Out and About: Flagstaff

A small city of around 70,000 people, Flagstaff is a gateway to northern Arizona’s many historical, cultural, geological, and recreational points of interest. The bustling hub sits along Historic Route 66 at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, Arizona’s six tallest summits. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon, and Native American pueblo sites all sit just minutes outside the city center; and the Grand Canyon and Sedona are just an hour’s drive away. Petrified Forest National Park is an hour and a half east of the city, and Page and Glen Canyon are just two hours north. Consequently, Flagstaff makes a great central location for discovering all northern Arizona has to offer.

If you’re looking to get out and explore the city itself, Flagstaff offers a number of cute restaurants, breweries and shops that are totally worth checking out. Many are sprinkled across just a few blocks of Flagstaff’s historic downtown, making it the perfect place for a walking food and/or brewery tour. If you find yourself roaming the streets of Flagstaff in search of some great local businesses, here were some of our favorite spots…


Martanne’s

https://martannes.com/

Located right on Historic Route 66, this family-owned Mexican restaurant is a local favorite. Martanne’s is known for their chilaquiles, a traditional breakfast dish of corn tortillas simmered with green or red salsa and topped with eggs, cheese, meat, and beans. The hotspot was recently voted ‘Best Breakfast in Flagstaff,’ and is affectionately known as ‘the house that chilaquiles built.’

Martanne’s offers a pretty extensive menu, however the chilaquiles really are the one must-try item. Stephan happily sampled both the lunch and breakfast versions. While he really enjoyed his Fratelli-style lunch dish (served with pork green chile), he absolutely raved about the breakfast version – topped with rice, beans, eggs, and hashbrowns. If you’re like Stephan and can’t decide between red and green sauce, the café even offers a ‘Christmas version’ served with both types. Make sure you’re hungry if you visit this place – the take-away portions are seriously huge, served in a 9 x 13” aluminum serving tray.

If the chilaquiles don’t fill you up, we suggest pairing the dish with an order of the Mexican donuts. Stephan was impressed with the light, airy texture of the dough and loved the cinnamon-sugar coating. If you’ve got a furry friend you’d like to share with, Sanchez went absolutely insane for these donuts. She cried, she sneezed, she begged… then she decided to throw down every trick she knows without being asked. If that’s not a rave review, I don’t know what is.


Village Baker

https://www.facebook.com/Bestbreadflagstaff

In search of some delicious, freshly-baked breads or pastries in Flagstaff? Look no further than Village Baker. This small business has been open for over twenty-five years and makes all their Old-World, artisanal breads from scratch using no preservatives.

Stephan sampled a variety of their pastries, including the apple turnover and lemon and raspberry scones. He was exceptionally fond of the raspberry, which was loaded with fresh fruit. As someone who’s not super into bread, I have to say, I found their bread to be exceptional. We found ourselves habitually going back for their Italian rosemary, which was pretty much to die for. While the bread was incredible on its own, we happened to have some good olive oil and balsamic laying around the house, and it made the most beautiful dipping loaf.

In addition to their standard selection of breads, Village Baker also offers rotating daily specials such as chili cheese and raisin currant pecan. They also make gorgeous focaccia art, which they feature at the local farmers’ market. I really wish we had been able to try one of those babies during our stay, because they looked absolutely amazing.


Pizzicletta

https://www.pizzicletta.com/

If you’re looking for a good wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza in Flagstaff, Pizzicletta is the place to go. The small pizzeria is right in downtown Flagstaff, and even offers a small selection of house-made gelatos (including vegan options).

Our first visit was when my best friend was in town for a long weekend. While I opted for the somewhat boring vegan marinara, Stephan and Kara tried a couple of their more unique offerings. K chose the amore oi mare, topped with mascarpone, pecorino, an 18-month prosciutto, arugula and lemon olive oil. Stephan went for the carne dolce, a combination of house mozz, mascarpone, house-made spicy ‘nduja, local honey and sage.

