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Best Flagstaff Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors
Flagstaff has a wide selection of enjoyable dining experiences to fit every budget and palate. The array of dining options isn’t a surprise when you consider that Flagstaff, a town of only 50,000 people, was ranked No. 3 among the nation’s top 25 cities for restaurant growth in 2009 by Nielsen ratings. The downtown area alone is home to more than a dozen good places beloved by locals and vacationers alike, many offering seasonal menus and wine pairings. Among the mix is everything from Thai restaurants to Italian bistros, fine-dining establishments to burger joints, brew-pubs to vegetarian restaurants. Many Flagstaff restaurants place added importance on local, sustainable foods in addition to creative cuisine. No matter where you choose to dine, be sure to bring a light sweater if you opt to enjoy the fabulous Flagstaff weather on the patio in the evening, even in summer, as the mountain air can get chilly.

Brix

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Brix specializes in contemporary American cuisine, with a menu that changes to feature foods at their peak. Most of their produce is organically grown between Flagstaff and Phoenix. Their meats are all humanely and sustainably raised and processed. Nothing served at Brix is pre-packaged; even the cured meats, pastas and pastries are made in-house. The free-range herb-marinated brick chicken served with roasted potatoes, grilled ciabatta and arugula salad is a filling classic. Or for something special, try the sautéed potato gnocchi with spring peas and house-cured pancetta. It’s open seven nights a week for dinner; reservations are recommended.

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Josephine’s Modern American Bistro

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Josephine’s beautiful historic building with its dark, volcanic rock columns and inviting stone patio catches your eye. The ambiance increases even more in the evenings, when twinkling lights add sparkle. The modern menu features influences from across cultures, with bold and flavorful combinations. For an appetizer, we especially enjoy the fried green tomatoes or Southwestern crabcakes. At lunch, the pecan-encrusted fish tacos are a stand out, and for dinner, the filet mignon will melt in your mouth. Don’t skip dessert; the crème brûlée is a perfect topper to the meal. Josephine’s hours and menus change with the season; check their website for operating hours and current menus. Generally, they’re open for dinner daily and lunch on weekdays.

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Josephine’s Modern American Bistro  

Cottage Place Restaurant

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
This is the place for the best food in town. The intimate house-turned-restaurant sits just south of the tracks downtown. Eating here is an experience your taste buds will thank you for, from the must-have Shrimp Bisque to main courses of perfectly prepared steaks, like the melt-in-your-mouth gorgonzola encrusted filet or the Chateaubriand for two, carved tableside and topped with a béarnaise, with port wine demi-glaze, fresh vegetables and Cottage Place smoked gouda gratinee potatoes. Desserts like Strawberry Shortcake Flambé round out the evening with a smile. All the cuisine at the Cottage Place is crafted by award-winning executive chef and owner Frank Branham, who makes his way around to greet guests through the night. Be sure to try the six-course tasting menu for a complete evening of entertaining and flavorful delectables. Cottage Place is open for dinner starting at 5PM Wednesdays through Sundays. Reservations are recommended. They offer both inside and patio seating. Dining here is something worth planning your trip around.

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Pasto

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
Flagstaff’s finest Italian dining can be found in this small yet open and airy-feeling restaurant. When the weather’s good opt for the inviting patio. Pasto serves up everything from basics like the best spaghetti and meatballs (aka Spaghettini e Polpette) in town to more unique dishes like Sweet Italian Wild Boar Sausage. The menu changes seasonally and is set up so that you can order a bunch of small tasting courses, starting with soup, salad, antipastas and cheeses, working your way toward pastas and traditional main courses. Pasto is a member of Slow Food Alta Arizona and the Slow Food International Association, serving sustainable foods from local and regional suppliers when possible. All pastas, sausages, terrines and deserts are made from scratch in house. Pasto’s hours change with the season. Currently during the summer they’re open Monday through Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

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Tinderbox Kitchen

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
Tinderbox is a relatively new Flagstaff sensation, and serves what they call “redefined American comfort food.” Everything on the menu is some classic dish grandma used to make, but with an upscale twist. How about jalapeño mac and cheese with duck leg confit, truffle oil and garlic crumbs, or a guajillo catsup glazed meatloaf. Not going to find these in grandma’s kitchen unless she’s, say, Julia Child. If you go at lunchtime, check out the TBox blue plate special of the day. They’re quite a good deal at $10 for a drink, entrée, sides and the best doughnut holes in town for dessert.

