I love Flagstaff. I don’t want you to feel like I’m cramming a bunch of information down your throat, but, well, I am. Last weekend, Jake and me and our buddy Randy headed to Flagstaff. Randy had a softball tournament, but that was really the least of our concerns. We were really there to see the city. And get out of the Phoenix heat. So, similar to my Ignite Phoenix blog post, I’m going to use the item 1, 2, 3, etc, formula and tell you about the heavenly place that is Flagstaff, Arizona.
1) The City. Flagstaff is about three and a half hours north of us, right near the Grand Canyon. It’s a mountain town, famous for its skiing and snowboarding. It’s also a college town. Home to Northern Arizona University, you can smell the college kids and their microbrew hangovers. In fact, Flagstaff felt a helluva lot like Athens, Ohio, where I went to school at Ohio University. It’s hilly. It’s green. The weather is to die for, and the main objective is to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s a lot smaller than I expected. Jake and I drove around the city for about ten minutes, and I had it all figured out. I knew my way around, because like I said, it felt like Athens. And after dealing with the SPRAWL of Phoenix, it felt like home. I didn’t want to leave. I liked the quaintness. I liked the cooler temps and the longed-for greenery. Plus, there’s a train track that runs along the edge of the downtown historic district, and I’ve always found something comforting about the sound of a train whistle.
2) The Food. I’d like to talk about THREE food/drink destinations in Flag.
Late for the Train Cafe. It’s a coffee shop in the historic district on San Francisco Street. It’s tiny inside. There’s not much space for hanging out with your cup o’ Joe. But hell, the coffee is so good, who cares? I ordered the Fireman’s Mocha. There was actually a warning that said the stuff wasn’t kid-safe. So of course, I had to have it. It’s a Habanero Hot Cocoa (cocoa with New Mexico chili spices, vanilla, and almond) with two shots of espresso added. It’s spicy!!!! Spicy coffee??! Superb.
Diablo Burger. Okay, so I found it in the Frommer’s Guide. Don’t judge me. Frommer’s called it “the quintessential hole in the wall.” It was in a strange location, built behind a mural (more on this later) inside a parking garage support column. The sign is simple and small. And the food? You know how when you’re drunk, everything tastes like a gourmet meal? Well, this is the same way, only you don’t have to be drunk. But by the end of the meal, you kind of feel like you are, because you’re so damn happy about life. I wanted to hug the guy behind the bar, who was super cool, by the way. The food is local, and the servers were more like friends than employees. I had The Blake: homemade hatch chile mayo, roasted green chiles, and sharp cheddar. Jake had the Vitamin B: bacon, beet, and blue cheese. Everything is served medium rare, and they even brand their English muffin buns with a “db.” So freakin’ cool. Best burger I’ve had out west.
Pato Thai Restaurant. Best dang Thai food in my life, and I say that with no hesitation. Also located on San Francisco Street (about twenty feet from Late for the Train) is this TREASURE of THAI. At this point on Saturday, we’d been eating all day. I wasn’t that hungry, but I ordered the Pad Thai. Jake ordered curry. The waitress asked about spice level. I said 3 out of 5. Jake said 4 out of 5. Our food was ready within about three minutes, literally. The Pad Thai was filled with flavor, and the 3 level of spice almost put me over the edge. Jake’s level 4 curry, although creamy and rockin’ out with a coconut finish, was HOT HOT HOT! But it was so delicious, I couldn’t stop stealing bites. I was sweating by the end of dinner, and I thought we were going to have to take Jake to the damn hospital. Still, I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve never had Thai food like I had in Flagstaff, Arizona.
3) The Mural, by Joe Sorren, and The Book, by Matthew Henry Hall. So as I mentioned above, Diablo Burger is located behind a mural. (See picture at top.) The mural, even before I fell in love with the restaurant, was love-worthy. It’s weird looking. The people have big heads, and they’re swimming in a Monet-esque swamp setting. It reminded me vaguely of the Tim Burton version of James and the Giant Peach. But I didn’t understand it. I stared at it for awhile. Being a writer, I came up with some fun stories of my own, but I still wanted to know more. So when we headed to Diablo Burger, I asked the owner man to tell me about the mural. He handed me a children’s book, and well … The book is called The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux. It’s a fictional account of Effie’s life, and as muralist Joe Sorren admits in the intro, the book followed the mural, not the other way around. The story in the book is a strange one, about a liberal young woman, fighting for female sexuality and rights in the early 1900s. The book does not give away much; it leaves much to be imagined. Most importantly, it discusses Effie’s “Veridic Gardens.” From the book: “After years of wondering what I should do—and how I should live my life—trying out various social theories as if summer dresses—I realized the only place that I feel free is in the presence of unfettered nature. To then preserve such spaces, to leave them open to all people and animals, to all insects and plants and stones, became my calling.” It’s a beautiful pairing. A cool little story. Such a pleasure to take home.
You may have guessed by now: I love Flagstaff. I plan to go back as often as I can. Although my “look” didn’t fit too well in a mountain town (I wear high heels; I was the only girl wearing high heels; seriously), my heart fit just fine. Plus, it’s never bad getting away from the 113 degree heat of Phoenix, is it?