Sedona Launches 'Straw Free' Program

Grant Morgan | Sedona

One of Arizona's best-known destinations is seeking to encourage its restaurants to discontinue offering plastic straws to patrons.

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau launched the Straw Free Sedona program last week, the chamber said in a news release. The campaign invites businesses in the Red Rock Country city to pledge to stop providing single-use plastic straws, and to provide only paper straws if requested by customers.

The chamber says the campaign comes in response to alarming statistics about how much plastic makes its way into the world's oceans.

"As the public becomes increasingly informed about the detrimental effects that single-use plastics have on the environment, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and other organizers of Straw Free Sedona are proud to be acting for a more sustainable future," said Jennifer Wesselhoff, the chamber's president and CEO. She added that the campaign is the first step toward making Sedona "the most sustainable destination in the USA."

Organizers noted that some customers, particularly children and people with disabilities, may require straws. They said those patrons should be offered paper straws, which are a more environmentally friendly alternative.

To learn more about the campaign, visit

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Bisbee's St. Elmo Makes National 'Dive Bar' List

Courtesy of St. Elmo (via Facebook)

A longtime watering hole in the old Arizona mining town of Bisbee recently was recognized as a "historic dive bar" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

St. Elmo was one of seven dive bars honored by the organization as part of last month's National Dive Bar Day. The National Trust says such businesses "are an integral part of America’s historic character," in that they "emulate the love and energy we put into our communities."

Of St. Elmo, the National Trust had this to say:

The longest continually operating drinking establishment in the state of Arizona, St. Elmo survived Prohibition by converting into a soda shop and was later regularly patronized by celebrities such as John Wayne and Charlie Sheen. The current owner of the bar, Phil Yossem, says the vibe is most similar to that of the Mos Eisley Cantina in "Star Wars," according to a story from The best drink on the menu is the Bloody Mary, which uses a special “chili water” to give it some extra kick.

Longtime Arizona Highways readers might remember St. Elmo from our October 2013 issue, when it appeared in a Bisbee portfolio by photographer Jill Richards.

The other six bars on the list were in New York, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Texas and Idaho. You can read about the rest of them on the National Trust's website.

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Join the Debate: What Is 'Arizona Food'?

Los Corrales, Pinetop-Lakeside | Paul Markow

A lively discussion on the social-media site Reddit this week centered on a simple question about our state: "When you think about Arizona food, what dish do you think of?"

The Reddit user, posting on the site's /r/arizona subreddit, continued, "I’m making a web series on how to make the most iconic dish from each state. What Arizona dish would you like to see made?"

As you might imagine, in a state as big and diverse as Arizona, there were plenty of different responses. Here are some of the highest-rated ones:

  • "Mexican food and Bosa Donuts make up 90 percent of my diet." (That probably isn't healthy.)
  • "Carne asada ... you can find it in almost every town in Arizona."
  • "Sonoran hot dog. It's not my favorite, but it can be quite good."
  • "Chimichanga." (By some accounts, this Mexican dish was invented in Arizona.)
  • "Navajo fry bread."

Of course, food is one of those topics about which people can argue endlessly and never reach a consensus. But what do you think? When you think of "Arizona food," what comes to mind? Let us know in the comments.

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3 Phoenix Restaurants Make Yelp's Top 100 for 2018

You won't leave Phoenix's Little Miss BBQ hungry — if you get in before they run out of food, that is. | Via Facebook

A wildly popular Phoenix barbecue joint was named the second-best place to eat in America in a new Yelp ranking, and two other Valley of the Sun restaurants made the top-100 list as well.

Little Miss BBQ, at 4301 E. University Drive, has become a mainstay of Yelp's annual Top 100 Places to Eat list — it's been ranked in the top 15 on four consecutive versions, although No. 2 is its highest ranking so far.

The honor is no surprise to those who have visited or even driven past Little Miss BBQ around lunchtime. The line usually is out the door, and Yelpers rave about the ribs and the brisket. The restaurant currently has a perfect five-star average on its Yelp reviews, which is impressive given that more than 1,500 people have reviewed it. A second location is expected to open this year.

The two other area restaurants making the list were Mesa's Green Corner Restaurant, which specializes in Mediterranean fare, at No. 85, and Phoenix's TEN Handcrafted American Fare & Spirits, which rounded out the list at No. 100.

You also don't have to go far from Arizona to experience the top entry on the list: TKB Bakery & Deli in Indio, California.

Yelp says its "data science team" compiled the rankings based on each restaurant's star rating, number of reviews and other factors.

