In the past five years, Flagstaff, Arizona, has undergone a culinary revolution. For years, restaurants in the mountain town and endurance athlete mecca catered to tourists, and the city suffered from what some might call “The Cheesecake Factory Effect”—massive menus that included everything from burgers and pizza to tacos and seafood pasta, a classic quantity-over-quality dilemma.
But no more. “There’s been a lot more specialization happening,” says Caleb Schiff, a longtime Flagstaff resident and owner of Pizzicletta, a local pizza joint. “Restaurants are really minimizing their menus and focusing on doing those things really well. It’s elevated the whole scene.” Now, walking through downtown Flagstaff, you have to choose whether you want authentic Mexican, high-end steaks, wood-fired pizza, or true Italian-style pasta.
With so many new spots to eat—including a whole new foodie section of town called the South Side—we hit up local guide Rob Krar, who hosts out-of-towners at his ultrarunning camps, to show us around. After waking up at 5 a.m. and running two laps of “the mountain,” a loop around the Arizona Snow Bowl, here’s how Krar refuels and relaxes.
Breakfast: MartAnne’s Burrito Palace
“I only hit this place after a big morning on the mountain, because the portions are huge,” Krar says of this downtown institution on Historic Route 66. But if you’ve earned it, he recommends the chilaquiles done “Christmas style.” The dish is essentially scrambled eggs meets nachos, with seared tortillas topped with eggs, cheese, beans, and rice and finished with ladles of red and green chile. The coffee is good, too.
Groceries: The Flagstaff Farmer’s Market
The market happens every Sunday and every second Saturday at City Hall. “The best time to go is chile-roasting season. The smell of the freshly roasted chiles wafts throughout the market, and you have your choice of spicy or sweet to take home and enjoy.”
Lunch: Tourist Home Urban Market
If you find yourself hungry at noon, roll south across the railroad tracks to Tourist Home, a vegetarian-friendly spot in a beautifully restored historic building. Krar often orders a veggie burger but says you can’t go wrong with the fresh salads, creative hashes, hearty burritos, or scratch-made doughnuts and pastries.
Afternoon Snack: Macy’s Coffee
Drop by this artsy coffeehouse if you want a great cup of joe and the chance to run into a local Olympic hopeful. (Krar’s not sure why runners are always at Macy’s, but it’s probably because everyone’s always at Macy’s.) He orders a Café Viennese, a luscious cappuccino topped with cinnamon, clove, and all-spice-spiked whipped cream.
Krar’s favorite pie, the SS-145, is named for the road in Italy where the restaurant owner had a bike-ride-induced epiphany to open this wood-fired pizza joint. Krar says the 145’s combination of gorgonzola, charred kale, and lemon juice atop a perfectly charred crust is a masterpiece you won’t soon forget.
Drinks: Wanderlust Brewing Co.
You’ll need to drive or hop on a bus to get from dinner to this microbrewery, but the trek is worth it. The 928 Local, a farmhouse ale with American and Czech hops, local wild yeast, and a touch of honey from a nearby beekeeper is Krar’s favorite pint, but for those craving something darker, the vanilla coffee stout practically counts as dessert.
Nightcap: The Annex Cocktail Lounge
If tomorrow’s a rest day, stay out late and sink into a plush couch at this friendly cocktail bar while the bartender mixes you a Turmeric Tonic or Peach Julep. If, for some bizarre reason, you are still hungry, the Annex shares a kitchen with Tinderbox, one of Flagstaff’s most critically acclaimed restaurants, meaning its bar fare is spectacular.