Best of Flag, December 2021
Written by Gail G. Collins
Following through on the motto, “high altitude, no attitude,” with proper execution, 1899 Bar and Grill won top spots as Best Overall Restaurant, Wait Staff, Wine List and Fine Dining. Those are high marks, worthy of the care, consideration and oversight that translate into delicious dining.
But 1899 is more than a lovely venue with global cuisine; it is an integrated product of Northern Arizona University’s Hotel and Restaurant Management Program. While the staff is not comprised exclusively of program students, the living-learning lab offers business career experience with some yummy benefits, like a meal provided daily to each employee, regardless of how many days they work in a week. That hits the spot. Moreover, a position at the front or back of the house instills accountability, responsibility and hard work as the best training for life in general.
Overall, 1899 provides, “a window into campus life,” according to Casey Fisher, director of planning and marketing campus dining. Situated at downtown’s boundary, 1899 is in, “a permeable position between the community and campus.” It also compliments the High County Conference Center and Drury Inn as far as services.
Despite winning the fine dining category, 1899’s team pushes back. “We’re fighting the fine-dining aspect in favor of being approachable, palatable and value-priced,” Fisher explained.
The ambiance at 1899 is stylish brick with wood accents and mid-century clean lines, notable in the various-sized drum shades. Enormous, metallic-hued banquettes proportionally anchor the high-rise space, and a wall of glass invites seasonal views and copious natural light. The showpiece two-story copper fireplace is original to the historic campus North Union dining hall, while since 2011, it has operated as an elegant, independent, retail restaurant. The logo wine casks, stamped with 1899, remind guests of their expansive wine list, buttressed by local taps and craft cocktails.
Try the Bee’s Knees as a winter warmer. The prohibition-era cocktail takes a whisky turn with herbal notes, lemon, honey and ginger back. Or grab a brewski and a bowl of cheese curds — a Wisconsin phenom of fried, gooey, cheese tots tossed on a sea of smoked Pomodoro sauce — as this classic duo gets a classy spin.
Utilizing international flair, the culinary crew at 1899 developed a menu promoting bold flavors in handcrafted dishes. The top sirloin is tender amid a slick of spunky steak sauce and topped with a tangle of fried, matchstick carrots. Asparagus and a rough smash of potatoes with pesto accompany the sophisticated standard. The salmon salad presents as quite continental on a square of slate. Plenty of protein in the smoked fish and hard-boiled egg with scattered capers is piled on mixed greens with roasted red pepper and shaved onion, dressed in mustard vinaigrette and served with charred bread triangles.
Ted pepper Gouda soup hits all the marks for dietary needs with flavor to spare. The puree of roasted peppers, sweet cheese and cream lend pert piquancy on a side.
The kitchen at 1899 is scratch from the aioli to the ice cream to the sausage and artistically plated. The staff holds themselves to a high culinary standard, not because they are in training for one of the most demanding careers in hospitality, but simply to delight Flagstaff locals and tourists alike. BestofFlag