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Parada del Sol Parade, Festival Bring Wild West Back to Scottsdale

Scottsdale Parada del Sol Parade | Kent Ennis

The 65th annual Scottsdale Parada del Sol Parade and Trail’s End Festival is set to bring Wild West adventures and history to downtown Scottsdale starting this week.

Parada President Wendy Springborn said the event dates to 1951. Back then, it was named the Sunshine Festival. Springborn, who moved from Illinois to Arizona in 1969, said she has many fond memories of the festival and parade from her early days in the Valley.

“Back in my grade-school days, there would be a month's worth of events going on in downtown Scottsdale leading up to the parade and rodeo," she said. "It’s gotten a smaller footprint as far as dates over time, but the city is really trying to bring back events for a Western week to give residents and visitors an opportunity to experience some of the history of Scottsdale.”

Parade attendees and festivalgoers can experience Western bands, dancing, activities for kids, an Arizona wine garden, Aztec and folklorico dancers, and more. Those who want more than just one day of Western fun can join in events throughout the week, including an art walk and Pony Express mail delivery.

The upcoming Scottsdale Western Week features a number of free, family-friendly events, including:

Western Spirit Gold Palette ArtWalk
Thursday, February 8, 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The Scottsdale Gallery Association transforms its popular ArtWalk series with a Western theme, including Scottsdale’s finest examples of Old West and contemporary art. Visitors can experience live mariachi performances, a rope-trick artist and live demonstrations inside some of the galleries.

Hashknife Pony Express Mail Delivery and Community Celebration
Friday, February 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The oldest officially sanctioned Pony Express celebrates its 60th year with riders blazing their trail from the tiny town of Holbrook to the streets of downtown Scottsdale. Arriving on horseback and covering a relay mail route of more than 200 miles, the annual delivery consists of 20,000 pieces of first class mail that bear the “Hashknife Pony Express” insignia.

65th Annual Scottsdale Parada del Sol Parade and Trail’s End Festival
Saturday, February 10, 10 a.m. to noon (parade), noon to 4 p.m. (festival)

As in years past, 2018’s Parada del Sol promises a variety of horse groups, including mounted riders of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse, the Hashknife Pony Express riders and the Scottsdale Charros, as well as horse-drawn carriages, bands, wagons and stagecoaches.

Arizona Indian Festival
Saturday, February 10, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, February 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Held at Scottsdale Civic Center Park, this two-day, family-friendly event features Arizona tribes sharing cultural experiences, traditional dwellings, art demonstrations, Native American storytelling, performances, music and contemporary entertainment, and an artisan market.

Whether you make it to all the stops or just have time for one Western Week event, consider spending your Saturday in Scottsdale for the parade and festival. “It’s just a wonderful time to come down and see all the beautiful history of Scottsdale in the parade,” Springborn said. “Come out and enjoy a wonderful day and afternoon.”

To learn more about the events planned around the Scottsdale Parada del Sol Parade and Trail’s End Festival, visit

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Arizona Restaurant Honored by James Beard Foundation

El Guero Canelo, Tucson | Via Facebook

A Tucson fast food joint has joined an upscale Paradise Valley restaurant and a Phoenix eatery in receiving an honor from a prestigious dining organization.

El Guero Canelo, which started as a hot dog stand and serves Sonoran-style Mexican fare, is among the new America's Classics Awards winners from the James Beard Foundation. The awards, created in 1998, recognize locally owned restaurants that serve "quality food that reflects the character of their communities."

The restaurant joins Pardise Valley's El Chorro Lodge, which specializes in upscale American fare, and Phoenix's Fry Bread House, which serves fry bread and other Native American dishes, in receiving the honor.

For the complete list of America's Classics Award winners nationwide, click here.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that all three restaurants received America's Classics Awards this year. El Guero Canelo is the only Arizona restaurant added to the list this year; the other two restaurants were added in previous years. We regret the error.

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Website: Mesquite Pods Are Arizona's 'Grossest' Food

Are mesquite pods really Arizona's "grossest" food? | Raymond Shobe (via Flickr)

A prominent website's ranking of each state's "grossest" delicacy will probably upset some foodies in Arizona and elsewhere.

Thrillist's list was published earlier this year, but the Arizona Daily Star noticed it last week. The headline: Every State's Grossest Food (That People Actually Love). And in Arizona, the website claims, mesquite pods are the least appetizing thing around.

