Flagstaff is a place filled with casual spots to grab a bite; there’s an ease to eating in this town that doesn’t exist just anywhere. Luckily that ease extends into the local fine dining scene, too. There’s no pressure—a person can throw on something nice but comfortable, or can dress to the nines. Either way, there’s room to make the night yours. The following restaurants are a luxurious but approachable way to enjoy the finer side of Flag.
Josephine’s Modern American Bistro
Tony Cosentino is the chef and owner of Josephine’s Modern American Bistro. His restaurant, just a stone’s throw north of historic downtown Flagstaff, serves up a combination of artful plating and ingredients that make for a menu as varied as it is tasty. Located in an old craftsman bungalow listed on the National Historic Register, Josephine’s is a space replete with soft lighting, cozy fireplaces lit in the winter and a lush, verdant patio that’s perfect for the warmer months of the year. All Josephine’s orders can be paired with a bottle of wine from its long list of whites and reds, which has been featured on the Spectator’s Award of Excellence for six years in a row. We recommend going to Josephine’s for brunch—try the Village Baker brioche French toast, made with local bread, or the crab cakes topped with two poached eggs. Perhaps a dinner under the northern Arizona stars is more your cup of tea, in which case the pancetta and kumquat vinaigrette salad or the Antioch smoked pork osso buco might be the way to go. The latter, a smoked pork shank served with green chili polenta and steamed baby vegetables is a surefire palette pleaser. And by no means should you pass the cocktail menu by.
Located south of the train tracks, Tinderbox is an elegant windowed space in which the food is equal to the luxurious interior. Tinderbox boasts dedicated and studied Chef Mike Schmitz, who also determines the culinary day-to-day of Annex Cocktail Lounge and Tourist Home next door. The thing about Tinderbox is it’s hip and modern, but not to the extent that it is unapproachable. Creative appetizers and a long drink menu greet customers with entrees including duck leg confit and the famous bison burgers, keeping people coming back for more. Add smoked Gouda grits, blistered green beans and crispy coconut shrimp to that list. Tinderbox can’t be discussed without mention of its patio, perhaps one of the most comfortable and unique in town. Recently renovated, it’s a space shared by Annex Cocktail Lounge and Tourist Home and juts up against the beautiful ruins of a ball court, built and used by the Basque sheepherders that migrated to Flagstaff in the 1800s. Tinderbox is a space surrounded by history, all of which can be taken in with a smooth swig of an artisan cocktail, an exotic whisky or a local beer. Tinderbox is a must-see stop on a trip through town.
Formerly known as The Cottage Place, this small French farm bistro-inspired dining spot has been in Flagstaff for as long as some locals can remember. It has undergone ownership changes in recent years, but Scott Heinonen has kept things steadily growing since he took over in 2017. In fact, just a couple months ago, The Cottage added The Bad Rooster cocktail lounge, once again upping the game with drink selections that pair nicely with a menu known for its creativity. The Cottage itself has a knack for elegant entrees, like its smoked duck breast with bacon-lentil ragout and mustard vinaigrette or its steak au poivre with pomme puree, haricots verts and cottage steak sauce, but Heinonen also feels Flagstaff dining culture lends itself to something a little more relaxed. Luckily, The Cottage offers customers both. The Flagstaff scene is what you make it and a place like The Cottage can set the scene for an elegant night out, or more of a low key evening, whichever best suits one’s mood.
Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar
Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar in Flagstaff prides itself on many things, and for good reason. All its food is locally farmed, sustainable and organic, and it comes from growers and farmers across Arizona and the Four Corners region. The restaurant has more than 150 wines on its wine list. Conde Nast named it one of the top 95 restaurants in the entire world. Need we say more? The Brix menu has been perfected over the years, with a steady selection of innovative and, as Conde Nast put it, seductive dishes. Among popular selections are the steamed mussels, in white wine with Calabrese sausage, shallots, garlic and fennel. Add the Pannisse Cake to that list, too, a delicate layering of king trumpet mushroom, grilled asparagus, roasted onion agrodolce, pickled ramp and cashews. Brix appetizers are the best way to get your night there started; try the cheese and local bread boards, or the olives, which Brix sources down south in Queen Creek. But don’t stop there, because there’s so much more. Round out the food with a nice drink. The Bartender’s Choice cocktail rewards with a surprise at whims of highly capable and studied bar tenders, who will tailor-make something guaranteed to be delicious. Or go with a classic, an old fashioned, or “A Perfect Manhattan,” which the restaurant lays claim to in those exact words. Brix, like Josephine’s, is located in an historic building, a former brick carriage house—hence the name.
Silver Pine is a new player on the Flagstaff culinary scene. Its host building, on the other hand, is not. Located in the Little America Hotel, which has been a mainstay in Flagstaff since it first opened in 1973, Silver Pine is the recently revamped, retrofitted version of the restaurant that came before it. The renovation to the hotel—focusing largely on its lobby and rooms—rendered the restaurant’s space almost unrecognizable, opening it up to the bright high-elevation sunlight and upping the quality of its menu by leaps and bounds. (Though the former menu was already good to begin with.) The Little America Turkey Plate is a comfort meal that will transport you to perhaps the most delicious holiday, and it’ll do so year round. This Thanksgiving-inspired dish features rosemary brined and roasted turkey breast with whipped potatoes and green beans, all topped with apple cider gravy. There’s also a New York Strip steak or a Flatiron Steak to choose from—the latter is topped in gorgonzola butter and a luscious cabernet sauce. Tacos and other smaller dishes are also on the Silver Pine offerings in case an entire steak feels too daunting. Each day of the week has customized dinner options. Monday is burger night and diners can find fresh caught Idaho trout on the menu every Wednesday. Finally, Silver Pine is also known for its buffets: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all covered, as is breakfast, which sits at a reasonable $16 a person. Perhaps rent a room at Little America while you’re at it. It’s worth the stay and the slice of Flagstaff history offers plenty to be discovered by locals and visitors alike.