April 28, 2009

Best restaurant patios in the Flagstaff area

Best Patios
By Angele Sionna

The weather’s warming up, so take advantage of the beautiful Flagstaff fresh air. Sit under the big blue sky, kick back and relax. There are several spots in Flagstaff to do just that. Here’s a look at the best of the best that add the inviting ambiance of our town.

Café Ole
119 S San Francisco

Tranquil and whimsical. That’s the feeling you’ll get on the courtyard-like patio tucked in the back of Café Ole. This isn’t the biggest or fanciest patio in town, but it’s a favorite of almost everyone who’s been there with its brick floor, large fountain and Mexican pottery and trinkets that add color here and there. The sun warms the area but it never seems hot or too sunny, just comfortable. Turn up the enjoyment with one of their special drinks like blueberry mojitos and pomegranate margaritas. The food is good too. I rec the “make your own combo” platter with 2 cheese enchiladas and a guacamole taco.

Josephine’s American Bistro
503 N. Humphrey’s Street

Josephine’s patio is alluring even from the street. It’s big umbrellas and stone floor surrounded by a rock wall and flowery garden make this a great place to relax and kick back for a nice lunch or dinner. I particularly like lunch here on a warm spring day. My fav to order: the pecan encrusted fish tacos, when that’s on the menu. Josephine does change their menu seasonally, so be sure to check josephinesrestaurant.com to see what they’re serving up right now.

Ski Lift Lodge Restaurant
6355 N Highway 180 (at the base of Snowbowl Road)

Homey is the perfect description of the patio at the Ski Lift Lodge Restaurant. It’s anything but fancy with its plastic tables and chairs. But sitting here on their patio feels timeless. It’s only seven miles north of downtown, but you feel like you’re sitting at a small countryside diner, relaxing in the sun. They’ve got several good beers on tap that add to the experience. The menu has such items as Volcano Caps (which are beer battered fried jalapeño rings), chicken fried steak, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, even a kids menu. Plus daily specials. You can check out the details at arizonasnowbowl.com/lodging.

Flagstaff Brewing Co.
16 E. Rte. 66 (Downtown)

Flagstaff Brewing Company is the patio for people watching. It’s out in front of the pub’s entrance looking onto a busy little area of downtown. A hot spot in town, Flag Brew’s on tap especially made microbrews and Stink Burger (topped with roasted garlic, swiss cheese and an onion ring) are among their most popular items.

Hotel Weatherford
23 N. Leroux Street

If you’re looking for a beer with a view, you’re going to want to check out The Weatherford’s upstairs bar with its own balcony. They’ve got several beers on tap, plus lots of other tasty beverages. But best yet, it’s a great place to sit and watch all the folks walking around downtown. Maybe you’ll meet some of the hotels famous ghosts while you’re there too.

Junipine Cafe
8351 N. Hwy 89A, in Oak Creek Canyon

While not technically in Flagstaff, on a nice day a drive down through Oak Creek Canyon can be enjoyable on its own. Top that off with a visit to the Junipine Café at the Junipine Lodge. About 20 minutes outside of Flag (10 before you get to Sedona), the open spacious decked patio at the Junipine Café is a great spot to sit an enjoy canyon views, catch some rays and eat one of their signature fish dishes, including some featuring locally caught trout.

(Note: This article first appeared in Flagstaff Live! - written by me too.)

April 23, 2009

Del Rio Delicatessen in Flagstaff, Arizona

  • Del Rio Delicatessen
  • 117 S San Fransisco, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Call 928-637-6431 to find out soup of the day, etc

