Liberty Station: More Than Just Barbecue

But, yeah, it’s about the barbecue

By Kathryn M. Miller

Since opening its doors in March 2017, the family-owned Liberty Station has quickly become a favorite neighborhood joint, with some patrons stopping in three or four times a week. And a neighborhood social spot is exactly what Keeler Hospitality Group, which also owns Market Street Kitchen in Scottsdale and Spencer’s steakhouse in Omaha, set out to achieve when it was developing the restaurant.

“We develop concepts for the location,” says owner Paul Keeler. “We like to listen to the voice of the guest and have them really tell us what they need. We heard from people in this area that barbecue would be appreciated, so that’s why we invested in the smoker, and the product that we have and brought the pit masters in that we needed. It’s worked out well for us.”

The restaurant consists of a main dining area, a bar area that serves up classic cocktails and local craft beers (and that is open to the front patio with plenty of shade and a misting system to take on the Arizona heat), and a more intimate dining patio on the west side, which also gives diners a window on the workhorse of Liberty Station.

That workhorse is the smoker Keeler refers to, a 500-gallon, custom-made smoker that has been dubbed “Big Poppy,” a call-back to Keeler’s time in Boston — a nickname his family gave him and a tip of the hat to Red Sox player David “Big Papi” Ortiz. Much like Ortiz, Liberty’s “Big Poppy” gets the job done — and it’s a big job.

“We do all of our barbecue,” says Keeler, “which is Texas Brisket, St. Louis Spare Ribs, Carolina Pork Shoulder, chicken, and prime rib on the weekends, on that little piece of equipment there.”

That little piece of equipment cooks at a constant 250 degrees, slowly roasting its riches anywhere from 10 to 11 hours. It’s fueled by oak to get it started and then pecan “to give it a little bit more flavor.”

The brisket was especially important for Liberty to get right, and it begins with high-quality beef sourced from Creekstone Farms, then, a light touch on the seasoning — nothing but a salt and pepper rub and a “secret” ingredient (locally-sourced ground espresso coffee).

“We don’t brine it, and the quality of the beef really speaks for itself,” Keeler says.

Quality ingredients that are locally-sourced (brisket aside), are important to the restaurant.

“All of our produce is sourced locally, and other than the beef, which we get from Colorado, all the items on the menu are locally-sourced,” says Keeler. “And we are proud of our coffee and tea program because we work with Roastery of Cave Creeks David Anderson, and he takes care of our coffee and espresso needs.”

It was also important to Keeler that they had a diverse menu that was more than just barbecue — offerings that would keep patrons coming back. And they have succeeded, with plenty of comfort food and “shareables” such as Baja Fish Tacos, Smoke House Fries and Tavern Mac N’ Cheese, and signature main dishes such as Boston Cod Fish & Chips, Baked Steelhead and Red Bird Fried Chicken. But the barbecue elements migrate throughout the menu, showing up in the Brisket Quesadilla, Tavern Burger, Brisket Grilled Cheese, the Big Poppy sandwich, and the Smoked Pork Bucatini (a dish that was recently featured on Food Network’s “Eat, Sleep, BBQ” [Season 1, Episode 3] and garnered the restaurant national attention — recipe below.)

This month is a perfect time to discover this neighborhood gem. On Father’s Day, June 17, Liberty Station will feature $1 draft beers for all the Dad’s with the purchase of any barbecue entrée (limit 2 beers per person).

Liberty Station is located in the Terravita Marketplace at 34522 North Scottsdale Road, Suite 180, in North Scottsdale. For additional information, call 480.595.9930 or visit |CST


Just in time for summertime gatherings, and courtesy of the Liberty Station chef and craft bartenders, try these recipes for Smoked Pork Bucatini and a specially-paired Spicy Spritz.

Smoked Pork Bucatini

3 oz smoked pork

1 oz fennel

1 oz carrots

1 oz onions

all diced

2 oz light lager beer

1 oz butter

5 oz bucatini pasta

3 oz pork stock

1 oz minced herbs

In hot pan, add oil and cook veggies until translucent, then add pork to heat through and deglaze with beer; continue to cook.

Add pasta, heat through then add pork stock and butter to thicken.

Plate in large bowl and garnish with minced herbs.


Spicy Spritz

1 oz St. George Green Chili Vodka

1 oz BroVo Witty Vermouth

.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill with Sparkling Brut in a wine glass

Garnish with an orange twist-wrapped serrano pepper

Kitchen Insider: Market Street Kitchen’s Chef Michael Hunn

chef-michael-hunnA Chicago native, Chef Michael Hunn learned to cook at his Italian grandmother’s knee, while his father taught him the ins and outs of the food service industry while working for Oscar Meyer and Kraft. Starting his culinary journey in “old school” Chicago kitchens such as the original Weber Grill, the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and Japonais, after a quick pit stop in Phoenix at Sam Fox’s Bloom Restaurant and Roy’s at the Marriott Desert Ridge, Hunn relocated to Las Vegas to work for acclaimed Vegas chef Brian Massie of the Light Group at five different MGM casino restaurants.

This summer, Hunn returned to the Valley as executive chef at Market Street Kitchen (MSK). He will oversee the award-winning restaurant and lounge in North Scottsdale. Classically trained in French and Italian cuisine, and utilizing Japanese-influenced discipline in the kitchen, Hunn’s favorite part of each day is talking shop with his fishmongers, produce farmers and his “meat dude.” A lover of comfort food and regional American cooking, the chef’s focus at MSK is a market driven menu and rotisserie cooking. Chef Hunn lives with his fiancé in Anthem and has three children, who are his favorite food critics.

Market Street is located at DC Ranch, 20775 North Pima Road. For more information, call 480.278.7044 or visit

marketstreetkitchen_capresesaladChef Hunn’s Recipe for MSK Brocolli Caprese Salad

4oz Burrata
¼ lb. Brocolli di Ciccio
½ lb. Heirloom Tomato
1 pinch Pickled Red Onion
2 tbsp. Blood Orange Balsamic Reduction
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch Micro Basil
Sea Salt
Fresh Grilled Baguette

Blood Orange & White Balsamic Reduction: Juice 3 Blood Oranges and Combine with 2 Tablespoons of White Balsamic and 1 tablespoon Sugar. Reduce by half with whole peppercorns. Cool immediately.

Assembly: Have fun plating this dish as we can place the beautiful vegetables at random. The most important aspect is to season each ingredient with salt and pepper and then to dress with extra virgin olive oil and blood orange-balsamic reduction.

Fun Food Fact: Brocolli di Ciccio is a heirloom broccoli green that has an intense broccoli flavor with a pleasant after taste.
This dish is a fun play on a seasonal caprese salad that was inspired by the love of broccoli and cheese.

Photos courtesy of Market Street Kitchen

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