It’s that time again. The courses keep coming, the desserts are delectably a-plenty and the wine is never-ending. Arizona Restaurant Week is in full swing, and somehow in between the marathon of meals and late-night noshing we managed to grab a few words with the namesake behind one of the Valley’s newest eateries: Justin Beckett.
Besides being the genius behind his restaurant’s chocolate-dipped housemade-marshmellow bacon s’mores (the best mouthful we’ve ever eaten written), Beckett has made quite the culinary stamp in the Valley, including stints at Roy’s, Steamer’s Genuine Seafood, Zuzu’s and Trader Vics. Most recently, he helped create brief foodie favorites Metro, Estate House, Food Bar and Canal in Scottsdale. When those closed, Beckett (along with his wife and co-owners Scott and Katie Stephens) decided to merge his love for great food and great times to open the Arcadia neighborhood hangout Beckett’s Table.
DLT: Let’s talk about the menu. What is your favorite item and why?
Beckett: I love the pork osso buco confit served with spaetzle – that was my concept. I’m a big fan of pork these days, and I think it’s my favorite because it’s a little bit of a unique cut and I think the preparation is pretty special – to confit it, to marinate it.
Describe any new items:
We’re constantly changing it with the seasons and with whatever looks good on the market. Most recently we just put on a carrot apple cake with homemade almond ice cream, and [last week] I made a blueberry and apple pie with black pepper and candied bacon ice cream. We also just put on bbq pork belly sliders and a really nice steamed white bass. The plate changes everyday, though; it’s whatever we’re getting fresh from the local farmers.
Beckett’s Table has quite the renowned dessert menu:
Yeah, the s’mores and the pecan pie get a lot of recognition. We won four of five awards last year at a pie contest. I grew up camping with my family and we always had s’mores, so they’re a natural composition of a piece of my past and my love for bacon. They’re both delicious.
What item is your favorite off of the menu for AZ Restaurant Week?
Well, we have the green chili stew on the menu, [which is] really a fun dish to make and I hope people really enjoy eating it. We have a wood-burning oven; we also use as a smoker so we smoke everything that’s involved in the dish, and it’s really quite a tasty combination of flavors.
Are there any other events happening besides Restaurant Week?
Through October we’re doing something called Rosé Day where we feature 9 rosé wines by the bottle. Bottles of rosé are half-price on Sundays and the portions of the proceeds go to Breast Cancer Research. We’ve done it since August now and we’re continuing through October.
Overall, how do guests respond to the communal table?
I think very warmly. We have been running a summer series called The Grown-ups Table, where every Wednesday I make three courses and we offer three glasses of wine for $36 [total]; it was quite a hit this year. Basically, the whole idea is to bring people together and it’s like throwing a dinner party every night, which is our motto. We really wanted to feel like a neighborhood restaurant and we wanted that neighborhood sense of ownership. We’re in the middle of three different neighborhoods, so people can come and meet new friends and hang out, which is exactly what we’re looking for.
That’s the concept behind the table, but where’d the idea come from?
We traveled to San Francisco, Portland and New Orleans, and we realized in all these bigger cities that everyone has these space issues, so they put in all these communal tables and it really makes people come together and create a community. For us, we wanted to bring that big-city feeling to Phoenix as well as have this beautiful piece of art in the restaurant – it’s a piece of black walnut from a fallen tree in Portland.