By Alison Bailin Batz
Eclectic, outdoorsy and sneaky fabulous for all types of foodies, there is no better spot to fall in love with this fall than Flagstaff. Here is how to best take advantage of it all before the snow starts falling.
Located in the heart of the Coconino National Forest, there are hundreds of hikes to choose from in and around Flagstaff, no matter one’s skill level. During the fall months, expect vibrant yellows and reds, not to mention the evergreen in all of those pines.
Easy Hikes: Viet Springs, Lava Flow Trail, Anderson Mesa, Buffalo Park
Moderate Hikes: Lava River Cave, Fat Man’s Loop, Bismarck Lake, Red Butte
Advanced Hikes: Kachina Trail, Abineau/Bear Jaw Canyon Loop, Elden Lookout
Dark Sky Gazing
In 2001, the city of Flagstaff became the world’s first “International Dark Sky City,” a designation awarded by the International Dark Sky Association. Flagstaff’s low light pollution and commitment to enforcing stargazing-friendly lighting restrictions make it the ideal destination to explore the night skies. Though there are many ways to enjoy stargazing thanks to this “dark sky,” one of the best is via Lowell Observatory, which was founded in the 1800s but is still an active astronomical research facility and welcomes visitors year-round for tours and telescope viewing.
Tinderbox Kitchen: Though only 10 years old, Tinderbox Kitchen is often named among the restaurants credited for helping to relaunch the foodie movement in Flagstaff, and assisted in reinventing the “Southside” neighborhood of the city, which now also includes Root Public House. Focused on providing progressive — but not pretentious — American comfort food, the menu is often eclectic and always changing. The restaurant has become so successful, the owners were able to acquire the space next door a few years ago and reimagined it into “The Annex,” a hip, indoor-outdoor cocktail bar with real-deal mixologists. Recently, it took over the space next to that, creating a casual atmosphere where pastry and bakery meet all-day noshing goodness called the Tourist Home All Day Cafe.
Lotus Lounge: Among the most recognizable of locales and landmarks in downtown Flagstaff is the Hotel Monte Vista (or Hotel Monte V as it is most commonly called), whose storied history dates back to the 1920s. It’s no surprise that a venue as iconic at Hotel Monte V has a similarly epic dining option in Lotus Lounge. Asian with some of the freshest fish in the state, Lotus Lounge boasts nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls as well as a full menu of soups, noodles, rice and full entrées.
The Cottage Farmhouse French Bistro: Formerly The Cottage Place and run for more than 20 years by acclaimed chef Frank Branham in a bungalow first built in 1909, The Cottage Farmhouse French Bistro opened in 2017 under new ownership. Now in the deft and delicious hands of Scott Heinonen, known for his work at The Tinderbox and as the one-time private chef to Sir Paul McCartney, The Cottage boasts seasonally changing bistro cuisine inspired by the flavors and beauty of the French countryside.
Root Public House: Often referred to as a forest-to-table restaurant, chef/owner David Smith’s Root Public House features true Northern Arizona ingredients throughout its always-evolving seasonal menus, many with a hint of the South to ramp up the flavor an extra notch. Smith’s southern fried Arizona hot chicken is a great example of this concept’s brilliance as it’s a traditional hot chicken recipe from the south, but using only local poultry. Root also offers the area’s only elevated rooftop dining.
Historic Brewing Company’s Barrel and Bottle House: With 20 beers on tap and growlers to go, Historic Brewing Company’s Barrel and Bottle House provides guests wide selection of locally brewed favorites from which to imbibe. Don’t miss creative pours including Historic’s signature Piehole Porter, a traditional brown porter infused with cherries and vanilla. Or, go event richer with the barrel-aged version of this brew.
FLG Terroir Wine Bar & Bistro: Perched on the second story of a prominent building on San Francisco Street is one of the best wine bars in Arizona – FLG Terroir. Formerly The Wine Loft, this dark and dreamy bar specializes in small boutique wines from throughout the world in all price categories, and its list is fast approaching 500 labels by the bottle. In addition, with more than 30 wines by the glass and a great selection of bottled beers with a focus in Belgian Ales, it is perfect for after-dinner (or after-date) drinks.
Mother Road Brewing (two locations): If this name looks familiar, it should. That’s because in the years since it opened its doors in Flagstaff, Mother Road has exploded onto the Arizona beer scene, most recently cracking the top 10 list of microbrewers in Arizona and distributing across the state. The story behind the brewery is just as good as the beer itself, and worth the trip to meet husband-and-wife owners Michael and Alissa Marquess to hear it in person.