Justin Beckett's Southern Rail: Southern Food Requires A Little More Soul
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Lauren Saria Smoked chicken and andouille gumbo
Restaurant: Southern Rail
Lauren Saria Inside Southern Rail
Location: 300 W. Camelback Road
Open: Over a month
Price: $30+ per person
For four years chef Justin Beckett has been serving up New American fare at his Arcadia area restaurant, Beckett's Table. A few weeks ago, he expanded his repertoire to include a second restaurant, Southern Rail, this time focusing on elevated Southern cuisine.
The new restaurant's location -- inside The Newton, a mixed-used development that took over the former home of Beef Eaters Restaurant -- is almost as much of a draw as the chef's name. Southern Rail shares the space with a second location of Tempe's well-loved Changing Hands Bookstore and the (coming soon) gardening supply shop Southwest Gardener.
The space itself is pretty impressive. Everything from the reclaimed-looking painted wooden ceiling to the chandeliers fits the restaurant's persona as an upscale Southern dining spot.
Lauren Saria Holy bitters, Batman!
And upscale it is -- or at least the price tags are. Entrees start at $20 a person and top out at $27 for prime flatiron steak. Small plates range from $8 to $12, while salads and sides of vegetables will set you back about $10.
We started out with a drink from Southern Rail's cocktail menu, the That Dog Don't Hunt. We were intrigued by promises of two spirits -- rye whiskey and mezcal -- mixed with maple syrup, lemonade, and two kinds of locally made bitters. On the first sip we mostly picked up the distinct aromatic orange flavor of AZ Bitters Lab's Orange Sunshine Bitters, as well as a touch of sweetness from their Figgy Pudding Bitters. With a second sip we thought we detected the smokiness from the mezcal, but mostly the drink just tasted like bitters and lemonade.