In a place best known for its national monuments, pine forests and scenic peaks, it’s not easy to stand out in Flagstaff. But an innovative menu in a contemporary setting has been helping Atria, the brainchild of renowned chef Rochelle Daniel (pictured), do just that since the restaurant’s opening in December 2021.
Born in Arizona to a family of Irish descent, Daniel grew up making soda breads with her grandfather before conquering kitchens all over the Phoenix area, most notably at Fat Ox in Scottsdale and Zinc Bistro in Phoenix.
“The start of the restaurant begins with the name,” Daniel says. “There are two meanings to that. The upper cavities of your heart are called the atria, and I feel like the kitchen is the heart of the restaurant. Also, I wanted it to be short for ‘atrium’ to suggest something light, airy and indicative of Northern Arizona’s natural resources.”
And that’s the impression customers get as they step through the front door of this midcentury modern eatery. Pastel colors and fine lines help create an atmosphere reminiscent of standing in a garden. In the center of the space is an open kitchen where lucky guests get a front-row seat to the action. The shared space allows Daniel to see firsthand what kind of experience her customers are having.
From the comprehensive kitchen to the innovative bar, Atria’s focus is on balance and technique. French, Asian and South American flavors have helped Daniel find her own take on American cuisine and add diversity to her menu. “I feel like that’s what American food really is now,” she says. “It’s a little bit of this and that.”
She suggests starting a meal with both hot and cold oysters. Each version is served à la carte — the cold with an apple mignonette and crème fraîche, the hot with chorizo butter. That’s an easy decision, but choosing an entree is more challenging. There’s a lot to consider, including the Sonoma duck with house-made XO sauce, the smoked lemon and Marcona almond chicken, and the smoked short rib with bordelaise sauce. For a more immersive experience, there’s the 50-ounce tomahawk steak, which is a rib-eye carved tableside and served with six sauces.
The airiness concept continues with the dessert menu. With choices that include lemon pavlova with rhubarb jam and a chocolate tart with peanut butter mousse, one of Atria’s sweet treats is the perfect way to round out the experience.
“When customers leave, I want them to feel like they’ve never left — like they still have that feeling,” Daniel says. “It’s a memory now. … When something’s really great, you remember it.”
103 N. Leroux Street