When asked what my 2016 New Year’s resolution was, I decided that I needed “to eat more fruits and vegetables.” And if yours is too, Chef Justin Beckett has created the perfect winter menu for us! Seasonal and vegetable-forward, his new menu at Southern Rail offers the richness of his signature Southern dishes but healthier and lighter.
The new menu offers fresh salads and savory vegetable dishes with a Southern twist, all made with local produce. Chef Beckett was mindful to not compromise on flavor when developing the menu. In particular, the wood oven-roasted cauliflower was subtly smoky and transformed the vegetarian dish into what I believe could pass for a “meaty” entrée. The cauliflower sits atop pesto, smoked tomato puree, charred green onions, and stewed apples for a hint of sweetness. This was a table favorite.
You may notice Chef Beckett’s signature fire-roasted Brussels sprouts from Beckett’s Table on the menu but as you will see, it is redesigned with seasonal beets and squash. This side dish is topped with a black pepper crème fraîche, toasted pepitas for an added crunch, and local grapefruit for the right amount of acidity to balance the earthiness of the other vegetables.
And this would not be a healthier menu without a little avocado toast! Using local favorite, Noble Bread’s toast, avocados are mashed and topped with slices of citrus, sprouts, and a sprinkling of chicken-fried Fresno chilies to elevate the heat and the taste buds.
You can still find Southern classics on this vibrant menu. To start, the Southern favorite deviled eggs are whipped into velvety goodness and garnished with organic vegetables, ideal as an amuse-bouche. Then, what winter menu would be complete without a warm bowl of soup, and in this case a creamy corn chowder. I would consider it more of a corn bisque, being that the sweet corn is finely pureed with just a touch of cream and garnished with crispy potato, bacon, and mushroom. However, fear not as this chowder as a starter will not weigh you down from enjoying the rest of your meal.
Additionally, there is a starring protein on the new menu: salmon. Chef Beckett offers a seared Scottish salmon entrée served with organic quinoa, sautéed spinach, and butternut squash puree. And smoked salmon is in the new spinach salad. So incredibly colorful, smoked salmon and spinach are tossed with apples, heirloom carrots, avocado puree, fried capers, and fennel in a roasted red pepper vinaigrette. Enjoy it as a shareable for the table or as a main course–it is sure to satisfy.
Finally, one item that strays from the traditional Southern palate is chef’s house-made mushroom pasta main. Chef Becket utilizes mushrooms three ways in this dish. First, mushrooms are dehydrated to form a powder that Chef Beckett incorporates into the pasta dough. Second, mushrooms are made into a broth for the sauce. And then whole mushrooms are added to the pasta, along with roasted root vegetables, pesto, and Parmesan cheese. It is a Beckett original yet still provides a level of Southern comfort you would find with any other dish on the menu.
As Chef Beckett explains, there is “a misconception that all Southern food is heavy and artery clogging, but really, modern Southern cooking is about celebrating local, seasonal produce and heritage grains.” In addition, Southern Rail boasts a comprehensive bar with original and refreshing cocktails to pair with the menu, as well as a extensive Arizona wine list. His new menu is helping to redefine modern Southern cooking and I am convinced I can stick to my New Year’s resolution with chef’s help. I invite you to celebrate with him and explore a different side of Southern fare.
Southern Rail is Chef Beckett’s second restaurant and is located in North Central Phoenix within the multipurpose space, The Newton (which also houses Changing Hands Bookstore and Southwest Gardener). You can visit Southern Rail for lunch, dinner, and social hour daily as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and enjoy live jazz music on the patio, too. For more information, please visit www.southernrailaz.com.
300 W Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85013