So I have a bit of a crush on this place. Lux Central happens to be about 20 miles away from home past about just as many coffee shops but I find myself making the trek here several times a week.
I find Lux to be a bit of a love hate kind of place. Parking can be a battle as though there are a lot of spots and on street parking, it can still be a battle finding a place to tie up your horse. With free wifi and plenty of seating, Lux is a place you want to plop down for a while and do whatever it is you have to do but here it’s “coolness” works against it as even with plenty of seating, It can be a bit like the 101 freeway at rush hour trying to find a place to sit.
I wish I could say the coffee was what brought me in but to be honest, it’s average at best. The service is pretty good and the staff friendly and attentive. The food items i’ve had both baked and prepared freshly have all been adequate (the Mac n Cheese with bacon and Jalapeno was tasty, served in a large portion for the money and well executed but fire roasting the japapenos prior to adding them in would have elevated this dish to excellence!)
So what keeps me coming? Well, I can’t think of anyplace i’d rather to go hang-out, MacBook in hand, to get some work done and people watch. The atmosphere here is GREAT! A mixture or modern and retro furniture, exposed beam ceilings, varied work spaces, and locally produced art are on par with and in my opinion rival similar concepts in NYC, Seattle or San Francisco.
Did I mention the full bar? Fancy an adult beverage to take the edge off of that paper you need to write or the power point you’re putting together for the “big proposal” at work? You’re in the right place. The bartenders here will gladly mix you up anything from a classic coctail to a trendy CenPho treat to whet your whistle. I’d give Lux 4 stars if it were a bar that served food and happened to have coffee.
If your looking for great coffee i’d recommend Press Coffee Roasters, Cartel Coffee Lab or Echo Coffee. Lux is definitely my choice if you’re looking for a place to socialize, sit and get a little work done, plow through homework or just hang out and people watch. If the coffee were better i’d rate it 4 stars but as it stands, they only get the third from me because the whole package is so appealing.
For some time now I had heard rumors of an absolutely MAD Chef by the name of Payton Curry brewing up a wickedly delicious seasonal menu in a slightly seedy section of Downtown Phoenix. In a tiny restaurant (and I use that term generously) called the “Welcome Diner,” Curry breaks from the constraints of working for someone else (Caffe’ Boa in Tempe, Arizona), and boldly does food exactly the way he wants to.
Sit at the counter (as you truly must), and you become a part of “The Payton Curry Show” where you as a guest are treated to masterful culinary creations while Curry entertains himself, his wife and everyone within earshot with his sharp brand of humor that keeps you wanting more; “He’s Payton F***in Curry” she says, “NO! She’s F***ing Payton Curry” he replies!” The repartee between Chef Payton Curry and his beautiful wife, Shantal Alessa Abdo-Curry is quick, often blue, hilarious and sincere. The food being prepared three feet away is elegant in it’s simplicity and flavorful beyond words.
Open only Sunday thru Tuesday from five until “there’s nothing else to serve,” with fluidly changing offerings based mainly on availability of hand selected local produce and Curry’s sneaky three am calls to his fish monger (more on that later), Welcome Diner puts on a culinary showcase of color, flavor and textures normally reserved for the very best of restaurants in the country.
First before me, a salad pairing impossibly juicy watermelon and Dungeness crab tossed with Nepitella, olives and salty capers which Curry says he came up with when “baked out of his f***ing mind!” ”Watermelon and crab, RIGHT?” he says, “it just doesn’t seem to make any sense but it’ll change your life,” and so it has. Splashed with citrus in the form of grapefruit juice, this dish is just plain amazing. It’s simple, colorful and allows each individual flavor and texture to be conveyed both singularly and as part of a larger whole. (it needs to be said, I generally avoid watermelon as I just don’t like it but in this one dish, my outlook has been completely changed).
