1. Arizona’s 10 Best Restaurants (
  2. International Blend (USA Today)
  3. What’s Cooking? (NAU Network)
  4. 25 Favorite Place to Eat (AZ Highways)
  5. Finding Flagstaff (AZ Daily Star)
  6. Criollo Cuisine (AZ Daily Sun)

Arizona’s 10 Best Restaurants: A Foodie’s Ultimate Guide

“Many restaurants offer Latin flavours or Latin fusion food, but few do it as well as the Criollo Latin Kitchen. Taking fresh local ingredients and making them vibrant with Latin passion is no mean feat, but Criolla manages it with aplomb with every meal. The menu sings with dishes from across South and Central America, from Haiti to Brazil. No Latin flavour is not represented, making for exciting food totally at odds with the minimalist chic of the restaurant’s interior.”

International Blend: Criollo Latin Kitchen [ PDF ]

Criollo Featured in USA Today!

What’s Cooking? Criollo Latin Kitchen

25 Favorite Places to Eat in Arizona [ PDF ]

Finding Flagstaff

Kathleen Allen, Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, July 11, 2010

One of the signs that a city is growing up is its culinary scene. And there’s no doubt about it: Flagstaff is growing up. Over a four-day weekend, we couldn’t resist the temptations. . . .

. . . we hadn’t been to the relatively new Criollo Latin Kitchen (16 N. San Francisco St.). We headed off to the casual restaurant.

And, frankly, we’re glad we did. The restaurant goes local as much as possible, and you can taste the difference.

The Ropa Vieja ($12) was an entree of beef braised with such tasty items as onion, garlic and cumin. The tender, shredded beef was high in flavor and piled on a plate with perfect pinto beans, fluffy rice and a warm flour tortilla.

The fish taco ($13) was just as thrilling. A big chunk of fresh catfish, lightly fried, was tucked into a tortilla with avocado, cabbage, a pico de gallo that had a slow, gentle burn, and a touch of ancho crema. It sang of textures, freshness, a bit of heat and an abundance of flavor. . . .

. . . the absolute best we tried in Flagstaff was Brix Casual Fine Dining & Wine Bar, a small restaurant in a converted brick house just north of downtown (413 N. San Francisco).

It wasn’t just the cozy table in the beautiful garden, fragrant with the herbs that fill the flower beds and sit in pots on tables; the vast, sophisticated wine list – more than 150 bottles from mostly West Coast wineries; or the impeccable service, warm and friendly but not cloying.

It was Brix’s food, which is hyper-local, thoughtfully prepared and beautifully presented. . . . it was hard not to be completely seduced.

. . . [ Read the complete Brix review here.] . . .

Criollo Cuisine

Larry Hendricks, Arizona Daily Sun, Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where does a person go in Flagstaff to get a good Spanish paella?

Or some fresh, citrus cured fish?

Or a rustic portion of Cuban ropa vieja (braised beef, rice and pinto beans)?

What about flavors of Costa Rica, Haiti, Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela?

Answer: The new Criollo Latin Kitchen downtown that opened in early December.

“We wanted to grow our business and it’s a cuisine we enjoy and like,” said Paul Moir, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Laura.

Moir, who also owns Brix, said the themes for the new restaurant are to have good, Latin-inspired food that uses locally and sustainably grown ingredients as much as possible.

Brix, which specializes in casual fine dining, has a similar philosophy, Moir said.

Moir said executive chef and business partner David Smith cures his own meats. The beef, Criollo cattle, comes from La Cienega Ranch near Wickenburg. The term “Criollo” refers to anybody of pure Spanish descent born in any of the colonies the country established in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Even the wood used to make paneling for the remodeled restaurant (formerly Cafe Espress) is salvaged from either local bark beetle-killed pine trees or trees from the 2004 Rodeo-Chediski fire, Moir said.

The atmosphere at Criollo is austere, with warm woods and lighting, wood floors and brick and mortar work elegantly offsetting art hanging on the walls.

“We wanted to keep it downtown casual, just more approachable,” Moir said.

The menu at Criollo features tapas, soups, salads main dishes with a variety of side dishes and desserts. Prices range from $3 for sides and soups to a top price of $18 for bistec de mojo ajo (a garlic-marinated flank steak with Peruvian potatoes).

Affordability of local food was a key consideration when coming up with the Criollo menu, Smith said.

Other featured items for dinner include fish tacos, tamarind-marinated pork tenderloin, quinoa fritters and chicken mole.

Criollo has different menus for the time of day and day of the week. The lunch menu also includes a Criollo burger and a Cuban sandwich of roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustards in pressed bread with fries.

The brunch menu features an array of egg dishes from Columbia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

There are also daily Happy Hour specials that run from $2 to $5.

The restaurant also has a variety of top-shelf liquors, wines and beers from Latin countries as well as several local micro brews. Moir said Brix general manager and business partner Anthony Alvarez was responsible for coming with the bar menu. Among the choices are top tequilas, mescals, rums and ports. Wines and beers come from Latin countries from all over the world.

Patrons can get wine by the half glass, the glass or by the bottle.

Desserts include pastry fingers (churros) with Venezuelan chocolate and caramel custard (flan).

Smith said the point was to meld Spanish and Latin beyond the more common Tex-Mex fare offered in Flagstaff.

As for opening a business during an economic recession in winter, Moir said business has been good.

“We’re optimistic because of the astounding foot traffic downtown,” Moir said, adding that making it through the winter and spring will be a good test of the restaurants pull on patrons.

Come spring, Moir said he hopes to have the back patio open for dining.

Criollo also accepts to-go orders.