A First Time Visit to Flagstaff
Earlier this past spring I visited Flagstaff for the first time. Although the journey was brief, the Arizona mountain city left a lasting impression on me. Much like New Mexico, the Grand Canyon State has very powerful energy as you walk its parts. Think content, tranquil, and introspective. I continue to find a strong and nurturing relationship between the dwellers of the Southwest and Mother Earth.
Flagstaff is a city that wears many hats. There’s the railroad, train, and Route 66 history, the phenomenal culinary scene, their colleges and nightlife, and skiing galore. Still, need more reasons? How about the Lowell Observatory; one of the oldest astronomical observatories in the USA. It’s also a gateway city to the Grand Canyon.
I can’t wait to explore Flagstaff again and return with Mabel. It’s an ideal city to visit with or without kids in tow. For those searching for a quick one-night itinerary (probably without the kiddos along), read on below for my faves.
The Motel DuBeau
Something that continues to strike me about Arizona is the rich hotel history. Flagstaff has several motels that were built as traveling by automobile became a “thing.” Travelers were deemed “Auto Tourists” and suddenly, the USA highway system was developing. A perfect example of this era is the singular Motel DuBeau. Right along Route 66 (of course), the motel has been hosting visitors since 1929.
I immediately was taken with the “U” shaped driveway and imagined the thrill of arriving at this then-new concept 90 years ago. Each suite at Motel DuBeau is unique, which is something I love and it reminded me of Los Arboles in Palm Springs.
Staying Along Route 66
I stayed in the Family Suite. I kid you not, I felt like I’d walked into a 1950s Western TV show as I unlocked the door. It was hard to not expect Woody from Toy Story on the bunk bed! Yes, you read right. Since this is the family suite, a bunk bed greets you in the front room. Guests of all ages are sure to get a kick out of it, and it adds to the thrill of staying along Route 66.
I also enjoyed a small kitchenette with a fridge, a modest master bedroom with a cozy bed, and a petite bathroom with a shower. The photographs that adorned the walls reflect the local color and I always appreciate that small “touch.”
I did mention Flagstaff is a railroad city. The trains go right through downtown and the tracks are just a stone’s throw from the motel. I wondered how noisy it would get and if I could even consider Mabel getting a good night’s sleep here in the future? Turns out, I slept just fine. I was nervous at first, but just like when I stayed in downtown San Diego, it wasn’t warranted.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with a room at Motel DuBeau (or any historic hotel) is the hot water. I appreciated their heads up in the bathroom to give the pipes at least 10 minutes to run and warm up. I was also surprised the Family Suite didn’t have a bathtub; that’s been needed on trips with Mabel thus far. If a traveler has a small child in tow, it’s still easy to make it work with the shower. Just make sure to let those pipes heat up!
Drinks and Light Bites at the Annex Cocktail Lounge
Another “perk” to staying at Motel DuBeau is that there’s so much to do right outside. Anytime I can travel and use my car as minimally as possible, I’m happy. I’d rather save all of that sitting and driving for the journey home, am I right? After I got settled in my room, our group walked over to begin our evening at the Annex Cocktail Lounge. I was not prepared for this lounge to make my jaw drop
The reason for my awe was when I laid eyes on their outdoor patio. Remains of the Historic Basque Handball Court (the walls, to be precise) overlook the open-air courtyard. I felt like I’d somehow ended up in Spain.
Like you soon discover in Flagstaff, many restaurants and bars on the scene have won notable culinary recognition for the state and even the country. At Annex, co-owner Nick Williams is no stranger to cocktails and has created a dynamic menu with something for everyone. Williams won Cocktail of the Year in 2018 from Restaurant Hospitality Magazine and it’s clear to see why.
I decided on a drink I rarely order: a mocktail. I wasn’t in a huge mood for alcohol and knew there would be plenty of chances to partake later. Besides, I love the name of their “impersonator” cocktail, Cover Band. The Cover Band consists of Non-alcoholic tequila, aperitivo, verjus, spice, grapefruit, lime, honey, orgeat, and raspberry. Those at my table were as impressed as I was. If you’re pregnant or anyone looking for that tequila flavor without necessarily the buzz, this drink’s for you.
Other drinks that caught my eye were the Tell-Tale Heart and Tropic of Cancer.
Dinner at BRIX
If I thought the Annex was something special, it’s only fitting that we headed to dinner at BRIX. BRIX is among one of the most unique restaurants I’ve had the pleasure to eat at. Paul and Laura Moir opened BRIX in 2006 and soon received what all restaurateurs hope and dream for. Conde Nast named them one of the Hottest Restaurants in the World. Overnight, their lives changed forever.
The phones started ringing off the hook, and diners from around the world visited. Paul and his family have made it through the 2008 recession and now the pandemic. Currently, they’re expanding the unassuming and intimate building which, again, has an incredible backstory.
The building was built by a successful banker in the early 1900s as a carriage house. Not only holding carriages, but it also served as the garage for the first car to arrive in Flagstaff. Another long-standing building next door will serve as their expanded space. The goal is to be completed by summer with two levels and even a banquet room. The building was an antique shop for several years and even a frat house for the nearby ANU students.
The Food and Cocktails at BRIX
Our multi-course dinner was divine. Executive Chef, Logan Webber is a Flagstaff native who attended culinary school locally and began as a line cook with BRIX over 10 years ago. His plates bring not only impeccable flavor but an artistic flare. This will make even those least likely to snap a photo of their dish, do so.
We shared an array of their starters around the table. The highlight for me was the coal-roasted beets. I’ve never experienced such a smokey and savory beet. For dinner, I enjoyed the best of both worlds by sampling the market fish and coconut polenta. The fish of the day was a flaky Tasmanian salmon cooked to perfection at medium-rare. My vegan-loving heart savored each spoonful of the polenta. It even came with tempura asparagus yet is gluten-free.
When our waitress, Katie, inquired about dessert, it was an easy “oh, yeah.” My usual go-to would be the chocolate mousse since it had a flourless cake. It was indeed a rich and decadent treat I enjoyed some bites of. Instead, The apple crumb cobbler with honeycomb is what stole my heart. Once again, a decadent gluten-free item that’s hard not to devour.
Throughout our meal, the drinks were strong and flowing. BRIX has an impressive wine list and a full bar in the center of the restaurant. Bartender, Janis, was even able to make the uncommon drink, a Paper Plane, for one of our writers.
At the heart of BRIX is their incredible staff. As well to Janis, Katie was one of the most attentive and personable servers I’ve ever dined with.
There are so many reasons to run, not walk, for an experience at BRIX.
Mornings in Flagstaff
I could eat breakfast for every meal. Something I want to do next time I’m in town is explore more of the breakfast nooks. Right within walking distance of Motel DuBeau is MartAnne’s Breakfast Place. Another cafe that takes food seriously, MartAnne’s is famous for its generous breakfast plates with a Mexican bent. What could be better?
MartAnne’s offers a large menu with gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options. They’re also an espresso bar and serve alcoholic drinks. Mimosa with those huevos, anyone?
To think, this is only the tip of the iceberg with what to do in Flagstaff. I also plan to share soon about my adventure to Sedona in search of a vortex.
Thanks so much to IFWTWA and Discover Flagstaff for this beautiful and delicious experience! xo