Liberty Station: A tantalizing mix of options delight at smokehouse tavern in North Scottsdale
A tantalizing mix of options delight at smokehouse tavern in North Scottsdale.
By Andrew Leach
Photos by Joanie Simon
I often crave dishes from the East Coast, where I grew up––think New England clam chowder, fish and chips made with Atlantic cod, or a lobster roll. Frequently, I also have a hankering for smoked barbecue too. Turns out, I can satisfy both cravings at Liberty Station American Tavern and Smokehouse.
A culinary endeavor from Keeler Hospitality Group, who own Market Street Kitchen in DC Ranch and Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Omaha, Nebraska, Liberty Station opened up last year at the corner of Carefree Highway and Scottsdale Road in the Terravita Marketplace. Featuring American comfort food with regional touches, Executive Chef Michael Hunn and Chef de Cuisine Dan Watts offer up a tantalizing mix of options that appeal to a wide array of tastes.
Open for lunch and dinner, Liberty Station features “shareable” appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, seafood, and steak, including meats smoked on a custom made smoker, on their well-rounded menu. While not overly complicated, you may find, as we did, that everything sounds so delicious that it’s difficult narrowing down what to order.
We started by picking two items from the “shareables” portion of the menu. The first dish we selected was the house herbed ricotta ($8). This is a perfect item to share and, no doubt, it will be a big hit with cheese lovers. A large ball of ricotta mixed and whipped with fresh herbs, it’s then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and served with crostini and a side of tomato jam. The combined flavors are exquisite, and the cheese is light and easily spreads on the bread.
The smoked chicken wings (six for $14, or 12 for $24) also made the cut. We chose the smaller size option, as we knew there was going to be more food coming. The wings are cooked in Liberty Station’s large custom made smoker. Crafted by renowned Camelback Smokers, the contraption imparts a delicious and unique smoky flavor to the wings. When the wings are dipped in the accompanying spicy barbeque sauce, be prepared for a heady dose of flavor. Meanwhile, the chicken is tender and easily separates from the bone.
Next up was a dish I was eager to try, the New England clam chowder (cup for $5, bowl for $7). It’s a dish that I often crave and seldom seem to find prepared well. Liberty Station’s chowder is phenomenal. The clams are combined with a bevy of ingredients that will transport you across the country to a seaside fish market serving up fresh soup and other sundries. If you plan to share this dish, spring for the bowl over the cup, or best order two––it’s just that good.
Although it was tough to bypass one of the intriguing salads on the menu, it was time to head to the main course. First up, the Boston cod fish and chips ($18). A large bed of French fries are piled high beneath a thick piece of amber beer battered Atlantic cod. Perfectly cooked, the crust clings to the fish with ease and delights with every bite. The accompanying malt tartar sauce is the perfect pairing. However, the fries were served on top of a flavorful sauce, which made some of them a tad soggy.
Of course, we had to try something off the smoker section of the menu. Not wanting to leave without getting another item from the beast of a barbeque smoker, we decided on the Texas brisket (half order $14, full order $24). We opted for the half order, since it also comes with a choice of two side items. We added the honey butter cornbread and the coleslaw as our side dishes. Additional choices include house salad, mac and cheese, Boston baked beans, sweet potato fries, or barbeque dusted house chips.
The slice of beef had a tremendous smoke ring and was so perfectly cooked that it was hard to believe that it was only seasoned with salt and pepper. The brisket is what to order to really experience the flavor that cooking on a smoker provides. The slices of beef are lean on fat, but high in flavor. Meanwhile, the cornbread is so delicious and moist that no additional butter is needed. And, the coleslaw isn’t saturated in sauce, which allows you to still taste the cabbage that is the base of the coleslaw.
Liberty Station offers other items off the smoker menu including honey nut squash “ribs” ($14), Carolina pork shoulder (half order, $13, full order $22), and St. Louis spare ribs with Kansas City style glaze (half order, $22, full order $38). But, for the more carnivorous, order the Tavern barbeque platter, which features the brisket, pork shoulder, and spare ribs ($42). The entire plate, which weighs in at a pound of meat, is only for the truly hungry and strong willed.
It’s hard to find this level of flavor and service at a small neighborhood restaurant, but the forces behind the scenes are seasoned veterans and have it down pat. The entire staff worked harmoniously together during our visit and seemed determined to ensure a lovely dining experience. Of note, we visited early evening on a Wednesday and the place was already almost to capacity, so making reservations is probably wise.
Liberty Station––American Tavern & Smokehouse
34522 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
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