Many of us have had to go back to square one since the coronavirus pandemic began as far as vacations and things to do go. So long for now to traveling overseas and big summer plans, and hello to staycations and laid back weekend trips. More people getting outdoors and enjoying Mother Nature has been a plus, and Arizona is actually a perfect place to get away and explore for a few days, with so many destinations that can be reached with just a few hours of driving, from Sedona to Tucson, Winslow to Florence and more.
Co-owner Peggy Fiandaca of LDV Winery in Scottsdale says she is always surprised when she meets a native Arizonan that has never traveled outside of the Phoenix Metro area when there are so many amazing and interesting places. In her previous career as a consulting urban planner, she would travel all over the state, particularly to rural communities.
"I have been most everywhere from mesas on the Navajo Nation where no one ever gets to visit to places where everyone wants to visit like Sedona," Fiandaca says.
With more people out on the road nowadays, Fiandaca decided to come up with a list of her favorite places to visit in Arizona and most importantly, where in town to eat and drink.
"My husband and I are amateur chefs, so when we go out to eat, we want an experience," she says. "That experience does not have to be fancy, but it has to be unique."
Take for example the spicy black bean and creamy corn chowder topped with spicy cream sauce at the Turquoise Room at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow. It's the restaurant's signature soup and has a special place in Fiandaca's heart. So do the elk ribeye medallions, fire grilled bison burgers, and the churro lamb sampler platter, a Navajo speciality.
"Their food is so great (that) I purchased their cookbook," she says.
Her other favorite restaurants around the state include Café Roka in Bisbee (get the artichoke and portobello lasagna and the vegan black bean chili), LB Cantina in Florence (Fiandaca recommends the machaca plate or the LB chorizo platter), Elvira's Restaurant in Tubac (mole is a must) and Che Ah Chi Restaurant at the Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon near Sedona (the restaurant is open to resort guests, and the bar patio is a great place to grab a drink and watch the sunset). In Tucson, she says you should check out Li'l Abner's Steakhouse.
"The bar on the site opened in 1947 and was named after the owner’s dog Abner. The 1-pound T-Bone steak or the bone-in ribeye are my go-to steaks," Fiandaca says. "Bring your leftover steak home so you have room to try their homemade pies and cobblers!"
Fiandaca also suggests chatting up the locals to find out their favorite eateries and making time to take different routes. She says to always keep a full tank of gas and at least a gallon of water, because some of the back roads are desolate.
"If you are heading up I-17 over to La Pasada in Winslow make sure you come back home on the back road so you don’t miss out on seeing deer or elk and the small mountain towns of Pine and Strawberry," Fiandaca says. "Or stop for pie in Payson as you wind your way back home, or you might find another adventure like the Natural Bridge right outside of Payson for a brief detour."
Here's to many more AZ road trips filled with food and fun in the months to come!