Best Overall Restaurant, Wait Staff, Wine List, Fine Dining: 1899 Bar & Grill

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.

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Best Bar Food, Best Brewery—Lumberyard Brewing Company

Best of Flag, December 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

They say luck resides at the intersection between hard work and opportunity. That sums up the success of Lumberyard Brewing Company, which attracted voters with their benchmark bar food and veteran brewing skills.

Three decades ago, if you had asked founding owners Winnie and Even Hanseth if they would be brewing beer, they might have seen themselves seated at the table instead of waiting on it. The same goes for head brewer Gary Blazevich with an environmental sciences degree, who enjoyed tipping them back in Issaquah, Washington. Director of brewing operations Gene Almquist fell headlong for brewing after his first effort. At Lumberyard, great ideas and talent triumphed.

Lumberyard has garnered a consistent list of awards over the years at acclaimed national beer competitions, such as the Great American Beer Festival, where Pumpkin Porter won hearts. In fact, the combined slate of ribbons for Beaver Street and Lumberyard breweries totaled 13. Trends also encourage variety, like New England-styled Hazy Angel, a light lager and promising hit.

“It’s an easy-going IPA that’s hop forward,” according to owner Kelly Hanseth, next generation in the family business. The aim is, “brewing true-to-style,” and she added, “The Flagstaff IPA is the most popular canned beer — the number one distributed seller.”

The other standard that beer drinkers order is Railhead Red, an amber and my favorite.

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Best New Restaurant: Tiki Grill

Best of Flag, December 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Everyone appreciates a special meal — tables laid with white cloths, china and fussy food once in a while. But where we hang out with friends in flip flops to shoot the breeze, tip one back and eat what makes us grin is what makes it all worthwhile.

Perhaps that propelled Scott McClelland to turn from the chic settings that upheld his culinary experience to open Tiki Grill and offer guests a place on the sand where he had found happiness. 

“The aim is attentive, caring service, good tunes and cocktails,” McClelland said.

Sounds like a winner – Best New Restaurant, to be exact.

He added, “It’s a chill vibe in a cool setting with the same high caliber of food, served in paper boats with flip flops and board shorts.”

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Best Chinese Food: Golden Dragon

Best of Flag, December 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

Diners voted Golden Dragon as the Best Chinese Restaurant, so you can trust the reviews:  “This is what Chinese food is supposed to taste like;” “pure taste, comfortable environment;” and the capper, “generous as well as delicious,” from a mother with seven boys who dined there and will be back.

The raves are constant for the hot and sour and egg drop soups, so you know where to begin when ordering. But other bestselling appetizers include the crab puffs, which according to general manager Kinson Li are, “crisp, full of goodies and cream cheese,” in a mouth-popping size.

Three partners share in the ownership of Golden Dragon:  Jimmy Liang, Randy Lee and Winnie Cheng. Liang is from Toisan in the Guangdong region, while chef Sun Chung is Cantonese with an extensive cooking background.

As Li puts it regarding the recipes, “They each have their own ways and focus on fresh food made with quality ingredients to stay on point. The heart of it is in return customers, so we work for that ‘wow factor.’”

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Best Tacos: Tacos Los Altos

Best of FLAG, December 2021

Written by Gail G. Collins

When a business treats its customer as king, the effects are positive. That claim propelled Tacos Los Altos de Jalisco to uphold its status as Best Tacos in Flagstaff for the second year running.

“We appreciate our loyal customers,” said Jose Flores. “A couple of them stop by daily, and by the time they park and come in, their order is ready.”

Flores is the son of one partner with the same name, who is better known as Chepe. Alongside partners Jose Rodriquez, or Pepe, and Saul Rodriquez, they work together in the family-owned shop serving traditional recipes adapted from their hometown in Villahildago, Mexico. In fact, no less than 15 family members support the thriving enterprise.

The family hails from Jalisco, where they owned a restaurant, forming their foundation in the food industry. In the 90s, they moved to the U.S. and further honed their culinary skills. The big opportunity came in 2006, when the partners took over the former Tacos los Altos on Route 66.

“We have worked hard to maintain the previous business’ customer base,” says Flores, “but we moved around about 65-percent of the menu.”

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Matters of Taste:  Cornish Pasty Co.

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, December 2021

Photos and Story by Gail G. Collins

Mining is a risky and challenging occupation. It also becomes the lifeblood of towns or regions creating legacy employment. In the 1200s, Cornwall England’s men mined tin, and their wives and mothers fed them well. They packed lunchboxes with a meat and vegetable pastry — called a pasty (pah-stee) — crimping the edges to seal it. The nourishing handholds contained a savory and sweet filling on either end with an initial to mark the difference. The miners were covered in arsenic, so the crimped edge provided a safe handle and was discarded afterward, but not wasted. Those edges kept the “knockers” or ghosts of the mines away.

Growing up in Saltash Cornwall, Dean Thomas consumed pasties five days a week, and on Fridays, his Nan (grandmother) indulged him. Pasties are filling and portable, so have retained their appeal. That said, some things can be improved upon, and Thomas set about doing so in 2005.

With formal culinary training and a decade of U.S. experience, he opened the Cornish Pasty Co. in 2005. Showcasing the classic pasty, the Oggie, he found success from the start. Thomas grew the menu for choice-loving Americans, expanding the brand with five Phoenix-area locations along with restaurants in Flagstaff, Las Vegas and Boston.

The brand champions consistent, superior ingredients and employee-to-partnership careers. Ryan Hays is the Flagstaff example. With an industry background, he began working for Thomas 11 years ago, advancing from server to manager to owner. Workers learn the ropes, respect the brand and are rewarded with company investment.

“Longtime employees keep up the pride and values in prepping the food, and that quality translates to customers,” said Hays of the Flagstaff shop, which opened in 2017.

Word-of-mouth advertising garners local trust and regulars, who Hays credits with keeping the lights on. Name recognition aids the tourist trade and a good measure of hospitality industry referrals.

The scratch kitchen makes dressings, soups, gravies, pastry and bread daily. Meats are roasted in-house.

“The only things in our freezer are ice cream and peas,” Hays joked.

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