You already know Flagstaff as a great place to take a hike and grab a craft brew (a Tower Station IPA at Mother Road’s Downtown Brewery, yes, please). But in the past few years, the mountain town has been growing a strong food scene, adding chic cafes and chef-owned eateries alongside impressive ethnic eats and burger joints. There are plenty of egg-and-bacon breakfast joints to fuel your day, plus to-die-for donuts, inspired pizza, and tasting menus that will take you places. So pack your hiking shoes and your appetite and get ready to taste some of the best foods Flagstaff has to offer.
Made-to-order burger at Diablo Burger
120 North Leroux Street, Flagstaff
Everything at Diablo Burger is elevated. The substantial 6-ounce patties, made from 100 percent grass-fed beef raised on northern Arizona ranches, are grilled to order. Toppers come courtesy of local farmers and cheese-makers. And innovative combos — the Db House comes with blackening spice, chimichurri and an over-easy fried egg — are served on English muffins branded with “db” instead of boring buns. Burgers are big enough to share and come with a side of insanely delicious Belgian-style fries, from whole potatoes double-fried in peanut oil and seasoned with herbs de provence. Wash it down with a local beer on the shaded patio.
French Cruller at Tourist Home All Day Café
52 South San Francisco Street, Flagstaff
The best time of day to head to Tourist Home All Day Cafe is at 6 am, when trays of freshly fried glorious French crushers hit the pastry display. More than mere donuts, these glazed darlings are creviced and irresistibly crispy on the outside, their spiraling ridges glistening in a glazy haze, and pillowy perfect on the inside, impossibly light and pocketed with airy holes. No wonder they sell out daily, especially on weekends. This popular breakfast and lunch joint also serves up superior salads, sandwiches, and eggy delights, not to mention a cinnamon-dusted churro cruller, but it’s their OG French cruller that rises above.
Pizza at Pizzicletta
203 West Phoenix Avenue, Flagstaff
Picking the best pizza at Pizzicletta is like choosing your favorite child. There’s the take-charge Carne Dolce, a confident mix of house-made mozzarella, mascarpone, and spicy sausage with a sweet kiss of local honey and sage. There’s the diplomatic Margherita, a blend of Bianco DiNapoli tomato sauce, house mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. And there’s the attention-seeking SS-145, a glorious blend of gorgonzola, almonds, kale, and lemon juice as unique as its name. All the pies are perfectly executed, the naturally leavened dough beautifully charred in a wood-fire oven hand-built in Naples. The buzzy vibe of the cramped yet cozy interior and patio only add to the experience.
Tokyo Roll at Red Curry Vegan Kitchen
10 North San Francisco Street, Flagstaff
Red Curry Vegan Kitchen proves you don’t need fish sauce for larb, you don’t need eggs for pad thai, you don’t need sashimi for sushi, and you don’t need crispy pork, period. Founder and chef Suchhada Tirakul whips up traditional Thai and Japanese dishes, all 100 percent vegan, yet everything is smacked with the same sweet-spicy-sour-sassy flavor you expect. Start with the Tokyo Roll, six seaweed-wrapped rolls of brown rice, avocado, carrot, cucumber, and sunflower sprouts topped with a spicy quinoa roe served with gluten-free soy-ginger ponzu sauce and you’ll wonder why seafood was ever invited to the party.
Dinner at Shift Kitchen + Bar
107 North San Francisco Street
The seasonal menu at Shift changes regularly, but there are a few things you can count on. The best seat in the house is the Chef’s Counter, a seven-seat stretch that gives you a front-row to pastry chef-owner Dara Wong and her crew in action. You can’t go wrong with shared small plates, say a mix of blistered shishito peppers, duck liver pate, and the absolutely must-order pickled fresh fries, but the same can be said for the Chef’s Tasting Menu ($70 per person), a revelatory experience that takes you on a four-course taste journey. And no skipping dessert, whether it’s jalapeno cheesecake with cheddar crumble or a pink peppercorn pavlova, you’re in for more than a treat.
Blackened Catfish Style PoBoy at Satchmo’s Cajun & BBQ
2320 North 4th Street, Flagstaff
The blackened catfish po’boy at Satchmo’s starts with the seasoning, a hand-blended combo of seven herbs and spices, including cayenne, white and black peppers. The fish is then cooked in a cast-iron pan pre-heated to 500 degrees and finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Then, on goes their crunchy, vinegar-based coleslaw, smoky remoulade, and sliced tomato on a toasted bun. “The combination of blackening seasonings, acid, and creamy sauce results in a perfectly balanced flavor explosion in your face,” says owner-operator Jamie Thousand. The counter-service Cajun-Creole-barbecue joint also serves up impressive barbecued ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, jambalaya and house-seasoned tots – so basically everything on the menu.
Chilaquiles at MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace
112 East Route 66, Flagstaff
In case you were wondering, family-owned Flagstaff favorite MartAnne’s is “The House that Chilaquiles Built.” It’s declared on the front door, on the art-adorned walls, and on the all-day breakfast menu – and it’s not just an empty brag. The legendary plate is layered with scrambled eggs, cheese, onions, and either green tomatillo or red chile sauce, plus fried corn tortillas. Or step it up with JB’s Volcano which adds pork green chile and an over medium egg to the mountainous mix. Either way, you’ll sop it up every gooey bite for a full belly that’ll last well past lunch.
Mama Burger at Mama Burger
991 North Fort Valley Road, Flagstaff
The namesake burger and most popular menu item at Mama Burger is no wuss. It stacks house sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, American cheese and pickles on an angus patty cooked on a flat-top griddle for only $5.25. Or step it up with The MOAB, a two-patty, green chili, bacon-topped behemoth that includes fries (yes, on your burger) for $3 more. Can’t-beat prices paired with the throwback diner taste — add a malt milkshake for the full monte — it’s no wonder the drive-through lane often stretches out to the street.
Giant Cinnamon Roll at The Toasted Owl Cafe
12 South Mikes Pike Street, Flagstaff
Toasted Owl has more than one menu standout. The brunch hot spot with the packed patio and thrift store-like interior serves up big fat French toast, loaded omelets, crispy house potatoes, vegan burritos, endless coffee and $3 mimosas, but as one waiter puts it: “If you come to Toasted Owl and don’t eat a cinnamon roll, you didn’t really come to Toasted Owl.” Puttied with a generous globe of glaze that melts down into the mammoth bun when heated up, the robust cinnamony-sweet roll, which is called “Giant” for a reason, is the ultimate coil of comfort to cap any meal.
Evil Jungle Princess at Dara Thai
14 South San Francisco Street, Flagstaff
Dara Thai has plenty of the usual suspects on its 100-plus item menu. You’ll cruise past papaya salad, spring rolls, and pad thai until you hit the Evil Jungle Princess. Ominous in name and description, the seemingly simple bowl of chicken stir-fried in coconut milk, lemongrass and mushrooms (sub beef, pork, tofu, or even broccoli for chicken) is swimming in a deep and delicious broth spiced with a secret Thai blend that’s sweet, sour, rich, and minty and all at once. Paired with the perfectly cooked rice, your mouth is a sucker for the mystery.