I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.
Looking for a Nice Place to Eat Outside?
You can always choose a pretty spot—and there are plenty of those around here, in the midst of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world with the San Francisco Peaks in our collective backyard—to lay down a picnic blanket or barbecue at a local park. But if restaurant fare is what you're after, I've got some suggestions for local eateries where the food is good and the outdoor atmosphere is too.
When spring gets a solid foothold here in northern Arizona, the conditions are often favorable (albeit sometimes a little breezy) for outdoor dining. And the often warm and dry—but not too hot—summer temperatures make for perfect weather for sitting outside while you enjoy some of the great food that Flagstaff has to offer. This isn't a big city (more like a large college town to me), but we do have a LOT of good restaurants to choose from.
My husband and I enjoy going out to eat, especially on the weekends. And when it's warm enough, we prefer to get an outdoor table. It kind of makes us feel like we're on vacation in our own hometown. So, these are some of our favorite places to go to enjoy the fresh air and food cooked by someone else.
Outdoor Dining Around Heritage Square
Choose from the best burgers in town; wine, hors de ouvres and fine dining; Chinese and Japanese dishes; soups, salads and sandwiches; or Italian cuisine
Heritage Square, in the heart of downtown Flagstaff, is a fun place to hang out, people-watch, be entertained, and eat too. There are several restaurants right off the square that have outdoor seating.
Our top pick: Diablo Burger
This is our favorite outdoor eatery at Heritage Square, where you can order a variety of flavorful burgers made from free-range, local beef (or a veggie burger, salad, and a few other options if beef isn't your thing). The burgers are served on grilled and branded English muffins with a generous portion of tasty seasoned shoestring fries. Be aware that they'll serve your burger on the rare side—they recommend it that way and explain it on the menu—so if you want it cooked more, be sure to let them know when you order.
The interior of Diablo Burger is really tiny and tight, but there are plenty of places to sit outside overlooking the square, with a fun fantasy Joe Sorren mural as the backdrop.
FYI: This a "community seating" eatery that accepts cash only, so you may want to stop at the ATM first.
This is a "Chinese Bistro" with sushi too. They offer outdoor seating in their covered sidewalk patio next to Heritage Square, so you're safe grabbing an outside table during the summer monsoon season. They open for lunch at 11:00 and serve until late in the evening.
Location: 6 E Aspen Ave
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Mix on the Square
Mix is what I'd call lighter fare when it comes to lunches and dinners, featuring lots of good salads—and you can create your own, too—interesting sandwiches, and freshly made soups. But they do have baked goods to go along with all the healthy stuff.
I recommend the Ginger Salmon Salad and the Berry Chicken Salad Sandwich. There are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices, and gluten-free sourdough bread (just ask for it).
Breakfast options include a number of egg dishes, biscuits and gravy, and pancake creations like the Caramel Apple Stack and Blueberry Compote Pancakes.
There are some tables out back, right off the Square, right next to the Diablo Burger area.
Location: 120 N. Leroux St.
Charly's Grill at the Weatherford Hotel
This one isn't right on Heritage Square, but it's just across the street. Charly's has both sidewalk patio seating with tables for up to four each and smaller tables for two on the upstairs porch. My husband and I like to eat here when we have a craving for nachos (be aware, their "Mini Macho Nachos" is a BIG portion, more than enough for two), but they have lots of other appetizers and fine meals, from sandwiches to Southwestern specialties to steaks. If you choose to eat upstairs, though, you'll be ordering from the more limited pub menu rather than the full restaurant menu you'll have downstairs.
Charly's serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Location: 23 N. Leroux St. (928.779.1919)
Sit outside at Aspen Place restaurants, with a lot of excellent food to choose from—American, Mediterranean, organic and natural foods—and more on the way....
Located along Butler Avenue, Aspen Place at The Sawmill is a new and growing collection of shops and restaurants, including a few with outdoor dining areas.
Our top pick: Wildflower Bread Company
I eat here a lot. Their sandwiches, with delicious breads baked in house daily, are delicious, and I love their hearty soups and pasta dishes too ... not to mention the generous salads and the fresh desserts. Wildflower is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Order at the counter, and the friendly staff, and sometimes the friendly owner, will bring your meal, whether you're sitting inside or out.
My favorites here are the half-and-half specials with either a half-sandwich or bowl of soup and a salad and fresh bread, the chocolate chip scones (yum!), and the butternut squash ravioli.
