In early October, the less-than-two-years-old Diablo Burger gained national attention when USA Today named it the best burger joint in Arizona in its list of the 51 great burger joints in the country — every state plus Washington, D.C.

But the establishment that touts its locally grown beef from nearby Diablo Trust lands did not necessarily need the publicity. The place has been hopping since it opened March 2009 in the silo of Old Town Shops adjacent to Heritage Square.

Now that Arizona Daily Sun readers have named it Best Burger and Best Fries as part of the Best of Flag voting this year, Diablo Burger can add a few more accolades to the running list. And, the staff are excited to be selected by area residents. “Since our motto is ‘all about local,’ being named Best of Flagstaff truly does mean the world to us,” owner Derrick Widmark shared. “Thank you, Flagstaff.”

Diablo Burger entered into two big categories with stiff competition. From the long-time establishments with ties to Route 66 to the bars and restaurants who strive to make a perfect, mouthwatering burger. But what makes their burgers so good is no big secret.

“People sometimes ask us what the ‘secret ingredient’ in our burgers is, why they taste so fresh and so different from other burgers,” Widmark noted. “Truth is, we just add a little salt and pepper and do our best to cook them just right. Every one of our burgers is made from 100 percent local, open range, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from the two ranches that started the Diablo Trust: the Bar T Bar and the Flying M.  So what really makes these burgers standouts is the care and hard work that these ranches, for generations now, have put into breeding, planned grazing, and the active environmental stewardship of this 426,000-acre land area just outside of Flagstaff.”

He added, “Looking at it from a conservation perspective, this is landscape-scale environmental stewardship where you can taste the difference.”

Beyond the great meat that goes into the great burgers, Diablo Burger also goes the simple and pure route with its oh-so-perfect complimentary side. “As for the fries—or Belgian-style frites as we call them at DB—we’re just doing it the old-fashioned way: starting with whole potatoes and double-frying in dedicated peanut oil, seasoned with herbs de provence, tossed with love and served fresh.”

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The burgers and the fries turned into overnight celebrities of sorts when the USA Today article featuring Diablo Burger came out. It was recommended by TV personality Robin Sewell, executive producer and host of Arizona Highways Television. And, some people hit the highway to find Diablo.

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“The impact of that article was completely unexpected and quite stunning,” Widmark explained. “Every day, people came in with stories of how they re-planned their cross-country trip, or detoured, drove here from Phoenix, Tucson, Vegas or wherever, or pulled off Interstate 40 because of that article, just to try our burgers.”

He noted, “And we’re still seeing the impact of it, two months later. Like our ‘Best of Flagstaff’ award, it is a testament to the ranchers and farmers whose products we carry, and to the Flagstaff community that has supported us from day one and that was responsible for getting the word out about our little burger joint. That truly is the foundation of it all.”

As for the future of Diablo Burger, they plan to continue creating great food that meets all of their standards. They recently added an all-local veggie burger to the menu and there is talk of a second location. But Flagstaff might have to share.

“We are … currently exploring opening a second Diablo Burger in Phoenix—which, for the record, would be consistent with our 250-mile radius definition of local food, Widmark shared. “Diablo Trust and the two ranches are in fact developing a ‘Taste of the Range’ festival that would feature different cuts and different ways of preparing this beef, beyond burgers, with the participation of chefs from throughout the region. That could be a great annual event for Flagstaff and the Diablo Trust, so I'm really hoping that we can pull it off.”

-Seth Muller AZ Daily Sun 

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