Thursday, November 12, 2015

U.S. Adventures: Arizona- Flagstaff, The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Recently we had an amazing family trip to Arizona. If you follow me on instagram or twitter, you probably saw me posting lots of pictures from it. I was truly blown away by the sheer beauty of everything we saw—from driving from Phoenix through the Saguaro cacti to Flagstaff and then on to the Grand Canyon and finally Sedona. I can’t believe I waited this long to see all these wonderful places.

And while I could go on and on about the scenery, I’m supposed to be writing about the food here, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna do it all in one post, so I’m going to (try to) keep it short and sweet.
Pasta at Brix


We only spent one night in Flagstaff, but we may have had one of my favorite meals of the trip here (and learned the extent that jet lag and time change can make your kids giggly). We had dinner at Brix—it’s an old coach house turned into a restaurant. It’s pretty refined dining, but in a more casual atmosphere. Highlight for my kids—a beautiful cheese plate ($15) with Brandy soaked dates that my daughter loved; and make your own lemonade (they got pitchers of simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and sparkling water to mix as they wanted). Hubby’s duck ($31) was outstanding, and has now become one of my daughter’s favorite dishes. The only downsides were the air temp—we were sitting next to an open door on a cool night-- and we had a very loud grouchy waiter. But the food made up for it. This is a place I would go if it were in my town.
Chilaquiles at Martanne's

For breakfast, we ate at a restaurant on Route 66 called Martanne’s Burrito Palace. It is a cute little Mexican place that was jam-packed for breakfast. The servers were super friendly and it had a great vibe. I would say the chilaquiles I had weren’t bad, but my son’s burrito was probably the best thing. Portions were huge and they knew how to cook an egg perfectly.

Grand Canyon:
Fish at El Tovar
We were lucky enough to stay at El Tovar while we were in the Grand Canyon (for most rooms, you have to book a year in advance). We ended up eating most of our meals at the El Tovar dining room, which is by far the best thing going there. We did have one good, straightforward breakfast at the Bright Angel Lodge, but after walking into the Arizona Room to try it for lunch, we all agreed to ditch out of there after a super creepy vibe overtook all of us (the people working in there looked like the life had been sucked out of them). The kids loved El Tovar because they have one or two rogue ring-tailed cats that have snuck into the building and run around in the rafters looking for sugar packets. They look like a cross between a cat and a raccoon and my first sighting of one the first night peeking out behind a curtain right over my son’s head scared the living crap out of me.
Ring-tailed cat

Anyhow, my favorite meal was probably a lunch we had—just a really good steak sandwich and side salad (great blue cheese dressing). For dinner, the best things going were the fish entrées for some reason, maybe because they did a good job with the sauces. The appetizers were huge, and on the whole pretty disappointing, so we only had them the first night. The breakfast there was a bit fancier than the Bright Angel, and honestly I think I liked the more straightforward one at Bright Angel better—they had classic hash browns there and that makes me happy. But overall the atmosphere at El Tovar is very cool and the food, while old-school, was good. And you can’t go wrong dining with a wild animal right? If you ever watched Twin Peaks, this place reminded me of it. The hostess even wore an eye patch.

Elote at Elote

First of all, Sedona might be one of the most beautiful places in the US. I mean the Grand Canyon is shockingly beautiful and amazing, but in Sedona you can get right up in those rocks and hike all over. Our favorite hike was to the top of Doe Mountain. This is a place that we know we will return to.

Food-wise, it’s a mixed bag. The two best southwestern-style meals we had were at Elote Café and Mariposa. Elote is the old school classic Southwest restaurant Sedona is known for—they open at 5:00 for dinner every night and a line forms out the door. They don’t take reservations, so you just get there early, have a drink and be patient. My favorite thing we ate there was the namesake dish—the Elote dip. You may have had Elote before—corn on the cob that is grilled and coated with spicy mayo. Here, they make a dip out of many of the same ingredients and you dip chips into it. It was great. Really, really great. Luckily, my sister gave me their cookbook as a gift last Christmas, so I will be recreating this dish. Everything here was good—the pork dishes were also favorites, but the dip was the thing we felt a growing addiction to.
View at Mariposa

At Mariposa (which, by the way, is owned by a chef who graduated from North Central here in Indy), which is a more modern take on Southwestern food, the view is absolutely stupendous. We sat on the patio and just gazed at the lovely scenery. That alone would have made for a lovely meal, but the food was great as well. It all had just the perfect little touches to take it over the top. Strangely, my son’s steak sandwich with chimichurri, chipotle aioli and onion strings on ciabatta ($20) was shockingly good. The meat had wonderful spiced flavor and the chimichuri was addicting. The potato salad that came alongside was also really good, and I’m super picky about potato salad. My ahi “parfait” ($18) was also very good—their version of a tuna tartare. I really enjoyed the Citron-Dijon vinaigrette they served drizzled over it. Everything had a nice southwest kick, but with a modern touch to it, and it was all good.
Ahi Parfait

Gruyere beignets
We also had a great lunch at a place called Rene, a French-inspired bistro right in the downtown shopping district. It was nice to get some food that was different than the southwestern-style cuisine we had been eating everywhere else. The kids tried escargot for the first time (son=yes, daughter =no!). We had these little Gruyere beignets that were delicious and I had a mushroom pastry that I really enjoyed as well.  We actually intended to go back here for lunch because we liked it so much, but ended up at Mariposa instead, which turned out to be one of our favorites anyway.
tacos at Tii Gavo

s'mores dessert at Che Ah Che
At our resort, The Enchantment, the food was on the whole good as well. And again, the views were breathtaking. Our favorite place to eat there ended up being the more casual restaurant, Tii Gavo. The fresh-made guac was really good as were the tacos (we had the sampler with chicken, fish, beef and pork. I think the spicy chicken one ended up being my favorite). The fancier place (Che Ah Che) was pretty inside, but was a bit of a letdown on food. We did love the s’mores in a jar that they offered for dessert. The service was a little spotty all over the restaurants at the resort, but we were in no rush ever, so it was fine.

We had a very mediocre meal at a pizza place one night when we couldn’t get in anywhere else—it was called Picasso’s Organic Italian Kitchen. Nothing about this place stood out, other than every chair outside had a blanket thrown over it to cover up with if you got chilly (I did). I thought that was a nice touch. The salad was underdressed and the pizza just meh. That was the most disappointing meal.

Overall, it was one of our favorite family trips ever. The kids were even torn whether they liked it better or Hawaii. It wasn’t a food-based trip per se, but we really did enjoy pretty much everything. It’s hard not to when you’re constantly staring at so much physical beauty. I heart you, Arizona.


  1. My wife and I enjoyed an incredibly similar trip... it was just a little over a year ago, but I miss it already! We hit up many of the same places to eat, too. Elote was awesome, but man, talk about a place that turns a lot of tables every night!!

    Afraid you missed what was probably the culinary highlight of the trip for me, Pizzicletta in Flagstaff. I'd followed the opening of the restaurant on Serious Eats... and I'm happy to report it was some of the best pizza I've encountered. My better half loved it, too, which is saying something since she's not usually so down with the Neapolitan-leaning pies.

    Your 1st pic with the rainbow is amazeballs, by the by. Cheers-->

  2. Lovely photos and great looking food!