THE THREE Cs: CAFFEINE, CHOCOLATE, & CERVEZA

Macy’s and other coffee shops

It’s impossible to imagine Flagstaff without Macy’s, the hippie-esque coffee shop on Beaver Street just south of the railroad tracks. It feels like it’s been there forever, although it only opened in 1980. In a town blessed with lots of excellent coffee options, Macy’s is, if not unequalled, certainly unsurpassed. The triple latte is practically breakfast on its own—but don’t cheat yourself of their waffles, biscuits and gravy, or even the homemade granola. If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll find the offerings just as good as the coffee (that is, considering tea’s vast intrinsic inferiority). There’s superb people watching at Macy’s, too: everyone from suited businessmen to buffed bicyclists to ponytailed, VW-Combi-driving Deadheads straight out of the Whole Earth Catalog—the first one. Opens properly at 6:00 a.m. every day. Macy's, 14 S. Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Despite its location in a strip mall, the Campus Coffee Bean is another favorite, with easier parking than Macy’s and more room for larger groups. In addition to breakfast, they offer a full lunch menu. If you think you’re a hard-core coffee drinker, try the Hammerhead—three shots of espresso in a full cup of regular coffee. Also opens at 6:00 a.m. 1800 South Milton Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Criollo

It’s rare to peruse a restaurant’s dinner menu and exclaim out loud, repeatedly, “Oh wow.” Yet that happens every time we visit this loosely Latin-oriented restaurant on San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. Generally I can look at a menu and decide what I want in 30 seconds flat. At Criollo I painfully reduce my initial selection of five or six possibilities (out of perhaps seven entrée choices) down to four, then three—at which point I usually wring my hands for several minutes. Pathetic. 

The good news is, you won’t go wrong with any of them. Everything we’ve had (and during a three-day visit to town we’ve been known to eat dinner there three times) has been sublime. Even such prosaic fare as fajitas achieves transcendency, much less, for example, the Guajillo barbecued duck breast or mojo marinated pork tenderloin. The ingredients are all sourced as locally as possible, including Arizona beef. Finally, unlike many restaurants that do dinner well but fall down on dessert, Criollo keeps up the momentum all the way through. Simply put, we don’t know a better restaurant in the state, counting quality, imagination, service, and price. A mandatory stop. Criollo Latin Kitchen, 16 N. San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

The Galaxy Diner

Imagine the perfect diner to front historic Route 66, and you’ll have the Galaxy nailed. The waitresses don’t ride roller skates, but that’s about the only period trick missing here. And it’s not   just a recreation—the Galaxy has been around since the 1950s. Food quality varies (did diners in the 50s really have better?), but there’s plenty of it. On the other hand, the soda fountain creations are all well above average. 931 W. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Microbreweries

Flagstaff had microbreweries before they got chic. There aren’t any bad ones I know of. Beaver Street Brewery (11 S. Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001) is excellent and usually crowded. The new and very large Lumberyard Brewing Company (5 S. San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001), just up the tracks, has a similar menu, probably because they're owned by the same family. For a more neighborhood-bar experience, the Flagstaff Brewing Company (16 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001), opened in 1994 in a 19th-century building right off Highway 66, is our low-key favorite and also the place to sample High Spirits' amazing single malt, Arizona whisky (finished in mesquite-smoked barrels). Despite my historical fascination with India Pale Ale I’m a little weary of the current mania for hops, hops, and more hops in American microbrews, but there’s a broad selection of alternatives here. Good pub food as well, and, at least the last time we were there, absolutely dynamite music. Muddy Waters was on when we left. The menu says it all: “Beer like your mom used to make.”