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Justin Beckett

In the kitchen of his Southern Rail restaurant, Justin Beckett is slicing a cinnamon-flecked peach buckle for sampling. It’s a typical Beckett thing—tweaking, experimenting and delivering satisfying dishes that are both familiar and innovative.

Southern Rail is Beckett’s second restaurant, opened with his wife and two partners. The first, Beckett’s Table, has been a hit since it launched in 2010, serving short ribs, chocolate-dipped bacon s’mores and seasonal American offerings.

The idea to do a restaurant with Southern influences was “born in my head,” says Beckett, long before he toured The Newton, a revitalized mid-century restaurant that is now home to Southern Rail, Changing Hands Bookstore and a public event space.

To come up with Southern Rail’s concept, Beckett and partners traveled to Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, Texas, and Charleston, S.C., for an “eat-a-thon,” hitting multiple restaurants a day. “You leave half of everything on your plate, is how we do it,” Beckett explains. “Our record was 24 restaurants in 36 hours.”

The eat-a-thon was distilled into Southern Rail’s menu, which includes gumbo, fried green tomatoes and a broccoli, cauliflower, leek and rice casserole.

At both Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail, the chef’s touch is evident. “I’m in here every day,” he says. “I get passionate with food. I like to eat.”

What do you always have in your refrigerator?

Cooked quinoa, fruit and organic greens. I get plenty of junk food opportunities elsewhere.


Where do you go for breakfast?

Essence Bakery

Essence Bakery

Photo via Facebook


What is your favorite high-end restaurant?

Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain


What is your favorite ethnic food restaurant?

Cafe Lalibela, an Ethiopian restaurant. It’s all about stewed flavors, and you get to eat with your hands.


What local chef do you admire and why?

Josh Hebert of Posh for trying a concept that was nonexistent, and Kevin Binkley for sticking to his guns.


What restaurant has the best ambiance?

The Parlor Pizzeria. The interior of the mid-century building is beautiful.

Parlor Pizzeria
Photo via Facebook


Where do you go for culinary inspiration?

On an “eat-a-thon.” See above!

When guests come to visit, where do you take them?

We go to Richardson’s, Dick’s Hideaway and The Parlor Pizzeria.

Who has the best late-night dining?

Delux or The Clever Koi.

What is your favorite lunch spot?

Pane Bianco for great sandwiches.

Pane Bianco

Photo via Facebook


What is the best family-friendly restaurant?

Oregano’s is definitely a favorite with our kids. They get to play with dough there. We also like Federal Pizza.

What restaurant do you frequent most often and why?

The Parlor Pizzeria for its ambiance, food and decent menu after 10 p.m.

What would you say is the Greater Phoenix area’s best kept dining secret?

Tortas El Guero. I could eat two or three of their cochinita pibil tortas.


You can find Justin at:

Southern Rail — 300 W. Camelback Road, Ste. 2, Phoenix, (602) 200-0085
Beckett’s Table — 3717 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, (602) 954-1700


See the other chefs in this series: Mark Tarbell, Nobuo Fukuda and Silvana Salcido Esparza.

By Nora Burba Trulsson. Originally printed in the 2015 Phoenix Official Travel Guide, published by Madden Media.