Do Sedona once and you’ve done it all. Right?
Sedona has long been relegated to day-jaunt status for Phoenicians – a red rock palace sure to provide amazing views, hippie-dippie vortex awakenings and a main street of shops full of tooth-hurting fudge and tchotchkes to please visiting relatives. Change doesn’t seem likely at this one-and-done tourist stop.
But peel your eyes away from the mountain vistas for a moment, and take a closer look. The Oak Creek area is blooming with newness. A bevy of new shops, new activities and, most deliciously, new restaurants has sprung up from the crimson earth over the past few years, transforming good ol’ dependable Sedona into a foodie mecca. Turns out, there’s a lot more to do (and eat – oh, the eats) in Sedona today. In fact, you’ll need a full weekend.
When driving into town, don’t do as the tourists do and zoom by everything on your way to Uptown Sedona. Instead, take the long route on Route 260 through Cottonwood and stop at Enchantment Resort (525 Boynton Canyon Rd., 888-250-1699, enchantmentresort.com), a secluded, dusty-red compound that blends seamlessly into its Mars-like setting. The views of Sedona’s spectacular mountain wilderness alone are worth the drive, but breakfast at the resort’s Che Ah Chi, with wraparound views of Boynton Canyon, elevates it.
No, neither Enchantment nor Che Ah Chi are new, per se, but the kitchen is doing new things, like sourcing ancient grain bread from Phoenix-based Noble Bread, toasted and topped with almond butter and smoked honey or prosciutto and runny egg. Resort chef Alex Pasco says Enchantment is expanding its culinary program in celebration of its 30th anniversary this year, including twice-a-week cooking demos, as well as special tequila- and wine-pairing dinners. “Honest to god, you’re going to be hard pressed to find better food and better views in the Verde Valley,” he says of his digs.
If you’d rather stay closer to town, we recommend checking into Amara Resort and Spa (100 Amara Ln., 928-282-4828, amararesort.com), situated just off a steep hill below the main drag. Kimpton Hotels unveiled a $1 million redesign in summer 2014 including a refresh of the 100 rooms and a new restaurant, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen. While the exterior remains appropriately red, the inside is bright and airy, with very un-Sedona touches like trendy, bright orange and pink pillows and whimsical paintings of jackalopes. Get a glass of Arizona wine and enjoy it in a neon yellow
Adirondack chair around the fire pit on their lush lawn, or burn off breakfast at one of two daily yoga classes in the spa, free for resort guests.
For lunch, check out The Hudson (671 AZ-179, Ste D, 928-862-4099, thehudsonsedona.com, also open for dinner). Owners Mark and Lisa Shugrue gutted their old place, Shugrue’s Hillside Grill, and opened a streamlined, sleek diner in late 2015.
“It’s filled a nice niche,” says assistant manager Aleia Woolsey, calling the new design “industrial chic.” Indeed, many big city elements are at play at The Hudson, with lots of hipster-approved gray in the wood floors and iron sphere chandeliers. If not for the dazzling views of Wilson Mountain from the patio, you could easily forget you’re in kitschy, tourist trap country.
The food feels out of place, too… in a good way. You won’t find subpar, overpriced grub here, but a modern New American menu featuring hearty, hip fare like the Hudson mushroom burger – a triple-blend beef patty topped with juicy portobello mushrooms, jalapeño bacon and crispy onion strings – and a sculpture garden of a cheese board with seven (yes, seven) different kinds of cheese, garlicky ciabatta and thinly sliced fruit arranged in gravity-defying stacks.
Re-up your metabolism with some shopping just up the road. Many are already familiar with Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, modeled after Old World Mexican haciendas, but not everyone has ventured across the street to Tlaquepaque North (336 AZ-179, 928-282-4838, tlaq.com), which opened in fall 2016. Less sprawling than its older sister but still cobblestoned and grand, the northerly outpost is home to several boutiques including The Artist’s Kitchen for cooking gadgets and dining ware, and Caravana for curated clothing, jewelry and handmade apothecary goodies including sublime-smelling bath salts. Cap off your shopping sesh with a coffee in front of the fire at Pump House Station, a cozy, all-day eatery overlooking Oak Creek.