Next up, Curry’s breathes life into what has become a culinarily mundane, often overly fussy dish beloved by residents up and down the Eastern seaboard. I speak of course of the crab cake! I don’t know what’s gotten into him here…There’s scarcely any breading, doesn’t Curry know his profit margin will be much better if he stuffs his creation with bread rather than lusciously flavorful jumbo sized lumps of crabmeat?? Crunchy bits of fresh celery, capers and herbs make this dish a poor choice to skip to the protestations of your straining belt.
What would you do with 144 grams of grade A Foie Gras? Well Curry (clearly having had a serious case of the “munchies”) would and has pan seared it with Rosemary, paired it with a bright, rustic and slightly tart jam between two pieces of buttery Essence Bakery brioche and called it his “FB&J sandwich,” elegant concept, simply executed.
The main course arrived in the form of Duroc tenderloin served over heirloom sungold tomato, a cold bean salad and a splash of salsa verde. This is the best pork dish I have ever eaten, period, end of story! As a card carrying member of the Pork Lovers Society of America, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of pork but there is nothing that prepared me for the tender, well balanced combination before me.
On a subsequent visit Curry threw together a little Halibut and crab Ceviche, light, delicate and perfect with the addition of a sprinkle of sulphur rich Hawaiian black sea salt that was almost too beautifully presented to eat.
Next, a decadent Summer Bolognese with fettucini and Salmon Belly Raviolo that absolutely must not go un-mentioned…Beautiful, texturally perfect and put together with flair, this pasta dish is a must eat!
A salad of yellow heirloom tomato and “a type of mozzerela” with nepitilla and a little saba (who knew tomato could taste so good?), again display Curry’s ability to elevate simple, honest ingredients to food worthy of praise.
Lest I forget the show stopper….Sitting at the counter on my second visit, enjoying the “Payton Curry show” and drifting ever so slowly into a food coma, I noticed a plate of pastel pink Langoustine that looked out of place both in the Welcome Diner and in the Arizona desert in general. Asked where he came across fresh langoustine, Curry grinned and said “there’s a funny story.”
Apparently Curry, having had a spontaneous spark of brilliance, slipped out of bed around three in the morning (told you I’d get back to this) for a clandestine phone call to his fish monger, clandestine because his wife was unawares until she awoke to find him whispering into the phone and demanded to know who he was talking to. Curry, like a young boy caught with his hand in a cookie jar meekly replied “baby, it’s the fish guy” to which she responded “yeah right” and promptly grabbed the phone, after a brief exchange, she said “she sounds pretty rough” and went back to sleep.
Succulent langoustine, smashed baby fingerlings, fresh chopped herbs, onion and tomato all brought together with a broth I’m almost ashamed to admit, caused me to lift my bowl and slurp loudly like a heathen to make sure I didn’t miss a drop. (Sure, I looked around like a drug fiend about to have a fix, making sure no one was looking my way first, but in the end, I could have cared less as it was so decadently delicious).
In the end, if you blink too long you will have missed one of the most important things to have happened on the Arizona culinary scene as Curry, wife Shantal and the show that truly makes you feel a part of what’s happening rather than a mere customer, will be no more. Welcome Diner goes dark after the Independence day fireworks fade from view. If you love food, make it your sole mission in life to get a seat at Curry’s counter before he’s done, tell him Tony sent you!
Saint Francis of Assisi may be the patron saint of animals and the environment but after a recent visit, I wonder if St Francis neighborhood restaurant in Central Phoenix can live up to it’s namesake.
I’d heard several things about this little restaurant near Camelback road and Central in Phoenix via both Facebook and Twitter, mostly from people who seem to know a thing or two about a good meal. After having stopped in on several occasions I’m ready to share my thoughts.
The restaurant is larger than it appears from the outside, in fact, you can (and I have on many occasions) drive right past with nary a glance. The parking is terrible but once inside things begin to come together. The decor is modern, funky and comfortable, the staff accommodating, and the menu enticing.
