Our Top 5 Flagstaff Food Experiences for the Summer of 2022

Nikki BuchananJune 10, 2022
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Note: This post first appeared in our Summer Food & Wine Getaways feature in the May/June issue of PHOENIX. Click here for the full story.

The Flagstaff 5

A BARNSTORMING TOUR OF ARIZONA’S FOODIE HAVEN IN THE PINES, PLUS SOME COOL NEW BOUTIQUE MOTOR LODGES TO CHECK OUT. 

When Valley temperatures routinely hit 100 degrees and beyond, I head for Flagstaff to browse art galleries, clothing shops and my favorite bookstore, Bright Side Book Shop. I also walk the lovely Northern Arizona University campus and eat really, really well – possibly wearing a sweater. 

Flag Food Tour

Here are my top five Flagstaff food experiences for the summer of 2022. 

No.1 Atria

Flagstaff’s newest high-end restaurant is also its prettiest, an airy, clean-lined space composed of white brick, plush teal banquettes and hanging plants – the elegant, unabashedly feminine room I would move into if chef-partner Rochelle Daniel would let me. Her name surely rings a bell. She’s appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, served as executive chef at L’Auberge de Sedona and Fat Ox, and recently earned a nomination for the James Beard Best Chef Southwest award. Those credentials will mean more to you when you see and taste her food, each plate so gorgeously composed you may be tempted to stare, not eat. But first, there are cocktails, which like the room and Daniel herself, are lovely. Then come oysters (raw and grilled) and seasonal small plates (hot and cold), which require your full attention. Pastas, hand-made by Steven “Chops” Smith (who worked with Daniel at Fat Ox) are otherworldly, their lightness belying their complexity. Instead of entrées, consider share platters of Sonoma duck (drizzled with umami-laden XO sauce) or grilled Linz ribeye (sweetened with black garlic and aged balsamic) because who doesn’t want leftovers? For dessert, rum cake or shockingly good sorbetatriarestaurant.com 

Atria; photo by Debby Wolvos
Atria; photo by Debby Wolvos
Restaurant & Wine Bar; photo courtesy Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar
Restaurant & Wine Bar; photo courtesy Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar

No.2 Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar

When Paul and Laura Moir opened this wine-centric, farm-focused Modern American bistro in 2006, they were pioneers, creating the first big-city restaurant in a mountain town overrun by undiscriminating college kids. Brix remains one of the best restaurants in Flag – snug in winter, blissful on the flower-filled patio come summer – beloved for its wine list, charcuterie board, elk tartare and hand-made pasta. By summer, the Moirs, who acquired the antique store next door, will have doubled the restaurant’s interior and added a wood-burning oven. brixflagstaff.com 

No.3 Pizzicletta

Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza stars at Caleb Schiff’s winsome southside restaurant (pie-shaped, ironically), where the naturally leavened dough is fermented for two or three days, lending a soft texture to his charred, puffy-edged pies. Don’t miss the ridiculously good carne dolce and save room for sublime gelato. Can’t wait until dinner for pizza? Head to Dark Sky Brewing Co., where Schiff’s pizza is served all day with Dark Sky beer. pizzicletta.comdarkskybrewing.com

Pizzicletta; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Pizzicletta; photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Shift; photo courtesy Shift
Shift; photo courtesy Shift

No.4 Shift

Hungry for something elevated yet fun? Grab a seat at the chef’s counter at this skinny slip of a restaurant, where chef-owner Dara Wong and crew turn out beautifully presented seasonal small plates while you watch the show. The menu changes frequently so there’s no telling what you’ll find beyond the signature Shift burger and pickled fries – maybe mushroom tartine with leek-goat quark and cured egg yolk or nori cavatelli with spicy miso beurre blanc and eel sauce, all just a skip offbeat. shiftflg.com 

No.5 Tinderbox Kitchen

In the early days of the pandemic, partners Kevin Heinonen and Nick Williams modernized T-Box’s cozy vintage interior and elevated the Modern American menu, offering more bang-for-the-buck decadence with dishes such as foie gras torchon with beignet and apricot-pistachio chutneyIbérico pork chop with Gruyère polenta and a butter-poached lobster tail worth the $60 splurge. Hit Annex next door for the city’s best cocktails – if you can get in. tinderboxkitchen.comannexcocktaillounge.com

Tinderbox Kitchen; photo courtesy Tinderbox Kitchen
Tinderbox Kitchen; photo courtesy Tinderbox Kitchen
High Country Motor Lodge; photo courtesy High Country Motor Lodge
High Country Motor Lodge; photo courtesy High Country Motor Lodge

3 New Places to Stay in Flag

High Country Motor Lodge

Jumping on the latest hospitality trend – rehabbing Mid-Century roadside motels to capture the nostalgia of family vacations and carefree road trips – Classic Hotels & Resorts has transformed a circa-1964 Howard Johnson’s on West Route 66 into High Country Motor Lodge. The 123-room boutique hotel seamlessly melds a rugged mountain-town aesthetic with a Lowell Observatory-inspired astronomy theme and cool ’60s vibe. Amenities include an indoor game room, sweeping lawns with fire pits, a huge pool and the hydrotherapy-based Nordic Spa Experience. highcountrymotorlodge.com

Bespoke Inn

For an intimate setting, consider the 11-room Bespoke Inn, sister to the original Bespoke Inn Scottsdale. Housed in a charming 1894 Craftsman (formerly the Inn at 410), the historical property has been completely modernized, offering comfy high-end beds and gas fireplaces in every room. Even better, Bespoke is within walking distance of downtown and across the street from Brix. bespokeinn.com

Whispering Winds Motor Hotel

Backed by the same ownership group that helped launch Atria, this beloved relic of Route 66’s Kennedy-era heyday is undergoing a full renovation, gutting the rooms and enhancing the pool area while preserving Mid-Century flourishes such as the “stylized shallow-pitch canopy over the entry” and “pink and turquoise cylinders that house exterior lighting,” according to the developers. ETA: Late summer.

— Nikki Buchanan

Flag News Flash

Sometime this summer, the Tinderbox team will open Teatro – a high-end Italian restaurant offering steak, fish, hand-made pasta and a 100 percent Italian wine list – in the former Criollo space (once a theater, hence the name). Expect a light, bright and open room, marble-topped bar, secluded patio and pasta-making operation, visible through glass panels.

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