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One of the great joys of a road trip is discovering an unforgettable eatery. So many travel memories are attached to food. It can happen in a fine dining restaurant, a down-home café or a roadside taco stand. Often it’s a combination of everything – ambiance, people and the food – that creates an experience that stays with us. That eatery and meal come to define the entire vacation.
When we travel we want authentic. We don’t want fast food or chain restaurants – the kind of familiar businesses we can find in our own neighborhoods. We want to eat where the locals eat. It’s all about the flavor of the place.
Winemakers have long been aware of terroir. It’s the environmental conditions in which grapes are grown that give a wine its distinctive character. That’s what we seek in our travels.
The culinary scene in Cochise County, one of the most vibrant in the state, vividly reflects its terroir. The geography, climate, diversity of landscape and even the sweeping history all influence the delights that land on our table today.
With a legacy of ranching and farming, the idea of using locally sourced ingredients is not a trendy new wrinkle, but a longstanding tradition in Cochise County. Proximity to the border means visitors will find some of the most delicious Mexican food in the state. And a thriving wine industry means a pairing of good wine and food, which is sure to engage all of the senses.
Explore Foods of the Region
Cochise County offers foodies a wealth of dining opportunities. They are spread throughout an eclectic mix of communities. In Cochise County visitors will discover border towns and artist havens, the Wild West and military outposts, cattle centers and wine regions, all within a short drive of each other. It means even the pickiest eater will find plenty to sink their teeth into here.
Benson serves as the gateway to beautiful Kartchner Caverns, but be sure to stop and grab a bite on your way. You’ll find a blend of Mexican restaurants and Italian eateries here. Bonus: there are so many old-school cafés specializing in down-home cooking that Guy Fieri, the spike-haired host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, could spend a week here bouncing from one to the next. And save room for dessert because an old-fashioned ice cream parlor sits in the middle of downtown.
With its graceful architecture, historic neighborhoods and border setting, Douglas maintains an Old World charm. The town embraces its multi-cultural heritage, and visitors will find excellent Mexican restaurants everywhere they turn. Enjoy an array of eateries, both sit-down restaurants and food trucks. This is where you’ll find authentic south-of-the-border flavors with fluffy tortillas, vivid salsas and carne asada fresh off the grill.
Flanked by the Huachuca Mountains and the San Pedro River, Sierra Vista attracts hikers, bikers and birdwatchers. When outdoor enthusiasts come inside to chow down, they’ll have plenty of options. Nearby Fort Huachuca is home to a large globetrotting population, and the eateries in town reflect just that. Sierra Vista is noted for its slate of international restaurants specializing in German, Japanese, Italian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Seldom do you find so many worldly flavors in a small town.
Walking the wooden sidewalks of Tombstone is like strolling through the pages of history. The air is punctuated by the clip-clop of horses pulling a stagecoach and gunfire echoes from the O.K. Corral. Hungry visitors will find exactly what they hope for in this legendary Western town – lots of swinging-door saloons, restaurants and cafés in historic buildings. Expect tender steaks, juicy burgers and sandwiches piled high, often served in places where the whiskey (and the sarsaparilla) flows freely.
Funky, quirky Bisbee – the mining town turned artist haven – always marches to the beat of its own drummer. The same creative spirit that fills the galleries and shops flows through kitchens as well. Whatever you crave, you’ll find it in Bisbee, from artisan wood-fired pizzas and authentic Chicago-style hot dogs to crunchy salads, complex vegetarian dishes and four-course fine dining, the equal of anything that exist in the big cities.
Willcox has reinvented itself over the last few years and that’s a big win for taste buds. Its reputation as a cattle center is reflected in a collection of steakhouses and barbecue joints. But the explosive growth of the wine industry has expanded the culinary scene. Tasting rooms have opened, many offering delicious artisan cheese platters and a line of tapas. At a time when many Western towns struggle to find their footing, anything seems possible in Willcox.
Cochise County offers epic scenery, a rugged terrain of abrupt mountains rising from broad valleys, deep-cut canyons and cool forests. The vast scope of history permeates the land. This is paradise for hikers and mountain bikers. It’s one of the most important birding areas in the world. Along the way, you’ll eat like royalty. Or better yet, you’ll eat like the locals.
If that doesn’t make you hungry for a road trip, check your pulse. Explore these legendary tastes and more in Cochise County at www.ExploreCochise.com.
(Brought to you by the Cochise County Tourism Council and contributor Roger Naylor, (520) 432-9215, ExploreCochise.com.)