While taking in the stark beauty of the Arizona desert, you might notice some of the vegetation appears to have 8in-long, chartreuse-colored spiders crawling out of its branches. Chill. Not only are these lil' wormy monsters harmless legumes, they're actually edible. And, more importantly, they (especially the honey-mesquite variety) taste like organic Skittles. You can pop them right off the branch and eat the pods like jumbo green beans, or mash them into a fine powder to make flour, jelly, or even cocktails. See, Skittles do grow from trees. They're just a little uglier. The only catch is the alien that eventually hatches inside your stomach if you eat more than three.

The author of this blog post readily admits to not having sampled mesquite pods, but if they're the grossest thing Thrillist could come up with for our state, then Arizona appears to be doing pretty well. As the Daily Star noted, the organization Desert Harvesters hosts a mesquite-milling festival in Tucson every summer. And mesquite flour is a favorite among the gluten-intolerant.

Arizona's entry on this list looks even better when you compare it with some other states' "grossest" foods — notably the pickle dog (Minnesota), scrapple (Pennsylvania) and Brunswick stew (Virginia). Those all might be delicious, but the Arizona Highways staff probably won't find out anytime soon.

You tell us: What is Arizona's grossest food?

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Dine 200 Feet Underground at Grand Canyon Caverns

Caverns Grotto didn't exist when these guys showed up at Grand Canyon Caverns. If it did, they'd have a little more meat on their bones. | Cindy Roth

A popular tourist attraction along Historic Route 66 is opening a restaurant that's unlike any other in Arizona.

As ABC15 reported last week, Grand Canyon Caverns, located along Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman, has created Caverns Grotto, a four-table restaurant where diners can enjoy lunch or dinner in a cave 200 feet underground. There, they'll have an uninterrupted, 360-degree view of a cave that's part of the largest dry caverns in the United States, the facility said.

The restaurant, which is set to open around August 15, will be a pretty exclusive spot, with a capacity of only 16 diners at a time. Reservations are being accepted now, and if there's enough demand, the restaurant might add another table.

Caverns Grotto will offer an all-you-can-eat lunch for $49.95 and a dinner, which will include unlimited salad and dessert, for $69.95. Both include a tour of the cave, which normally costs $20. The food will be made above ground and brought down to diners via the facility's elevator and a pulley system.

This isn't the only unique thing to do at Grand Canyon Caverns; you can also spend a night in the Cavern Suite if you've got $800 to spare. More affordable motel rooms are available at ground level.

For more information about the caverns, click here.

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Fire Destroys Apache Junction's Mining Camp Restaurant

Courtesy of Mining Camp Restaurant

A Phoenix-area restaurant that's been serving up family-style ribs and other Western fare for more than a half-century burned to the ground last week.

The Mining Camp Restaurant, located just southeast of the Apache Trail (State Route 88) in Apache Junction, was destroyed early Tuesday, July 25, Valley food blog Mouth by Southwest reported.

The restaurant was built with ponderosa pine logs from the Payson area, according to its website. It opened in 1961 and was a popular tourist destination known for its family-style, all-you-can-eat dinners, which featured barbecued ribs, baked beans and other dishes served on old-fashioned tin plates.

The Mining Camp also featured dinner shows at certain times of year, and hosted weddings and other events.

Mouth by Southwest reported the cause of the fire had not been determined, but that the building appeared to be a total loss. There was no word on whether the Mining Camp's owners would rebuild the facility.

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Space Age Material Aids ADOT Bridge Repairs

Crews repair the Interstate 17 bridge over 19th Avenue using a new carbon-fiber technique. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

Two major Interstate 17 bridges in Phoenix were recently repaired using a new carbon-fiber technique developed by a Tucson company.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says the repairs focused on bridge girders that were damaged when they were struck by over-height vehicles. Instead of a normal repair method, such as injecting epoxy to rebuild sections of the concrete girders, ADOT wrapped the girders in a strengthening material called Fiber Reinforced Polymer, or FRP — carbon-fiber strips that are coated and strengthened with a reinforcing polymer.

The bridges repaired with FRP carry I-17 over 19th Avenue and Jefferson Street in Phoenix. As a result of the repairs, the 19th Avenue bridge is no longer considered structurally deficient, ADOT says. The Jefferson Street bridge was not structurally deficient.

The FRP repair was developed by QuakeWrap Inc., a Tucson company, and was installed by construction firms from Tempe and Tucson. ADOT says the new repair technique can extend structures' life spans and can be completed in much less time than traditional repair methods.

Statewide, ADOT says, less than 2 percent of the department's bridges are listed as structurally deficient. But the department says that designation doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe to use — just that an inspection has identified certain repair needs.

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