pre-Great Recession shrine to restaurant frivolity. And though that shrine is now a tomb, it wasn’t because of the food. The sole arsenal that kept Canal afloat for longer than expected was the food—it was not only solid, it was often exceedingly so. Underneath the muzzle of $30 lobster sandwiches (which were delicious, btw) and gratuitous fashion shows, ignited routinely down a raised island catwalk through the restaurant’s dining room (I can’t make this stuff up), chef Justin Beckett was creating some of the brightest food in the city. Beckett generated interest with confident cooking—sometimes serious, sometimes sensed with needed humor. After Canal finally raised its white flag to the reaper of misguided restaurant concepts, chef Beckett (along with his wife Michelle and close friends Scott and Katie Stephens) immediately embarked on a pilgrimage to helm a restaurant guided entirely by his own reins. As the brainstorming finalized, and the new physicality of his dream began to form, Justin Beckett also made a consorted effort to remain an active personality in the local community. Through various big-ticket media appearances, and most notably, a strong presence via social media (follow him on Twitter: HERE), Beckett amassed a devoted following anxiously awaiting his every move. Beckett’s visibility never waned, and it appears about to pay off.
Located along the Arcadia neighborhood’s western fringe, at one far end of an otherwise homely shopping plaza along Indian School Rd. and 38th St., the eagerly anticipated Beckett’s Table exists in the entirely revised, now unrecognizable space that once housed the tortured restaurant That’s Italiano. Beckett’s eponymous eatery is the year-long (if not life-long) culmination of his focus, and enthusiasm. The interior of Beckett’s Table straddles cavernous and cozy, polished and honest. Restaurant centerpieces exist in the form of a wide exhibition kitchen centered toward the room’s rear (chef Beckett’s main stage), and the nearly room-length communal table procured and crafted from reclaimed wood. Transmitting the chummy vibe of a well-designed living room that somehow evolved in to an energetic dining space, Beckett’s Table is gearing for neighborhood longevity.
Tapping into Beckett’s drive for classic comfort foods with pointed quirks, Beckett’s Table plans to play with a seasonal menu of time-tested benchmarks, molded with contemporary flair and technique. Think chicken and dumplings with saffron cream ($16); beef bourguignon shepherd’s pie (you read correctly; $16); pork osso bucco with a squash spätzle ($17); grits with andouille sausage ($8); and wonderfully, a vegetable-bright version of matzo ball soup ($6). For dessert? I say the s’mores, thanks to chocolate-dipped bacon ($5), and the fig-pecan pie, served adjacent to house-made cream cheese and citrus ice cream ($5). Besides a wine and brew menu hawking varieties from both Arizona and destinations beyond our borders, Beckett’s Table also has an equally sharp listing of specialty crafted cocktails. Now open for dinner only (5 to 10 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday), lunch service will evolve in time.
Beckett’s Table | BeckettsTable.com | 3717 E. Indian School Rd | 602-954-1700 | Biltmore Arcadia