PHOENIX — If you're somebody who frequented restaurants a lot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are you've heard of Chef Justin Beckett. Or at least heard of -- or been to -- his two Phoenix restaurants, Beckett's Table and Southern Rail.
He's a frequent visitor to some of the Valley's most high-profile festivals, included Devour Culinary Classic, a proud member of Local First Arizona, and has even showed off his skills on Food Network's Chopped. Even so, the challenges that the cornavirus pandemic forced restaurant owners like him all across the to overcome, have been, well, challenging.
"I never imagined packing my food in boxes to go," he said. "I try to be artful on plates and that is a whole different world. Everything is different. The only thing that is the same is we are still cooking good food."
Part of that has been keeping his menu fresh, week after week, preparing meals that go along with the meats and produce that he is able to find from local and national suppliers. The community has come out to support. His Mother's Day specials at both restaurants have sold out.
"Being profitable in the restaurant business is a tricky thing. I know all businesses are tough to make profit. For Beckett's Table and Southern Rail, specifically, we count on volume. We count on people being in there and ordering bottles of wine, ordering an appetizer, and a salad and an entree and a dessert. Our way of doing business now is different. So to become profitable, I think the idea is to minimize our costs and minimize our risks and also sell volume through to-go," he said.
Beckett's Table can be found on Indian School Road between 36th and 38th Street. Southern Rail, a more southern-style restaurant, is located near Camelback Road and Third Avenue in the same complex as Changing Hands Bookstore.
He founded Beckett's Table years ago with his wife and their business partners, Scott and Katie Stevens. The goal was to create a restaurant where customers could feel like the place was their own, a place where they felt at home with a good home-cooked meal.
"Some of the staples at Beckett's Table are the short rib, the beef short rib has been on the menu since day 1. Of course we have amazing signature cocktails, we actually have stories behind most of our cocktails, he said, referring to one called "The House We Lived In," which was inspired by the trees around their first home.
"At Southern Rail, some of our signatures are really easy to identify. Fried chicken has been award winning. A top seller. I can't even count the amount of cases of chicken that we've gotten in," he said.
While business has been different, Chef Beckett continues to put in the hours, day after day. He's looking forward to the day that people can fill his dining rooms again, but said safety is the most important thing.
"Part of the thing that keeps me going is that energy, that Saturday night push. That swell of the restaurant if you will when it gets full, he said. "That is a part of soul that is missing 100 percent. To have people back in the dining room, to have that noise if you will, would be incredible, but it has to be done in a safe manner."
IF YOU GO:
3717 E. Indian School Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85018
300 W. Camelback Road Phoenix, AZ 85013
We're Open, Arizona: We know this is a tough time for a lot of people in our community, including local restaurants and businesses. As local spots continue to serve takeout, look for ways to safely do business, and give back to our community, we want to share their stories. Visit abc15.com/open or email us at OpenInAZ@abc15.com.