If you’ve ever driven to Las Vegas from Phoenix you will have passed through a town called Wikieup, so small you might miss it if you blinked. If you happen to have your windows down or vents open, you might just catch the distinctive smell of wood smoke mixed with the unmistakable aroma of meat in the pit.
Eat at Joe’s BBQ is proof that ‘Que can be found just about anywhere. This little roadside restaurant beckons all who drive past with the promise of succulent, smokey meat and the tasty sides but does it deliver?
On the recommendation of the server I ordered Heaven on a bun ($9.95), billed as a “slow smoked brisket and pulled pork sandwich, marinated in house barbecue sauce and served on a corn dusted roll with two sides.”
I found this sandwich to be a bit confused. The brisket having been chopped so finely that its texture was lost and pulled pork that was lost amidst the sauce the whole thing was marinated in.
As a big fan of both brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, I was disappointed that the flavors and textures of both were combined in a way which obliterated individual flavors and textures. The “corn dusted bun” was merely a standard hamburger bun that struggled to stay together under the weight of meaty mush.
The first of two sides accompanying my “heavenly” sandwich was an order of standard French fries which were fine in taste and texture but were unremarkable. These fries appeared to be of the frozen food service variety and fresh would certainly have been better.
Along with my fries, an order of white beans arrived and again, fell short of the mark. Though the beans were tender and properly cooked, they were lacking in any discernible flavor (even though a puddle of butter floated atop them). I’m not certain what the thought behind these beans was but whatever it was, they just didn’t deliver. (the closest thing I can compare to this dish would be Lima beans, which I enjoy when properly made).
Over-all, Eat at Joe’s BBQ is a kitschy stop on a long drive that provides sustenance but nothing special in my opinion. I’d recommend dining on either end of your journey unless you’re absolutely starving.
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.