On a warm night, locals and visitors gather at Brix, a restaurant housed in an early 20th-century brick carriage house. Some congregate around the long, sleek, candlelit bar, contemplating pinot noir and cabernet selections, along with cheeses such as Black Mesa Ranch chèvre or French Morbier. Others drift out to the patio, settling down for full dinners, like the Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons, the lamb shank with flageolet beans and wilted mustard greens or other seasonal entrees. Then there’s the handful who come for dessert – maybe the lemon tart with candied kumquats.

Think you’re in San Francisco or, perhaps, Santa Fe? Think again. Welcome to Flagstaff’s new dining scene.

Flagstaff Bistros – Sophisticated, but not Stuffy

In Flagstaff, sophisticated doesn’t mean stuffy. At Josephine’s Modern American Bistro, not far from Brix in downtown’s historic district, you can savor pork with mole sauce or ancho-marinated sirloin cozied up next to an indoor fireplace or on the expansive porch of this restored 1911 Craftsman-style bungalow. Also downtown, Pasto offers up gnocchi in oxtail ragu in a historic brick storefront, where hiking and ski boots are always welcome. Just south of downtown, closer to the university, The Cottage Place Restaurant serves up vintage charm, gorgonzola-encrusted tenderloin and regularly scheduled cooking classes.

Pubs 'n' Such – College Faves 

Speaking of classes, Northern Arizona University students, faculty and staff have their own favorite food hangouts. Try Beaver Street Brewery for pale ales and wood-fired pizzas, Macy’s European Coffee House for lattés, impressively sized pastries and the latest local concert or lecture updates. Go into a downtown basement for Big Foot Bar-B-Q’s pulled-pork or “veggie-que” vegan sandwiches.

Outstanding & Out of Town

Want to get out of downtown Flagstaff? Head further afield for classic steakhouses and a grill. On your way to Sunset Crater, fill up on chicken-fried steak, rib eye or stuffed trout at The Horsemen Lodge. Southeast of town, Mormon Lake Lodge Steakhouse cooks its steaks in an open pit and serves them up with a side of cowboy skits, music and poetry during the summer months. Jackson’s Grill at the Springs, on the road to Sedona, does spit-roasted entrées in view of a pasture at the edge of the pine forest.  

Flagstaff Diners – Old School Cool

While the operative word of Flagstaff’s new dining scene is sophisticated, don’t overlook the city’s diner roots. Along old Route 66, try Galaxy Diner for fifties-themed fun, fountain drinks, car shows and swing dancing. The Downtown Diner is a magnet for milkshakes, burgers and, its best-known dish, alderwood-smoked trout.

Finally, don’t leave town without trying Northern Arizona’s signature dish, the Navajo taco. It’s a hot, pillowy circle of traditional fry bread, piled high with pinto beans, meat, cheese and other ingredients – and usually large enough to be shared. Find it on the menu at Charly’s Pub and Grill, located in downtown’s circa-1897 Weatherford Hotel, or at Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill, on the city’s east side.  

Bottom line: The next time you visit Flagstaff for its attractions and outdoors, be prepared to add culinary adventures to your list.