The pies tasted exceptionally delicious after a hike up Bell Rock in Sedona, and Kara and Stephan were both really impressed with their unique flavors. Stephan enjoyed his so much, he made a return trip a few weeks later for the same pie.


Dark Sky Brewing

https://www.darkskybrewing.com/

Always keen to explore the local craft beer scene, Dark Sky was the first stop on our Flagstaff pub tour. There are about half a dozen microbreweries scattered around Flagstaff’s small downtown, and we made it to three during our stay: Dark Sky, Mother Road, and Historic brewing.

With a preference for hopped-up IPAs, Dark Sky was our clear favorite of the bunch. We tried four of their IPAs, with the Vortices Hazy earning top marks. If you’re similarly interested in more hop-forward brews, Dark Sky’s beers packed the most hop flavor of the breweries we tried (Mother Road and Historic were much more malty in taste).

Pro tip: If you’re short on time and want to kill two birds with one stone, Dark Sky’s taproom on the corner of Birch and Beaver also serves up pizza from Pizzicletta. The brewery hosts a small kitchen where the pizza-makers offer a selection of pies from the more extensive menu at their main location.


Hops on Birch

https://www.hopsonbirchbeer.com/

If you want to sample more beers from around the region, Hops on Birch is just around the corner from Dark Sky. The small bottle shop sells single cans and also offers a couple dozen beers on draft. The staff there is super friendly and, if you’re traveling with your pup, they are unmistakably dog lovers. From a ‘dogs welcome’ chalkboard sign as you walk through the door, to a jar of treats at the bar, to a special dog-themed anniversary collaboration IPA, your furry friend is sure to feel the love here. If the weather sucks during your visit, dogs are also allowed inside as well as on their outdoor patio.

While we still aren’t comfortable attending indoor functions in the lingering days of COVID, Hops on Birch also hosts live bands as well as regular indoor and outdoor events. The small business just celebrated its 10th anniversary in May, and we imagine they’ll have many more successful years ahead.


Diablo Burger

https://www.diabloburger.com/

Looking for a creative spin on a burger? Then consider checking out Flagstaff’s Diablo Burger. Rather than the standard white bun, the patties here are served on toasted English muffins. The burgers come with a side of herbed Belgian-style fries, and the menu consists of about a dozen creatively named and composed creations (including a build-your-own option). Better still? Diablo Burger partners with regional farmers, cheese-makers, and producers to create a high-quality, locally-sourced product. The burgers are made from locally-raised, grass-fed beef, and the restaurant sources as many ingredients as possible from within a 250-mile radius.

Occasionally needing a break from the vegan lifestyle he so willingly embraces at home with me, Stephan came here for the Blutarsky – a nod to one of my dad’s favorite movies, John Belushi’s Animal House. The burger is seasoned with blackening spice and topped with bacon, sharp cheddar and guac, and Stephan decided to add on some blackened green chilis. Overall, he was impressed with both the burger and seasoned frites, and thought the chili add-on was a solid choice.

Looking for more burgers? Although Stephan didn’t end up making it over for a visit, another Flagstaff favorite is Mama Burger. The drive-thru-only burger stand offers build-your-own burgers as well as a handful of signature creations. They also offer a variety of shakes and malts you can pair with lunch. The few times we drove past, the place was absolutely packed. While we can’t vouch for it, it’s probably worth a visit.


Red Curry Vegan Kitchen

http://www.redcurryflagstaff.com/

I love Thai food. However, given most dishes contain some type of shrimp paste or fish sauce, it’s often difficult to trust that a dish is truly free from any animal products. Consequently, when I found Red Curry’s entirely vegan menu online, I was pumped.

While I can’t say it was the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten, several of their dishes were indeed quite good. My first visit, I started out with the obligatory pad thai and fresh rolls. I found both to be a bit underwhelming, with the noodle dish kind of lacking in flavor and ingredients.