As I’m a true fan of a good burger (something so simple yet often executed so poorly), I was drawn to the French onion burger with it’s promise of applewood smoked bacon, gruyere cheese and crispy onions ($13).
I’ve had quite a few “gourmet” burgers in my time and have sadly discovered the only thing gourmet about many of them is the price tag. Having said this, I was a little dubious about what would arrive.
My (notably) pleasant server arrived with my meal in short order and I was quite pleased with both it’s presentation and size, not obnoxiously large but certainly enough to justify the price if that were the only criteria.
On first bite I knew something was different about this burger, it was perfectly cooked mid-rare, juicy, and the thick, crunchy bacon played well with sweet, slightly salty gruyere cheese. Crispy onions seemed a great addition and added texture and flavor while the bun, and this is important, didn’t go all soggy and fall apart.
Flanked by some of the tastiest French fries I’ve had in a while, I’d have to give this burger high marks for concept (simple but well executed), texture (not the typical dry OR mushy patty passed of as gourmet), and taste (in this case, exactly what I’m looking for in a burger).
If you find yourself in need of sustenance on the long road to wherever it is you happen to be heading, make a point of stopping in and partaking in the food and hospitality of St. Francis.
If you have been following my culinary adventure through the cuisine of Beckett’s Table restaurant, you will have no doubt noticed the fifth offering in my 52 week series is a bit behind. After suffering through a tweaked back for most of last week, my fork and I are back on our mission to demolish all.
What’s with the bandito get-up you ask? In my quest to slip into Beckett’s Table, dine and slip out again unnoticed, I thought a disguise might be in order so I made off with this kitchen issue cravat. (I wonder if it’ll help me blend in & get a look at what happens behind the pass)
This weeks cocktail is a mix of blood orange vodka, Cointreau, orange juice, lemonade and emergen-c playfully dubbed “Mornin’ Sunshine” ($8).
Tart and tangy with very strong but not unpleasant citrus flavors, this cocktail cuts the dust of the trail while delivering a portion of the USDA daily recommended dose of vitamin c.
On to the food! My culinarily well traveled dining companion and I shared Beckett’s creamy grits & spicy andouille sausage, an order of Beckett’s original grilled cheese and I demolished a vegetable chop salad on my own. As I’ve covered these dishes in previous posts, I won’t go into them again but each was quite tasty.
Near Arctic nighttime temperatures (by Phoenix standards), had me looking for a comforting main course to warm my body and an order of Chicken n dumplings ($16) seemed to fit the bill, so I waited patiently for my dish to arrive.
Consisting of chicken, al dente peas, carrots, celery and large soft dumplings all tied together by a bold and flavorful herbed saffron cream were presented in a large, piping hot bowl (the bowl itself really was quite hot, a nice detail which served to keep my meal hot as it was leisurely consumed), this dish looked like a winner.
This is what comfort food should taste like, period. Intense chickeny (this may not be a real word but it should be), goodness explodes in your mouth and matches well with soft, dense dumplings and is just plain delicious. At $16, I would like and expect more than the meager amount of chicken in proportion to other ingredients in this dish, put more bird in the bowl and this will be the perfect dish for a chilly night or on the rare occasion the clouds open up and dump their contents on Arcadia.
Until next time I encourage you to get out there, find, eat and tell people about your food!
Specializing in upscale American comfort food, Beckett’s table restaurant in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix usually hits the spot. When I heard baby back ribs were on as the dinner special, I knew I’d find myself seated at Beckett’s cozy bar.
Cocktail: “The classic painkiller #3” (what cocktail is complete without a cool name?) Pussers rum, cream of coconut, oj, pineapple juice and nutmeg combine to dull whatever happens to be ailing you (appropriate as I’d wrenched my back earlier and needed something to take the edge off). This cocktail is deceptively stronger than its description would suggest and quite tasty!
