Justin Beckett's Southern Rail: Southern Food Requires A Little More Soul

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Smoked chicken and andouille gumbo
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).

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Lauren Saria
Inside Southern Rail
Restaurant: Southern Rail
Location: 300 W. Camelback Road
Open: Over a month
Eats: Southern
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.

See also: Sumo Maya in Scottsdale: Mexican Style Pho and Korean Beef Tacos

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Lauren Saria
Holy bitters, Batman!
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.

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.

Location Info

Southern Rail

300 West Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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7 comments
Zella Vaughn Usher
Zella Vaughn Usher

LOVE Beckett's Table....It's new...Let them get the kinks out...

Paul Czaja
Paul Czaja

Unremarkable food. Went there on a first date and felt rushed by the server to turn the table.

Jackie Wright
Jackie Wright

Agreed on the review. Was not that impressed with the dinner we had there a few months ago. Beckett's Table is WAY better!

Julie Ginsberg
Julie Ginsberg

I went the first week it opened. I was very unimpressed. And the portion sizes were ridiculous vs the cost. Beckett's table is far superior.

Mj Lipshie
Mj Lipshie

I was excited when I saw the article but sounds like they don't have even the Southern basics down...if you can't make good cornbread, what's the point? Hope they can improve their recipes. RE: the rice scoop in the gumbo- I've had it that way in N.Orleans many times. Is that gumbo pictured above??? Looks like BBQ brisket.

Bruce Griffin III
Bruce Griffin III

There's quite a big difference in soul food and southern fair. Asina Gant

Asina Gant
Asina Gant

There's not much worse than bad soul food! Very disappointing!

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