Farm to Table in Phoenix

Since moving to Phoenix three years ago, I've watched a culinary scene continue to expand and I continue to find new favorites. Great food combined with a great atmosphere will keep me coming back to a restaurant again and again. I am especially drawn to farm to table or seasonal concepts and locally-owned establishments. Today I share my current Phoenix favorites, three restaurants that feature locally-sourced ingredients and a warm, inviting ambiance that makes you feel instantly at home and all uniquely repurpose old buildings.

Smoked Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Southern Rail

Southern Rail
Chef Justin Beckett was a 2012 nominee for Food & Wine Magazines's Best New Chef after opening Beckett's Table in 2010. Beckett's Table is unique in its combination of sophisticated comfort food, local ingredients and humble atmosphere. When Beckett opened his second restaurant, Southern Rail, earlier this year, I knew it would quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in Phoenix. Southern Rail is grounded in the same approach as Beckett's Table while emphasizing the flavors of the American South.

I first visited Southern Rail, which revives the space once home to the iconic Beef Eater restaurant, the weekend it opened and quite possibly wanted to try everything on the menu, which features a variety of small plates, entrees and hearty side dishes. On that first visit, the gumbo and heaping plate of beignets really stood out and showed Beckett's attention to traditional recipes. When I returned with my Mom she was equally impressed with the atmosphere and creative twist on southern classics. The cider-brined pork loin was moist, flavorful and by the time I finished it looked as though I might have licked my plate clean.

Next up I am excited to try Southern Rail's weekend brunch. I think my sister would adore the fried green tomato benedict, the hoe cakes and SR bread pudding frunch toast sound delightfully decadent and who could pass up a good dutch pancake. If the sticky buns are anything like their pull-apart brioche, someone will have to stop me from eating them all. And I am hoping to get a seat at their dinner with guest chef Sean Brock, of Husk in Charleston and Nashville.

Bruschetta, Postino

Postino at first glance is the neighborhood wine bar and cafe, but spend a little time at each Valley location and you come to learn that it is so much more. Each location is housed in a building of historical significance to the surrounding community, and the communal dining rooms are a welcome gathering place. Known for unique wines, amazing bruschetta, cozy patios and a mix of vintage and edgy decor, Postino has its niche and does it exceedingly well. With the opening of a fourth location in Tempe this week, I don't even have to drive very far to enjoy the best bruschetta in town!

The menu may be limited -- mostly sandwiches, salads and their signature bruschetta -- but it's all fresh and excellent for pairing with their changing selection of wine and craft beer. it's one has made them one of the most popular places in town. Try to get a table on a Monday or Tuesday and you'll find yourself waiting for upwards of an hour. It's worth the wait for their killer deal -- after 8 p.m., you can enjoy a bottle of wine and a bruschetta board for just $20.

Liberty Market
Liberty Market operates in what was quite literally once the neighborhood market. Today it is a neighborhood bistro in Gilbert serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The servings are generous and the conversation flows easily in their open dining room. Chef David Traina and his wife Kiersten, run the day-to-day and never cease to have a smile on their faces. They share a passion for food with the other co-owners Phoenix restaurateur Joe Johnston and his wife Cindy, whose touch can be seen in the unassuming decor and friendly atmosphere.

My favorite chilaquiles in the Valley so far are Liberty Market's take on the traditional Mexican dish, with their green chile pork. With both a tomatillo sauce and red pequin pepper sauce, there's just the right level of spicy to not overpower the flavors of the pork. At dinner, Liberty Market serves such diverse offerings as the aforementioned green chile pork, wood-fired pizzas, baby-back ribs, loaded salads and burgers. I recommend the grilled chicken pasta, which is finished with chopped bacon, smoked mozzarella, and fresh vegetables in a parmesan cream sauce. From what I could see at the tables around me, I don't think you can go wrong with anything on the menu. And be on the lookout for specials, I had the most delicious Italian pistachio cake (not a regular on their dessert menu) to finish my meal on one recent visit.