First up, the vegetable chopped salad which seemed a bit pricey at $8 and was disappointing in its size relative to proportion on arrival…
All thoughts of price and portion size were forgotten as the first forkful of fresh, crunchy mixed vegetables passed my lips. From pickled beets and celery to Brussels sprout petals and candied pumpkin seed brittle, this salad delighted and was worth every penny.
Beckett’s baby back ribs ($15) were both my reason for dropping in tonight and a sensitive area. As a barbecue guy, I have very high expectations of what good ‘Que is and is not. I have found many Chefs who create amazing cuisine but don’t grasp that barbecue comes from the soul, not a recipe book.
Picking up and biting into my first rib I immediately knew Chef Beckett gets it! Smokey flavor complimented by a sweet, rich sauce penetrated the meat, chewy bark (missing in ribs from so many restaurants), put a childlike smile on my face. The meat didn’t “fall off of the bone” as so many think is a sign of well cooked ribs (hearing this makes me cringe and usually indicates over cooked or boiled ribs), but rather had great mouth feel and amazing tangy flavor.
If Beckett decides to elevate this dish from special to staple, Arcadia will find itself firmly on the “must visit” map of great barbecue. (having had ribs in some of the most highly acclaimed barbecue spots in the country, I put Beckett’s in my personal top five).
I’m a texture person in general, often finding foods that should otherwise be good, to be unappealing due to texture. Beckett’s cowboy caviar (Tonto to the ribs Lone Ranger), with its mix of multiple beans, onion and creamy avocado, all tied together with the acidity of a well balanced vinaigrette, works splendidly both from a textural and flavor standpoint.
I seriously doubt Cowboys in Americas’ Old West had anything this good in their culinary repertoire but if they had, there certainly would have been less cattle rustling and gunslinging in my humble opinion!
Note: As I go through my yearlong dining adventure, I keep waiting for the moment when Beckett’s Table fails to deliver. Each meal I’ve had thus far has met or exceeded my expectations and I have failed to find anything to fault. Sure, there are things I could nitpick, the lack of consistent bread service for one (some meals I get it, some I don’t), but overall my meals have been great, the service exceptional and the atmosphere on par with the best anywhere.
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So it’s three in the afternoon and you’re starting to think about what to eat for dinner. Being mid-week, you really don’t feel like making a big production of getting dressed up and dealing with the pretentious nature of ‘fine dining’ but you want so much more than what ‘fast food’ establishments have on offer.
Lucky for you (and your growling stomach), Chef Justin Beckett and his newly opened restaurant Beckett’s Table are awaiting you in the Arcadia Neighborhood of Phoenix. Beckett offers unpretentious food made with simple ingredients to allow natural flavors to shine through.
My evenings meal began with something I can’t really believe I’m admitting to having ordered, Roasted Brussels sprouts($6), prepared with pancetta, shaved Manchego cheese and a candied lemon vinaigrette. Now I have childhood memories of being forced to sit at the dinner table until I’d cleaned my plate of soggy, sour tasting sprouts so I’m a bit reticent about eating them now.
Beckett’s sprouts come perfectly roasted in a cast iron dish with creamy shaved manchego cutting the tanginess of the lemon vinaigrette nicely and chunks of salty pancetta, the perfect counterpoint to the sprouts’ grassiness. If all vegetables were as fresh, vibrant and skillfully prepared as these were, children of the world would certainly rejoice! (This is a MUST HAVE item!)
A good hamburger must be on the menu for any establishment to succeed as a “neighborhood’ restaurant and I sit bellied up to the comfortable bar awaiting my “B” burger ($13). Bacon, Boursin cheese, bib lettuce and beefsteak tomatoes arrived in short order beside crispy French fries and I eagerly dug in.
The patty is certainly fresh has great texture as expected and I enjoyed the way creamy boursin cheese brought all of the ingredients together. If there is any criticism it is that at $13 this burger is a little pricey but not unreasonably so, and the brioche though tasty struggled to stay together amidst the onslaught of juices running from the patty.