You can sit at one of the sunny tables out front or choose a shaded seat on the side patio, where they have an outdoor fireplace you'll find adding some heat and ambiance on cooler days. They also have overhead heaters to make things more comfortable when the air is chillier. Sometimes people sit out there on mild early spring and autumn days too.
This is one of my top choices of places in town to eat, especially when it's warm enough to sit outdoors. There are lots of healthy choices on the menu, but they're healthy and tasty, including their soups, wraps, salads, and Mediterranean dishes. I really like their black bean burger with the garlic potatoes on the side, their glazed chicken "lovash" pizza, the salmon with steamed vegetables, and Meditteranean roasted chicken wrap ... to name just a few. I've also made a meal of their blue corn nachos. Oh, and their smoothies are yummy too.
They have ample outdoor seating along two sides of the building, where it can get very sunny. So don't forget your sunglasses and some sunscreen. No special view, unless you like looking at a parking lot and apartment buildings, but the food is great and the service always excellent.
While this is actually a natural foods market, they do have a really nice salad bar, soup bar, and fresh, cooked food bar, as well as a deli and bakery, with tables to eat indoors and out. The outdoor seating is available in a covered patio. Just pay at the checkout like any other grocery store and grab a table. There are utensils available up front.
Eat Outdoors at Flagstaff Mircobreweries: A Lot More Than Locally Brewed Beer
Tied for our top pick: Beaver Street Brewery
This is our favorite Flagstaff brewery when it comes to the food, with outdoor seating available in the back courtyard.
Beaver Street has a pretty extensive menu, including fish, steak, a variety of salads and soups, sandwiches, and burgers (the portobello burger on ciabatta bread is very good), and small wood-fired pizzas. They've also got fondues and some excellent appetizers, like the mussels in Thai curry sauce and the Maltese tapas. And, of course, their beer—some of which are award winners—is highly praised by those who drink it ... which doesn't include me (because I've just never acquired a taste for beer, period).
The indoor restaurant can get pretty crowded and noisy, so we prefer the quieter patio in the nice weather, even if the wait is a bit longer during the busy times. FYI: They don't accept reservations, even for large parties.
Location: 11 S. Beaver Street
Top Pick #2: The Lumberyard
In 2010, the owners of Beaver Street Brewing Co. restored one of the last remaining buildings from Flagstaff's lumber era, just a block away right along the railroad tracks, and created a new restaurant and expanded their brewery. Honestly, at first I didn't think the food was so hot ... meaning, not all that great compared to the original restaurant down the street. But something definitely changed, as friends agree, and now the food is very good. I really like their chili (the cornbread is yummy too) and their barbecue combo meals, which I don't see on the online menu for some reason.
We prefer the outdoor seating in the front, but be prepared for some very nearby rumbling of trains as part of the atmosphere. They no longer blow their horns at the crossing there, but the engines and wheels on the tracks make plenty of their own noise.
Location: 5 S. San Francisco St
On a warm spring or summer day, the ample patio at Flag Brew fills up with locals, visitors, and college students (I put them in a category of their own) sipping handcrafted beer and eating burgers and sandwiches, Belgian fries and appetizers, and soups and salads. Then they sip some more brew, fine whiskey, or maybe a refill of their soda and watch people go by in the courtyard off of Route 66 where the patio is located. Bring your sunscreen or a wide-brimmed hat, because you'll be in full sun.
Location: 16 East Route 66
Enjoy Some Pizza and Wings at an Outdoor Table
This is one of Flagstaff's oldest pizza places, where patrons have been carving their names in the tables and walls for decades. You can order pizza by the (large) slice or pie, wings, calzones, lasagna, salads and sandwiches, and top all that off with cheesecake or apple pie a la mode.
They have outdoor tables on their covered streetside patio, but space is limited and it might be a wait for one of those spots on a busy summer afternoon or evening during prime pizza-eating times.
Location: 7 N Leroux St
Another longtime Flagstaff favorite, this southside pizzeria has been around since 1979 (though it changed owners in 2000). Order at the window, and they'll bring your food to your table, even if it's one of the picnic tables on their patio out front. As you can see here, dogs are allowed in the outdoor seating area.
