Unless you’ve actually been to Arizona, or are from Arizona, chances are you won’t have heard of Flagstaff. It doesn’t have quite the same impact on vegans as California or New York does. However, it was bloody brilliant.
The town has an estimated population of around 67000 people and is dominated by the railroad which runs straight through the centre, splicing it in two. The trains aren’t normal passenger carrying services either (although there are one or two). Instead, these trains carry goods, rumbling on, a mile long. But there’s more to do in Flagstaff than staring numbly at the train while you wait at the level crossing for hours.
It is a vegan food paradise. Not only that, but it’s surrounded by hikeable plains and is close enough to the San Francisco mountain range (no relation to the city) to do some serious hiking. On day one my partner and I decided we’d take a quick jaunt up Humphrey’s Point. Ha, we both said, knowingly. There’s no way this is going to be anything more than a little half day hike. WRONG. The peak is more than 12,000ft high and although the hike only goes up 2000m, the walk is a tough scramble. It’s also one of those insanely annoying mountains that has not one but TWO false peaks. You know the ones, you get to the top and there is another HOUR OF WALKING to go. Oh my goodness. So that was amazing, but at the end of it, I needed some serious calories because we had seriously misjudged how long and exhausting the walk was going to be. We took one litre of water between us for the entire climb. It was dumb.
But luckily, we were in Flagstaff and not in Page or Bryce (two places we found devoid of any vegan food almost at all. I had a bowl of rice in Page). For such a small place, there’s an incredible range of cafes and restaurants for vegans. It’s probably because, like Sedona, there’s a helluva lot of new-age spiritual stuff going down there (seriously, almost every other shop is a witchcraft or crystal shop). But Macy’s European Coffeehouse was just amazing. Huge vegan pecan buns which actually had caramelised crusts (this did the job after the whole mountain shebang) and the best hummus and pita bread I’ve eaten on the left side of the Atlantic. It was cheap too. $3.50 for a side of tofu, spinach and olive salad with a lemon tahini dressing. Just wonderful.
Flagstaff also had a few pizza places that had vegan and gluten free options (New Jersey Pizza and Fratelli’s), a wine bar (with vegan wines) and Red Curry Vegan Kitchen. Their best known burger joint Diablo Burgers offered dairy free burgers (with egg) so if you’re just a lactose intolerant veggie, there’s a choice for you there. Plus they came with insanely good rosemary french fries. Yum!
After pining for Cafe Gratitude and the West Coast, I felt so fortunate that I’d ended up here. Perfect stopover for those en-route to the Grand Canyon south rim.