Two dishes I really loved, however, were the pad woon sen and Saigon salad. The former was a heaping pile of spicy transparent noodles and vegetables that you could order with either tofu or beans (black or pinto) as a protein. I went back for this one. The latter was, surprisingly, one of the best ‘salads’ I’ve ever had… although it was more of a cold noodle dish than what you’d think of as a traditional salad. The massive mound of steamed rice noodles was topped with cucumber, carrots, sprouts, mint, and peanut, and served with a sweet and sour dressing. It sound interesting, but turned out to be seriously out of this world.


Delhi Palace

https://www.delhipalaceflagstaff.com/

No matter where we travel, Indian food is one of my go-to cuisines. In addition to just being delicious, I can always count on finding a number of vegan options.

We visited Delhi Palace one night for dinner when my friend was in town visiting. The last time I’d eaten in a restaurant was in February 2020 – coincidentally, at our favorite South Indian restaurant in Cary, NC – way back in the good old pre-pandemic days. After twenty-five months of vehemently avoiding indoor dining, I was a little apprehensive to return to the traditional eating-out experience. That said, after I made my friend barf on a helicopter tour earlier in the day, it seemed only fair that I entertain her request to enjoy a meal out.

Aside from the attentive service and yummy food, I was totally impressed with Delhi Palace’s continued adherence to pandemic protocols. Unlike most restaurants that had cast aside any added safety measures, the waitstaff here were all masked, the tables were still generously spaced, and there was sanitizer at every table.

All three of us really enjoyed our meal here. Stephan was a big fan of his chicken vindaloo, and my friend enjoyed her tikka masala. I was totally impressed with their vegan selections, as well as the fact that vegan items were clearly labeled as such on the menu. There were a couple dozen vegetarian options, and about half of those were vegan. I went for the veggie samosas and aloo matar. While we all concurred the samosas were above average, I thought my aloo matar was exceptional. If you’re looking for a good vegan option in Flagstaff, you’re bound to find something delicious here.


Nany’s Tacos (Williams, AZ)

https://nanys-tacos.business.site/

Last but not least on our list is Nany’s Tacos. This small Mexican restaurant can be found about a half hour west of Flagstaff, over in the historic downtown of Williams. Founded in 1881, Williams’ tiny town center has been dubbed the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon,’ and is also known for being the last Route 66 town to be bypassed by I-40 back in 1984.

Nany’s Tacos is a fairly recent addition to Williams – a family-run business tucked in a little nook on 2nd Street behind the Grand Canyon Hotel. The menu largely features tacos and burritos, though weekend specials include traditional Mexican stews such as menudo and pozole.

If you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive bite for lunch or dinner, tacos here can be had for $3.50 to $4.00 each. During our two-month stay, Stephan managed to work his way through nearly the entire taco menu, with his favorites being the chili verde and quesabirria.

If you do pop into Nany’s for a taco, we strongly advise that you not skip out on the homemade salsas. When Stephan first dropped by for carry-out, a fellow patron advised him that Nany’s served the ‘best salsa in the world.’ While he brushed it off as exaggeration, his interest was piqued enough to grab a sample of each: red, green, and habanero. When we got home, Stephan raved about the flavor and heat level of all three, shocked that they did indeed live up to the hype of the random stranger. He was particularly taken with Nany’s salsa verde. He said it was significantly spicier than you’d typically expect from a tomatillo salsa, and said he would happily buy it by the jarful.


Wrap-up

While it may not be known as a premier food destination, Flagstaff boasts a pretty decent selection of cute, local restaurants serving an array of different cuisines. Additionally, it’s a big enough city that you shouldn’t have any problem finding new spots to check out while you’re in town. If you’re looking for a nice spot to walk off those chilaquiles or Mexican donuts, there’s also no shortage of short, dog-friendly trails around the city. For a quick, peaceful outing, consider checking out Observatory Mesa (variable lengths), Campbell Mesa (5 miles) or Red Mountain (3 miles).

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