This is a casual, popular place close to NAU. No gourmet pizzas (unless you consider their yummy pesto pizza to be gourmet), but the food is very good and the service always friendly in my experience. This is a great family place within walking distance of downtown.
Oh, and they've always had really clean bathrooms, which are fancier than the restaurant.
Location: 101 South Beaver Street (with a newer second location in the Greentree Shopping Center at 1800 S. Milton)
If it's gourmet pizza (with gourmet prices) you're jonesin' for and want to sit outside while you enjoy it, Picazzo's is a good choice. I don't go there often—for one thing, because I don't eat pizza very often and, secondly, I'm rather cheap when it comes to pizza—but the food has been very good each time I've tried it. Some friends and I met there for a birthday and sampled several of their Neopolitan and specialty pizzas and appetizers too. They've also got lunch specials, where you can combine a slice of pizza or one of their pasta dishes with a salad of your choice and a drink. For those who go gluten-free, you'll have lots to choose from here.
They've got plenty of covered outdoor seating, but it's more about the fresh air, the food, and your friends or family at the table with you than the view, because you'll be looking at the parking lot.
Location: 1300 S. Milton
Altitude's on the South Side of the Tracks
Fine Dining Outdoor Style
Josephine's Modern American Bistro
Serving lunch and dinner and weekend brunch, award-winning Josephine's updates its menu often and uses the finest ingredients in its chef-prepared dishes. I've eaten dinner here a couple of times—when I won gift certificates that "almost" covered the cost—and wow ... delicious! The food, the ambiance inside and out, and the service were wonderful.
The lunch menu is also full of excellent choices too: the Cochinita Pibil pulled pork sandwich, yum! And it's quite a bit less expensive than dinner. About half the price.
The patio outside the historic home that houses this local fine dining favorite has a lovely garden setting that helps you forget the busy street nearby.
For dinner reservations, call 928-779-3400
Location: 503 N. Humphreys (downtown)
Named one of the top 25 restaurants in Arizona by Arizona Highways magazine, Brix serves quality—meaning delicious—gourmet American cuisine in the cozy atmosphere of a renovated historic carriage house. You can do your "casual fine dining" inside or out, with tables on their small patio which is set far enough back from the main street that you won't be bothered by traffic.
It's a good idea to call 928-213-1021 for reservations.
Location: 413 N. San Francisco St.
Criollo Latin Kitchen
This downtown restaurant with a cozy back patio for outdoor dining is owned by the same couple who owns Brix, and the food, though a completely different menu, is just as good. Excellent, actually, as far as I've ever tasted. Even their happy hour 2-dollar fish tacos and sliders are super tasty. Like at Brix, the menu here is based on locally grown and sustainably raised ingredients—even much of the décor was locally made —but, unlike Brix, the dishes here are largely Latin American.
Criollo serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 2pm, lunch on Monday through Friday from 11 to 4, and dinner every day but Sunday beginning at 4pm.
Location: 16 N. San Francisco St.
Other Flagstaff Restaurants with Outdoor Seating
- Collins Irish Pub & Grill (downtown)
Outdoor area: Very limited, as in just a few small sidewalk tables
Fare: Basic (but good) burgers and sandwiches, nachos, soup of the day, and dessert, as well as a few token Irish dishes (ie. corned beef and cabbage)
Location: 2 N. Leroux St (on the corner of Rte. 66)
- Altitudes Bar & Grill (downtown, southside)
Outdoor area: Ample seating on the porch and the streetside patio, with views of the train, downtown and the peaks beyond (live entertainment on the porch on some evenings)
Fare: American (burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta, chicken, fish and steak)
Location: 2 S. Beaver St.
- Tinderbox Kitchen (downtown, southside)
Outdoor area: Limited sidewalk seating
Fare: American "comfort food" (gourmet-style) with an ever-changing menu
Location: 34 So. San Francisco
- Oakmont (east side)
Outdoor area: Nice seating area overlooking the golf course, with views of the peaks
Fare: American (serving lunch and dinner) with a wide variety of dishes from salads, to hand made sandwiches, and steak and fish
Location: 2380 N Oakmont Dr. in Country Club
- Orpheum Stage Left Deli
Outdoor area: Sidewalk patio seating
Fare: Hot and cold subs, salads, platters, and breakfast
Location: 15 W. Aspen
Sidewalk Seating at San Felipe's in Downtown Flagstaff
© 2013 Deb Kingsbury