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Criollo Latin Kitchen

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
Latin inspiration may imbue all the dishes at the new Criollo, but the ingredients are all about local. A sister restaurant to Brix, Criollo uses the same area farmers and growers for their produce. Their grass-fed, range-raised Criollo beef comes from a cattle farm outside Wickenburg, AZ. The ambiance has a fresh vibe, like the food, which probably has something to do with the interior being built from locally harvested and milled ponderosa pine trees. The menu features items found nowhere else in northern Arizona, such as Tamarind Marinated Pork Tenderloin with grilled cactus and yucca fritters; braised Criollo beef Ropa Vieja with rice and beans; and Quinoa Fritters. Happy-hour specials are not to be missed from 3PM to 6PM when they serve their light, airy and crispy fish tacos for $2 each and margaritas for $3.

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Salsa Brava

Neighborhood: East/4th Street Price: Budget
This Flagstaff favorite has been open for more than 25 years, and it’s the place to go, if you love salsa. The fresh salsa bar features several types, from a traditional mild pico de gallo to the sweet, tangy pineapple habenero. They offer a full cantina and patio seating, as well as indoor booths and tables. Owner/chef John Conley sells a cookbook featuring the recipes served at Salsa Brava. The menu features lots of Arizona twists on seafood—from Baja fish tacos to lobster and shrimp enchiladas—as well as traditional fare, such as carnitas and fajitas, and even Navajo tacos on fry bread. Our favorite dish is the signature chicken stuffed sopapilla. This is a carb-filled, verde sauce-smothered gigantic delight the size of a football, best described as Navajo taco meets smothered burrito.

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Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Cafe

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
Beaver Street Brewery captures the essence of Flagstaff. It’s relaxed, flavorful, something you can always count on enjoying and, well, it feels special. This popular joint for locals and visitors serves up award-winning microbrews that are so popular the owners just opened The Lumberyard Brewing Company Taproom and Grille down the street to make, bottle and serve even more of their brews. Be sure to try the Hefeweizen, a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival. On the grub side, the Beaver Street Burger, Margarita Chicken sandwich, BBQ Chicken wood-fired pizza and salads with house-made dressings are all can’t-miss selections. On the dessert front, the Apple Ginger Stout Cake made with Beaver Street’s own R&R Oatmeal stout is a must to top off your pleasurable experience.

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Fratelli Pizza

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
From simple to extravagant, Fratelli has a pizza for everyone. This family-friendly joint with two locations has comfy booths to sit back and relax in—perfect for planning out your next adventure. They have slice and salad specials (opt for the pesto pizza slice and salad with some of the best ranch dressing in town) perfect for one person. You won’t go wrong with one of Fratelli’s meal deals, like their Lumberjack Special, which includes an order of breadsticks with dipping sauce (get ranch), a 14-inch one-topping pizza and two beverages for about $16 with tax. You also can find calzones, wings, beer and plasma HDTVs with sports always on at Fratelli. Both locations offer delivery service.

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Las Gorditas

Neighborhood: East/4th Street Price: Budget
Las Gorditas is a small family-owned restaurant off the beaten path in a standard shopping center with anything but standard food at bargain prices, like two mouthwatering cheese enchiladas with fluffy rice and flavorful beans for $4.99. You’ll find Jalisco-style Mexican food here. All of the recipes come from Mom Santana or have been passed down for generations in her family. Las Gorditas’ fresh salsa bar is different from what you’ll find anywhere else, featuring a salsa verde so good you could drink it, as well as a guacamole-type salsa that is an avocado infused delight. The gorditas are another one to try here.
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