In all, tonight’s meal was another great experience. Diners seated at the long “community” table enjoyed conversation, good food and a great local atmosphere. If your still wondering what to do to for dinner, certainly consider calling some friends and heading over to Beckett’s table, you’re not likely to be disappointed.
It’s 7 o’clock on Friday night an I find myself seated at a restaurant I’m not supposed to be in again until next week. How is it that I’ve come to be at Beckett’s Table again so soon? Well here’s the thing, my Mother is flying in for a weekend visit in two hours and Beckett’s is a mere 10 minute drive from the airport at this time of night, I’m hungry (no surprise there) AND I happen to have a friend with dinner reservations and no dining companion.
So here I am, across from my friend Lauren Crider, discussing what to order which turns out to be Lobster n Boursin enchiladas to start.
Filled with tender lobster, truffled leeks, guajillo chile sauce topped with sliced avocado and served in a sizzling hot cast iron pot, these enchiladas promised to be tasty.
Bite after well seasoned bite passed my lips, crisp edged tortilla and creamy Boursin cheese gently cradling succulent lobster. With such well balanced flavors, it is only my love of spice and heat that leaves me wanting.
The wood fired mussels were calling my name and in short order, a big steaming bowl arrived. I think Beckett neglected to count here as the portion size is VERY generous. Sweet charred shallot, fennel and tomato bathed in a white wine broth all topped with chewy grilled rustic garlic bread delight.
I’ve always been taught that broken shells or those which fail to open after being cooked shouldn’t be eaten but the high temperatures and open flame of the wood oven, while giving the mussels a delicious smoky flavor, tend to make the shells a bit brittle. Avoid any mussels that don’t open but don’t mind those with cracked shells.
I’m a big fan of mussels and accustomed to the typical broth, heavily flavored with garlic. Though Beckett’s broth was a little on the sweet side for me, it was a pleasant break from the norm and a dish I would recommend wholeheartedly.
Let us not forget the humble bacon cheddar biscuits that i could not resist ordering, served with apple honey butter. I would go on and on about how the steam and cheesy aroma escaped as I broke one open or how the apple honey butter melted gently into the nooks and crannies of my biscuit just before i hungrily bit into it but let’s face it, its got bacon and cheese in it, what more really needs to be said?
As I enjoyed my meal, quite a few diners peddled up on their bicycles and bellied up to the bar or headed to reserved tables, Beckett might just be on to something here. The neighborhood is voting with their stomachs and wallets and it looks promising.
Check back next week as I sit again at Chef Beckett’s table and enjoy the warm atmosphere and comforting food that has finally come to Arcadia.
I met Chef Justin Beckett several months ago when he was the Guest Chef at Petite Maison in Scottsdale for their Late night ‘Staff Meal.’ Beckett had an energy and deft touch with his cuisine that told me big things were coming for him and the Phoenix culinary community. I began following Beckett’s Table on Twitter and saw that Beckett embraced the use of social media to really reach out and connect with anyone who loved food.
I have had the privilege of watching Beckett’s table transform from an empty restaurant that went the way of the white buffalo, to the open and inviting space that it has become (more on that in a future post).
On opening night, as I knew I would, I stepped throughout the door of Beckett’s dream and into the first meal of my 52 week dining adventure.
First up, a cocktail, in my case the ‘Paimaire,’ consisting of Kettle One Oranj vodka, pomegranate liquor and juice, lemonade ‘and a little love.’ This cocktail, like everything on the menu, has a story and special meaning. Beckett tells the story of buying his house from a couple who would become partners in Beckett’s table. If the cocktail is any indication of the coming meal, I’m in for a treat.
One of the menu items that immediately caught my eye and whet my appetite was the creamy grits with two kinds of locally made (Schreiner’s) spicy andouille sausage ($8) surrounded by a rich, slightly piquant mustard jus.
