Long known as a university town with a food scene focused on post-hike beers and burgers, Flagstaff has transformed itself into a sophisticated restaurant hotspot. In recent years, favorites such as Tinderbox, Brix, and Pizzicletta have been joined by a slate of newcomers, making this city an ideal base for a few days of feasting.
As the name suggests, Shift aims to nudge diners away from notions of normal mountain town fare. Owner Dara Wong and James Beard-nominated Chef Christian Lowe dream up a frequently shifting menu of shareable or solo dishes like savory sorbet, pickled french fries, rye linguini with homemade sausage, and cheesecake zinged with jalapeño. At Atria, the atmosphere is as bright white and fresh as aspen bark, but the food gets its flair and char from fire. Chef and partner Rochelle Daniel—whose skill on the grill earned her a James Beard nomination—turns succulent steak sublime with mushrooms, hazelnuts, port, and spruce crumble. She even smolders vegetarian dishes like coal-roasted beets or squash with pepitas. Last year, the team behind Tinderbox debuted Teatro in a converted theater. The stars of this restaurant’s show are unexpected riffs on upscale Italian, such as filet mignon carpaccio with arugula, grana padano, citronette and truffle aioli.
The Sunday morning Flagstaff Community Market is a great place to soak up the convivial vibe while noshing on crepes or prickly pear popsicles while stocking up on freshly roasted chiles. At night, hang your hat at High Country Motor Lodge, where you can work up an appetite toggling between the Nordic sauna, the alfresco plunge pool, and the couch by your private fire pit.
The state serves up such a bounty that many delicious destinations couldn’t fit into our four-course menu of road trips. But if you have the time, these are all worth the drive on their own:
- Terra Farm + Manor near Prescott earns rave reviews for its culinary wellness retreats and workshops focused on traditional Italian fare, heritage French recipes, and more.
- Cloth & Flame creates artistic, alfresco dinners at places like a plateau in Sedona or a saguaro forest in the Superstition Mountains.
- John Slattery leads foraging courses for wild edible and medicinal plants in Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, the White Mountains, and the Chiricahua Mountains.