I have friends that take the same vacation each summer and absolutely love it. I am the type of person that takes a different way home from work just to discover a new neighborhood, store, or restaurant. Maybe it is because I grew up in the early 1960's and dad would take us on a Sunday drive without any destination in mind. My profession as an urban planner makes me curious about the natural and built environment but my passion is wine and food. Or maybe I just get bored easily.
Arizona has beautiful and quirky places, expansive open spaces and varied geography, weather extremes, incredible history, and interesting people. And of course, great places to eat fantastic food while exploring new places. Here is my list of five of my favorite restaurants that you can plan a road trip around.
Winslow, Arizona - Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel: This is a great place to stay and experience incredible southwestern cuisine while you dream about days gone by in an original Harvey House. Every time I visit, the Black Bean/Corn Chowder is my go-to dish. Chef John Sharpe focuses on local and Native American ingredients in inventive ways. There is so much to see in the Four Corners area making it a perfect road trip.
Bisbee, Arizona – Café Roka: Chef Rod Kass and Sally Holcomb opened this special restaurant in 1992 in Old Bisbee. Chef Kass has a passion for quality, locally sourced ingredients that inspire incredible meals. Choose a local Arizona wine to pair with your special dinner. After dinner stroll the streets of this quaint historic mining town.
Florence, Arizona – LB Cantina: This was one of Governor Rose Mofford’s favorite restaurants and I could tell you some stories (but those are for another time). The restaurant has been serving Sonoran Style Mexican cuisine for over 40 years. While in Florence stroll the short historic Main Street and have a beer at the River Bottom Grill. Make sure your trip does not coincide with Country Thunder or bikers’ weekend when thousands of bikers do a ride-by to show support for their buddies in prison. Visit the McFarland State Historic Park and nearby Tom Mix Memorial, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, The Windmill Winery, and St. Anthony’s Monastery, a Greek Orthodox Monastery.
Tubac, Arizona – Elvira’s Restaurant: This restaurant is known for a long list of moles they have perfected. Come for the modern Mexican food and wander through the art galleries. Visit the Tubac Presido State Historic Park and Tumacacori National Historical Park, drive into Nogales to see a border community or play golf where the movie Tin Cup was filmed at Tubac Golf Resort and Spa.
Tucson, Arizona - L’l Abner’s Steakhouse: I have so many fond memories of driving out of Tucson into the beautiful Sonoran Desert to sit under the stars on a patio smelling steaks being grilled over mesquite. Not much has changed since it was established in 1947, except that this quirky steakhouse is now surrounded by master planned communities.
Hit the Arizona road and let us know about the discoveries you make.