After all that casual strolling and sipping, dinner should be a fine affair. Try Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill (700 W. AZ-89A, 928-862-4444, mariposasedona.com), the latest brainchild of Sedona restaurateur and chef Lisa Dahl. In her first departure from the Italian cuisine of her other three restaurants, including the famous Dahl & DiLuca, the owner serves Latin dishes inspired by her trips to South America with a focus on Arizona-grown vegetables and herbs. For starters, try the aguacate frito, fried avocado served with spicy pimentón aioli. Mains include traditional steaks served with zippy chimichurri and succulent fish of the day atop black beans and quinoa pilaf. Be sure to leave room for sublime postres such as a sinfully rich chocolate torte with dulce de leche gelato and Key lime tart.
But really, the food is secondary to the location, perched on a bluff overlooking Coffee Pot Rock, Capitol Butte and Chimney Rock to the north. “This has all been built with that in mind,” Dahl says, pointing to the panoramic wall of windows. “No one doesn’t have a good vantage point.” In the local resto biz for 21 years, Dahl says Sedona didn’t become a food mecca “all of a sudden” – there’s always been good food here, she says – but more people are beginning to take notice of the variety amid the beauty.
The next morning, make your way to L’Auberge de Sedona Resort for breakfast at Etch Kitchen & Bar (301 Little Ln., 888-759-0083, lauberge.com/dining), the casual answer to on-site fine dining at Cress on Oak Creek. Opened in early 2016, Etch is charmingly creek-adjacent and serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner using seasonal, organic produce. For a pre-hike nosh, try the ham omelet with Gruyère or the buttermilk beignets with bottomless cups of coffee and steamed milk. Patio seating is possible in February, weather dependent, and worthwhile to take in L’Auberge’s prime setting among the oaks. If it’s too cold, a seat at the gorgeous natural wood bar, inlaid with turquoise and minerals, will do just fine.
Once you’re sufficiently satiated, hiking is a must on any Sedona agenda. A gruff guy at Hike House (431 AZ-179, Ste. B-1, 928-282-5820, thehikehouse.com) insists there aren’t any new hikes, dismissing a newish set of trails originating at Red Rock High School as “really basic.” But if a quick traipse is what you’re looking for, Scorpion Trail offers sweeping views of Cathedral Rock. More substantial is Soldier Pass Trail, a 4.5-mile round trip originating in a residential area off the 89A that ascends quickly into the serene Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness (fs.usda.gov/coconino). For action seekers, the new Mountain Biking Skills Park (525 Posse Ground Rd., sedonaaz.gov) opened in April 2016, offering easy, intermediate and expert trails in a safe, contained environment.
Stay on your health kick with a quick bite at Café Paleo Brio (1650 W. AZ-89A, 928-862-4202, cafepaleobrio.com) on the west side of town, which has a more “locals-only” vibe. Owner Brian Alcorn opened the place in January 2016 as one of the few vegan-friendly joints in town and the only place to get food that falls strictly within the Paleo diet parameters – or gluten-free and caveman-esque. A Paleo devotee himself, Alcorn says one customer described the place perfectly as a “non-denominational church of food where everyone can find something to eat.” Prickly pear kombucha, bone broth shooters and popular build-your-own bowls are served in a cave of a storefront… literally, the place is designed to look like a cave, with faux rocks, waterfall elements and even a fuzzy woolly mammoth on one wall.
More shopping can be had south of town in the Village of Oak Creek. Usually ignored by drivers on their way to Sedona proper, the sleepy village is branching out with a revamp of The Collective shopping center (7000 AZ-179, 928-255-0900, thecollectivesedona.com). Formerly known as Tequa Plaza, it was purchased in 2015 by an investor intent on turning the half-occupied forum around. Now with vibrant, multi-colored paint, the place boasts some decent shopping – in boutiques Bilby & Moss for fun, one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories and The Chai Spot for brightly colored international goodies – an art gallery, new taproom for Flagstaff-based Historic Brewing Company and a fantastic sliver of a kitchen called J Wine Bistro (7000 AZ-179, Ste. E-100, 928-641-6587, jwinebistro.com).
Opened in November 2016 by husband and wife Chef John and Nicollet Ramagli, the bistro offers an impressive wine list and ever-changing international menu. Think warming poblano potato soup, Jerusalem artichokes doused in butter and served with mellowing fava bean and barley salad, and flaky, pan-seared opah fish over bamboo rice. It’s food that “elevates the wine,” says John Ramagli, who spent a decade learning the vino biz at Marcellino Ristorante and Café Monarch in Scottsdale. “I wanted my own little nook in the world [where] I could keep studying and learning,” he says of striking out on his own in Sedona. As for the culinary culture of his new home, Ramagli admits Sedona had a bit of a reputation for not having much of a food scene, but “the bar is starting to be raised… I admire the chefs [here] and everyone works really well together.”