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Flagstaff Southside: Restaurants, bars and fun on the other side of the tracks

If you’re overly familiar with downtown Flagstaff, it may be time to check out the other side of the tracks.

Not long ago, there was little reason to venture from the friendly confines of the city’s charming and historical downtown when enjoying a night out.

Thanks to an infusion of cash, creativity and craft beer, the neighborhood south of the railroad tracks stands on its own. Once worth a brief foray, now it’s worth an evening, if not two. All it needs is a catchy name, such as “SoFlag” or “CrossTown.” 

Seven bars and restaurants have opened in Southside in the past three years, and a student-housing complex will open in 2018. The Hub will contain more than 600 units plus 7,000 square feet devoted to retail space.

At this point, Southside is a few empty storefronts shy of rivaling downtown, but it’s worth waiting for a train to pass so you can explore Flagstaff’s lesser-known area.

Here’s a guide to an afternoon and evening well-spent on the other side of the tracks.

3 p.m.: Lumberyard Brewing Co.

Take a seat on the expansive patio in front of Southside’s most visible and inviting representative. It’s the first business you see when heading across the tracks on San Francisco Street, and it offers a perfect view of trains rolling by.

A little background: The brewpub is housed in a former lumberyard, thus its location so close to the tracks.

The scene: The family-friendly restaurant is often busy, and kids make up a good portion of the traffic. Should you prefer a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere, head into the adult oasis that is the cozy bar.

The order: Warm up with an appetizer and a beer. Ask about Lumberyard’s seasonal brews. If nothing catches your fancy, the Railhead Red is a malty but not too sweet ale that makes an excellent starter.

Details: 5 S. San Francisco St. 928-779-2739, lumberyardbrewingcompany.com.

4 p.m.: Tourist Home Urban Market

Next, head a block south for a surprise. Sporting an original neon sign that says “Tourist Home,” this historic building now houses some of Flagstaff’s most delectable pastries.

A little background: The quaint house was built in 1926 and for years was a boarding house. Now part market and part restaurant, Tourist Home is operated by the same people who run the nearby Tinderbox Kitchen restaurant.

The scene: Millennials have embraced Tourist Home, with tables scattered around what looks like an upscale convenience market. A small bar in the center caps the bistro look.

The order: Peruse the breakfast and lunch menu for future reference. Right now you’re here for the pastries by talented chef Kat Biermann. Whatever you choose is perfect. There are no wrong pastries.

Details: 52 S. San Francisco St. 928-779-2811, www.tinderboxkitchen.com/tourist-home.

4:45 p.m.: Southside Tavern

Enjoy one of the best bargains in the neighborhood. During happy hour (3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday), the tavern offers select craft beers for $3, as well as $4 cocktails and wine.

A little background: Owners gutted the 1930s-era building to reveal a real charmer with exposed brick and a pressed-copper ceiling. Portions of old bowling alleys serve as tables and the bar, though servers resist sliding drinks to patrons, to avoid having to pour a spare. 

The scene: If you’re in a party mood, enjoy the convivial atmosphere at the bar. Those preferring something a bit more chill may head to the back room, where couches and dim lighting await. Better yet, continue to the patio and embrace Flagstaff’s lovely evening weather (not valid November-February).

The order: Ask about the happy-hour specials and relax. Sip. Take your time.

Details: 117 S. San Francisco St. 928-440-5093.

6 p.m.: Root Public House

Have dinner at a restaurant that’s quickly made a name for itself among locals. Root Public House depends on regional suppliers for produce, meats, beers and more.

A little background: Looking to take advantage of Southside’s revitalization, owners took over the building that once housed the Mad Italian Public House, a sports bar and concert venue that closed in 2013. Root opened in July 2016.

The scene: Refined without being snooty, Root Public House draws those who appreciate creative, well-prepared dishes. The casual bar puts the “pub” in “Public House,” and fine dining awaits those seated in the restaurant. The rooftop patio is not to be missed.

The order: Thanks to fresh ingredients, the menu is solid top to bottom. Try the Arizona Hot Chicken, which may well be the kitchen’s signature dish. Spicy fried chicken is served with a sunny-side-up egg and pickled vegetables.

Details: 101 S. San Francisco St. 928-774-1402, www.rootpublichouse.com.

8 p.m.: Historic Barrel + Bottle

The Flagstaff-based brewery has been steadily making a name for itself around the state. It creates a full slate of tasty suds, from refreshing lagers to hoppy ales and sturdy stouts.

A little background: Historic dates to 2013 when John Kennelly, who ran his family’s three restaurants in Williams, decided to embark on his dream of opening a brewery. His sister Carole Kennelly joined him, the two overseeing a moderately sized brewery in a Flagstaff industrial park.

The scene: This cozy, no-frills taproom occupies a corner in what could pass for Flagstaff’s smallest strip mall. If there’s no room at the eight-seat bar, settle in at one of the tables. Don’t worry, an attentive bartender will be right over.

The order: Ask for a six-sample beer flight, but be sure to share. You’ll get 30 ounces of brew for $15. There’s locally roasted coffee if you need an ale break.

Details: 110 S. San Francisco St. 928-774-0454, www.historicbarrelandbottle.com.

8:45 p.m.: Pizzicletta

Head a block west to finish your Southside night. Are you in the mood for sweet or savory? This intimate pizzeria caters to both.

A little background: The wood-fired pizza, baked at 900 degrees in an oven built in Naples, Italy, comes to you courtesy of chef Caleb Schiff, who opened Pizzicletta in 2011. The restaurant’s name is a combination of pizza and bicicletta (Italian for bicycle), because Schiff discovered a passion for wood-fired pizza while cycling through Europe.

The scene: On a weekend night, odds are good the place will be packed, a testament to its popularity as well as its small size. If there’s a line, be patient because some people might be there for to-go orders.

The order: If you’re in the mood for savory, you can’t miss with an artisanal pizza featuring a flavorful dough baked crispy and crunchy. It’s perfect for two people, or four if everyone is in the mood for something light. Prefer sweet? The house-made gelato offers just the right night-ending touch. Servers will fill you in on available flavors.

Details: 203 W. Phoenix Ave. 928-774-3242, www.pizzicletta.com.

Bonus: Mother Road Brewing Co.

If there’s no room at Pizzicletta and you still have room for beer, consider taking your pizza and/or gelato to this taproom next door. Alternatively, take a seat at Mother Road and put in an order at Pizzicletta, a magical beer-pizza symbiosis.

A little background: The 5-year-old brewpub is expanding. Mother Road pumped out 4,100 barrels in 2016, but a new 8,000-square-foot facility being built nearby will eventually be capable of producing 20,000 barrels a year.

The scene: You’ll note the strong scent of hops, barley and other beer ingredients as soon as you step into the taproom, which fits into the brewery like a Tetris block. If you not be a fan of such odors, they are not nearly as strong on the patio.

The order: Beer. Of course. Chances are a brewer or two is wandering around, should you have questions. Ask if Mother Road might be brewing something special. It is known to brew experimental concoctions in small batches.

Details: 7 S. Mikes Pike. 928-774-9139, motherroadbeer.com.

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