The Unique Flavor of FlagstaffAlthough Flagstaff is a city of only 66,000 residents, it is a place of great culinary appeal. The unique blend of lifestyle, culture, and history makes for a distinct local flavor that is sure to satisfy locals and visitors alike. Although the city boasts a wondrous selection of food, everything is inspired by a rich heritage that is distinct to beautiful northern Arizona.One of the greatest aspects of Flagstaff cuisine is the number of affordable eateries. Flagstaff is a college town, home to Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College. Low-cost food is available at restaurants downtown and near these schools. Another benefit of the high student population is that the city offers a well-rounded variety of foods to satisfy the demands of a diverse student body. The college students help drive the competition in the restaurant industry, motivating restaurants to sell quick, easy, and affordable food that tastes delicious.As with all things, location is paramount. Northern Arizona is perfectly situated for access to delicious Southwestern flavors. The first source of Southwestern influence is the large Hispanic population, primarily Mexican. In fact, 16 percent of the city population is Hispanic. Due to the citys proximity to the border, Mexican food is a huge hit in Flagstaff. Arizona gets most of its Mexican influence from the Mexican state of Sonora. One element of Sonoran cuisine is its heavy use of wheat instead of corn for tortillas. Another element of Sonoran influence is menudo, a spicy tripe soup that made its way to Flagstaff many years ago.What makes Flagstaff's Southwestern food unique is the huge amount of influence from Native Americans as well. One-tenth of the population of Flagstaff is Native American. Compared to the national average of less than one percent, Native Americans have great influence on the culture of Flagstaff. In addition, there are five Native American reservations in the area. In Northern Arizona, the widespread use of corn, hickory coals, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, beans, and potatoes can be traced to the Native Americans who have used those incredible ingredients for centuries.When it comes down to it, Flagstaff is an all-American city with all-American cuisine. The citys rich patriotic heritage comes from their history. As the name suggests, Flagstaff was established simply as a place to fly the American flag. It was originally nothing more than a military camp between California and New Mexico and was built with the intent of providing refuge to soldiers along their journey. The city's patriotic history still continues today as city entrepreneurs pursue a very American approach to food. One example of this is the city's booming burger industry. Flagstaff restaurants have done wonders with this traditional food, making it a gourmet treat.The number of bakeries in Flagstaff is further evidence of the casual American attitude toward eating. Inspired by the European forebears of America, bakers in Flagstaff create and sell delicious pastries for their customers to enjoy in a relaxed environment. This setting is perfect for the many students in the area who depend upon a great snack while they study. City locals and tourists have grown accustomed to making a bakery trip part of their usual activities.Flagstaffs local flavor could never be fully understood without looking at the cowboy culture that is at the heart of the citys history. Northern Arizona used to be known for three things: lumber, ranching, and building the railroad. Of course, these industries are all rugged symbols of the Wild West. Flagstaff used to be a large railroad hub that dealt with trains bound for Los Angeles, Chicago, and other important destinations. Until the 1950s, Flagstaffs cattle population was greater than its human population. Although the dominant industries have changed a bit since then, the people of Flagstaff still embrace the flavors of the American frontier.The blend of Southern and Western culture gives Arizona a unique proclivity for barbecue. Although it's a bit distant from the deep South, Flagstaff is home to some of the best ribs, pulled pork, and brisket in the world. This under-appreciated aspect of Flagstaff cuisine makes sense. After all, the railroad and the cowboys helped bring the best of the South to the hearts and stomachs of Flagstaffs residents. Flagstaff also boasts an assortment of bars that more than satisfies the local population. Although the physical appearance of each bar may not always remind visitors of the Wild West, the old tavern culture has definitely been kept alive over these many years.Flagstaffs intense nightlife is also responsible for many elements of the citys selection of restaurants, especially downtown. For a city its size, nightlife plays an unusually important role in Flagstaffs food and entertainment industries. While bars are popular destinations in the evening, the city is also home to a contemporary nightlife scene that embraces a more sophisticated style. Wine and liquor are easy to find. Theme-appropriate food complements the drinks and keeps the nightlife going.There are a few odds and ends that fine-tune Flagstaffs remarkable blend of food. For one, tourism is very high because of the citys location. Not only is the Grand Canyon less than two hours away, but the historic Route 66 runs right through the city. On top of that, Flagstaff has an impressive business population. Several large companies have offices and distribution centers there. In effect, Flagstaff's cuisine is much more diverse than is usual for a city its size. Tourism and a strong business culture have promoted the introduction of Asian, Italian, and other ethnic styles to fill the gaps.Residents and tourists find that Flagstaff is a small city with world-class cuisine. Thanks to the city's appreciation for affordable food, southwestern flavors, all-American cuisine, a rich cowboy heritage, and an exciting nightlife, Flagstaff offers virtually every cuisine imaginable. Of course, they do so in a way that is all their own. With tons of original restaurants presenting a beloved local flavor, Flagstaff is a place where locals and visitors can definitely indulge.
Flagstaff, Arizona Restaurants