After what I'm told was years of requests, an old menu from a little local sandwich spot is back in town on South San Fransisco. This time it's at Del Rio Delicatessen, which I'm told Flagstaff old timers will remember many of the featured items that used to be at the Czech Mamushkas,  located on the same street 18 years before.
Del Rio has been open for a few weeks now next to Cafe Ole, just south of the tracks downtown. The owners of Del Rio used to own Cafe Ole until recently. And when the tenant at the deli's current spot went under they decided to open Del Rio in its spot, because they own the building.
This little joint is decorated quite nicely, especially for tourists who want to get a classic old west feel. Del Rio has old west TV posters on the wall and music playing. The menu is simply written on a wipe off board on the wall. The items are simple choices as well: a soup of the day, a few sandwiches and two salads. Sides consist of garlic bread, chips and what they call french potato salad (which is pretty much regular potato salad but with carrots diced up in it). No fountain drinks here- just canned sodas (over priced at a buck and a half each- yikes), bottled juice and iced tea.
On this visit, we tried a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, which comes with a few pieces of garlic bread for $5. It was okay but disappointingly not hot, just warm. Flavor was nothing to write home about. Much more like a tomato soup with some southwestern spices and corn tossed in.
We also got the Rubenesque sandwich, priced at $8. It was a small sandwich of average taste for a Reuben. The meat was sliced way too thick and the dressing tasted like generic bottled dressing. For eight bucks this thing should have been bigger or come with something besides a condiment bowl-sized serving of lackluster slaw. At least a few chips or something but nope. It would have been fine for a five buck sandwich but at eight bucks, I'll pass.
There's nothing for little kids here- no half sandwiches or even a cup of soup. You an only get a cup of soup as an added side of three bucks with your sandwich purchase. So if you get a sandwich, that might be an option. We went with a side of the potato salad for $2.25 for my three year old. She didn't want it, though it tasted pretty good. But again a really really small serving for the price.
All in all, I really wanted to like Del Rio. If they lower their prices, then I'd give them another shot. Otherwise, there's better places where you get better food and more of it for these prices.

April 10, 2009

Big John's Texas BBQ

By Angele Sionna

  • 1740 E Rte 66 (just east of Enterprise)

  • call ahead for hours or catering at 928-699-2707

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>= a favorite, can count on it being good every time

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
x= if the food’s good enough, still worth going, otherwise forget it

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$                    under $10

Value (what you get for your money)
**** = worth it – you won’t be disappointed with what you get for your money

You may (or may not) have seen a long black trailer with a big black smoker at one end of it on Route 66. That is all there is to Big John's Texas BBQ. Inside is a tasty treat for barbeque lovers... and I'm talking real BBQ. The kind that doesn't need any sauce to taste good. A real rarity in these parts.

We drove by and talked with John about his movable roadside joint. He's there every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Unless there's high winds like last week, then he might be there on Sunday too. We only had a sample because we'd already had dinner, but my goodness. It was good. Smokey meat that's been cooked the right way. I can't wait for Thursday to come around already.

The menu is simple - beef brisket and pulled pork by the pound or on a sandwich and ribs with beans and potato salad sides. And let's not forget real southern sweet tea. Mmmmmm. The menu has sandwich plates for $8 and brisket/pork by the pound for $12/pound. Stay tuned for a full report!


[caption id="" align="alignright" width="307" caption="A pound of the BBQ brisket"][/caption]

Big John's is as good as that sample! We went for lunch this week (at 11 am on Thursday, to be precise!) and stood in line for about 10 minutes for our pound of brisket and side of potato salad. Both were good, definitely the best in Flagstaff. The brisket is shredded, not sliced, unfortunately. But super tender and full of flavor. You can tell Big John doesn't rush his meat. You can taste the hickory smoked goodness in every bite and the smell... mmmm. It's good stuff. Big John's sauce is a bit watery but the taste is there. The potato salad is classic. A single side is $2 and is enough for two people. Unlike most Texas BBQ joints though, there's no sliced bread or pickles served along with by the pound meat here. Luckily the meat is great so I'm going to let that slide and it won't keep my family away.

I'd recommend packing a full picnic basket, stopping by to pick up your BBQ from Big Johns and heading to a local park, unless you live around the corner. That way it'll still be hot and fresh when you eat it! Perfect for a spring or summer day. I just wish Big John's was open every day so that if I get the craving for good BBQ in town, I'd be able to get it every day. Here's hoping Big John's is a success and can expand soon.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="446" caption="Big John's Potato Salad"]Big Johns Potato Salad[/caption]

April 6, 2009

Ay Caray! Mexican Grill

By Angele Sionna

  • 1300 S Milton Rd (next to Picazzos), Flagstaff, AZ

  • No menu online, but they have to go menus with coupons on their counter (run in and check it out before sitting down to order!)

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>= a favorite, can count on it being good every time

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxx= good but could be improved

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$                    under $10

Value (what you get for your money)
**** = worth it – you won’t be disappointed with what you get for your money

Ay Caray!, formerly known as Ay Carrumba! (they had to change their name the owner tells me because Ay Carumba was trademarked and they had to change it), is a surpring little find in a strip mall along Flagstaff's man drag. Next to Picazzos and August Moon, sits this little gem with super friendly service and fantastic food. Don't mistake this little joint for some of the other taqueria-type places in town. It has several tables and the owner waits on you himself. He's great at check on you ad your satisfaction and about making sure your drinks are filled up. It's nothing fancy, but feels relaxing.

