Fajitas at Salsa Brava in Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff, Arizona is a very popular road trip stop due to its’ close proximity to numerous national parks such as The Grand Canyon, The Petrified National Forest, and Zion National Park just to name a few. Because of its’ many hotels, restaurants, and attractions, it’s also a convenient stopping point for travelers and truckers driving I-40 on the way to big city destinations like Los Angeles and Las Vegas. To top it off, thousands of Southern Arizona residents (Phoenix in particular) flee to the region year-round, in the summer (to escape the extreme desert heat), in the fall (to see the beautiful changing colors), and in the winter (to see the snow and ski).

Beautiful open fields on the Aspen Nature Loop in Flagstaff
Views before a summer monsoon on the gorgeous Aspen Nature Loop hiking trail at Snowbowl.
Beautiful fall day on the Aspen Nature Loop in Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is surprisingly a hotspot for fall colors. Many aspens line the hiking trails including the gorgeous Aspen Nature Loop at Snowbowl.
Great winter landscapes along the Aspen Nature Loop trail in Flagstaff
Winter is a popular time to hit the trails for some cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing!

As you can probably imagine from the info above, the small city (with a population of just 60,000 residents) sees millions of travelers each year. In 2015, more than 5 million tourists and road trip travelers visited or passed through this small town. This high influx of visitors year-round means at times (more often than not!) intense crowds, especially on weekends as everyone heads to various recreational hotspots and restaurants.

An emerging foodie destination!

Flagstaff is home to a surprising number of restaurants despite its’ small size, with both standard chains and local choices. Aside from your popular chain options like The Olive Garden, Chili’s, and the Outback Steakhouse, you will also find a diverse selection of local cuisine to test out.

Many unique restaurants line the streets of downtown Flagstaff.
Many unique restaurants line the streets of downtown Flagstaff.

So if you are feeling adventurous and want to try something new, you’ll want to bypass the chains in favor of one of the numerous local options, ranging from almost anything imaginable, from Japanese sushi, to lively sports bars, to Italian restaurants. As in all touristy areas, restaurants can be a hit or miss. There are many overrated restaurants, as well as hidden gems which you probably would never have heard about during your short stay.

To help you navigate through the many choices, I’ve devised a helpful list of 5 restaurants to check out, as well as 5 overrated experience which I recommend skipping. After all, why should you waste any of your limited time? Below, you will find a diverse list of options to suit every budget and taste. Enjoy the list and be sure to tell me some of your favorite Flagstaff restaurants!

Below are 5 great local restaurants worth visiting. Update: Unfortunately, Picazzo’s has closed. There is another location in nearby Sedona.

Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen

Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen in Flagstaff, Arizona

Picazzo’s is a regional healthy Italian chain with several locations in Phoenix, along with one in Sedona and Flagstaff. The menu is 100% free of GMO’s and completely gluten-free. Picazzo’s is by far the best choice in town for anyone dining gluten or dairy-free as there are many creative allergy friendly entrees to choose amongst including lasagna, baked mac and cheese, and all sorts of specialty pizzas.

The food here is absolutely delicious, whether or not you have any dietary restrictions. Definitely visit during “Healthy Hours” (daily from 3-6pm) when appetizers are priced 1/2 off. The spinach artichoke dip, hummus plate, and cheesy bread are all outstanding! If you are looking for something a bit more filling, the Butternut Squash Ravioli topped with a creamy Alfredo (dairy-free also available) is an excellent choice. And do not pass up on dessert – they have the most delicious cookie and brownie cakes!

Picazzos Flagstaff spinach artichoke dip
The creamiest, most delicious spinach artichoke dip in town!
Picazzos Flagstaff hummus appetizer
The hummus plate, served with raw veggies and GF adzuki bean chips, is outstanding!
Picazzos Flagstaff cheesy garlic bread
Cheesy gluten-free garlic bread!
sweet potato ravioli blog
My favorite entree: the Sweet Potato ravioli topped with a dairy-free roasted cauliflower garlic Alfredo sauce!

Unfortunately, Picazzo’s is often rated low because it is pricey, however, in reality the food is not much more expensive than the pricey pubs downtown. At least at Picazzo’s, you are treating yourself to healthy organic food and friendlier service, not to mention enjoying the laid-back setting without insane tourist crowds!