The grits were a little tighter than I normally like but creamy and with the gritty bite from which they take their name. A spoonful with a little jus, caramelized red onion and bite of plump juicy sausage rolls my eyes back into my head and tells me that Chef Beckett means business.
Of course, one appetizer just wouldn’t do and Beckett’s Original grilled cheese with four cheeses, pancetta and roasted red pepper tomato soup ($9) is next up.
Buttery sweet brioche and a well balanced mix of cheeses complimented by a vibrant, dense tomato soup that clings to the bread rather than dripping combine to delight. Delicate flavors wash over the palate and something becomes clear, this meal is beyond average.
On to the main course (who am I kidding, main courses!). That’s right, two mains made their way to my table, first to go under the fork was a Beef Bourguignon shepherd’s pie ($16) with a deep, rich gravy, carrots, parsnips and herbs topped with a raft of light and fluffy mashed potatoes.
Succulent chunks of savory beef nearly melted in my mouth vying with perfectly cooked vegetables for dominance of every available taste bud. Sitting in the restaurant with the front open to the elements, I long for a cold and dreary day for this dish to brighten.
It is a very rare meal which a pork product cannot improve and so it was with great anticipation that I moved the plate of Local Pork Osso Buco ($18) to center stage.
Flanked by moist, slightly chewy butternut squash spaetzle on one side and roasted vegetables including brussels sprouts (yup, I ate em), parsnips that were creamy and sweet on the inside as good roasted root veggies should be, carrot and golden beets (which I had eaten for the first time recently), on the other side, the pork shank confit was simply impressive. Kissed by a black pepper reduction, the meat was absolutely tender and moist, pulling easily away from the bone.
If there were any criticisms of this dish, it would be that I wanted some sort of sauce for the spaetzle as I found it tasty but a little bit lonely. I would have loved for the black pepper reduction to be a bit thicker and for there to have been a bit more as it paired so well with the pork and I would have really loved for there to have been room for dessert (though I’m pretty sure Chef Beckett had little control of that detail)
In all, Beckett’s table will take it’s rightful place among the most well regarded restaurants in Greater Phoenix and become a must visit destination for fooderati. (if I made that word up, feel free to quote).
Stay tuned for next week’s meal and a photographic journey of Beckett’s Table from hollow shell to culinary hot spot.
Gotta love it when fellow Foodies put together tweetups that involve food and drink, even better when that get together happens at a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives that you’ve wanted to try out for ages.
Kirti Dwivedi and Susie Timm decided to gather tweeps at the grand opening of Los Taquitos‘ newest location on 16th and Glendale avenues in Mid-town Phoenix for a nosh and adult beverages. Thirty or so twitter and Facebook users responded to the tweetvite, showed up, queued up and got down to the business of eating.
First up a margarita made with Tres Agaves tequila and freshly squeezed Blood orange juice. I’m a big fan of the tangy sweetness of blood oranges and am glad to see them used in this upscale taqueria.
The much talked about ‘Bombiero’ burrito was served up as my entrée, full of slow cooked carnitas, pico de gallo, and rice wrapped in a flour tortilla and bathed in Los Taquitos signature sweet and fiery ‘Bombiero’ sauce.
I found the pork to be perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, the pico fresh and vibrant but the sauce was a bit overpowering in it’s sweetness. I was really looking for this sauce to have a much higher level of heat and spice, but over-all, sweet was the strongest note that I experienced. In my opinion, this sauce would be perfect if the sweetness was dialed down and the heat increased.
Other tweeps at my table enjoyed their carne asada tacos with rice and beans and we all munched on that taco shop staple, chips and salsa/guacamole. I’m looking forward to trying several other dishes including the tacos al pastor and am quite happy that Los Taquitos has opened up on my side of the valley.
If you fancy a bit of up-scale taqueria cuisine, get to one of Los Taquitos’ locations and have a go at the menu, you’ll certainly not be disappointed.