The menu's pretty simple - tacos, enchiladas, tamales, tortas plus some salads and soups - all of which is freshly made, including the chips nad salsa. I knew it was going to be a great meal as soon as I took my first bite into their chips. So good and so fresh. These could quite possibly be the best in town. The salsa is spicy and flavorful but doesn't burn the tongue.

For my lunch today I ordered up a chicken and guacamole taco ($2.50) and a green chile chicken tamale ($2). Both were good but the taco was outstanding. The chicken isn't dry and stringy like at a lot of other joints in town. And its flavored well. It's served in a double corn tortillas. Yum. The tamale is a different type than I've had before. The masa is much more fluffy than most, but the taste was decent and fresh. Though after eating the fantastic taco, I wish I'd just ordered two of those. My husband has the asada enchiladas. Unlike most enchiladas, there was barely any cheese inside (if any) and were stuffed with grilled beef and cheese on top. His came with sour cream, guac, rice and beans, all of which were quite tasty and plentiful. I always like it when places don't go crazy on their upcharge of guac. It's not *that* expensive to make fresh, so the fact that it just comes with the tacos and enchiladas was a great surprise and on top of that it tasted fab to boot!

Mexican joints are not a place I think of when I think great deserts, but Ay Caray's flan is excellent. If you ask, they'll let you sample the differnt flans of the day. Today I tried the plain and the coffee. The coffee I must recommend. It was smooth and flavorful, and let's not forget sweet and rich. The presentation was nice too - served on a plate with chocolate drizled across it and a cherry sliced into a flower on top. I'll be getting that again.
All the food here tastes like the chef back in the kitchen really cares. That is the sign of a fabulous restaurant, no matter how simple and small. I think I've found my new favorite Mexican food in Flagstaff!

April 5, 2009

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill

sdc15127By Angele Sionna

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>= good, but not great

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxxx= comfortable

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$                 $10

Value (what you get for your money)
*** = fair -you get what you pay for, not in a bad way

If you're not careful, you may pass by Salsa Brava without even noticing. (I do this accidentally almost every time we go there). In a nondescript orangey colored building built right on top of the sidewalk on Route 66, sits Salsa Brava. (Find out about Salsa Brava being featured on The Food Network HERE.)

This is the place to go in town if salsa is your thing. They have a salsa bar with lots of great choices from the mild but flavorful pico de gallo plus a hot salsa (which is like many regular salsas) plus a tangy tomatillo salsa verde, and the sweet with a spicy backlash pineapple habanero salsa. All are good and none give more fire than a trained mouth can handle. You really could just eat salsa and chips here with a margarita and go home happy.sdc15119

The menu features everything from quesadillas and fajitas to more unique offerings like a lobster/shrimp enchiladas, Maui Tacos, and stuffed sopapillas. They have lots of seafood items which is a nice twist combining some of the Arizona style Mexican flavors with Baja style. There's definitely something for everyone. Even the kiddos - with a $4.95 kids menu, including a drink, with items like a cheese enchilada or a build your own burrito.

I got the chicken stuffed sopapilla on my visit tonight topped with the green chile enchilada sauce. The menu says spicy but it's not really. It's gigantic and best described as a Navajo taco meets smothered burrito. All in all pretty good and very carby and filling. Something you need to be in the mood for for sure cause this one's gonna stay with you all day or night.sdc15126

On this trip, my husband got the steak fajitas. Not a generous portion, so they definitely aren't for splitting, and they only come with two tortillas. You can get two extras for 50 more cents). The meat is tender. Though I would say it needs a bit more saltiness if you eat it on its own but tastes pretty good with all the fajitas fixings.

One weird thing about the menu - they have what they call signature black beans, but they're not served with any of the entrees. You have to add them for 50 cents extra. Kind of a weird thing when it's their signature item I think.

Salsa Brava is worth a visit for sure and among Flagstaff's best Mexican restaurants.

Salsa Brava's Chicken Stuffed Sopapillas

The Food Network recently featured Flagstaff's Salsa Brava in the opening segment of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' Route 66 tour. They also included a how-to make Salsa Brava's signature chicken stuffed sopapillas. Yum! Check out the episode HERE. More about Salsa Brave HERE.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is also featuring Flagstaff's Brandy's in this week's episode of the show. You'll be able to see that HERE or catch the show tomorrow night at 7. It replays Mondays at 10pm and 10:30pm, Fridays at 9pm and 9:30pm and Sundays at 3pm and 3:30pm. More about Brandy's HERE.

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