By Annette McGivney | Photo by John Burcham
For nearly four decades, visitors and residents steered clear of Tourist Home on South San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. Rather than being inviting, as the building’s fading sign implied, the long-abandoned hostel was downright creepy, with whiskey bottles littering the yard, boarded-up windows and a collapsing structure that was a haven for vagrants.
Built in 1926 by Basque sheepherder Jesus Garcia and his mother, Tourist Home was originally a boarding house for sheepherders. But after the sheepherding industry disappeared, Tourist Home shut its doors. By 2013, it seemed tearing down the decaying building was imminent.
Enter cousins Scott and Kevin Heinonen, the chef and manager, respectively, of the successful Tinderbox Kitchen restaurant and Annex cocktail lounge next door. With the help of a Flagstaff developer, the Heinonens acquired the building and vowed to restore the historic structure.
Tourist Home Urban Market opened in October 2014 as a small grocery store and Tinderbox-inspired café. While the original exterior structure has been fortified and preserved, the building’s interior is clean, modern and the antithesis of the neglected place it was just a few years ago. The café and market offers quick-service breakfast and lunch items from its kitchen, as well as specialty foods and grocery staples from the market shelves and deli cases.
You can pick up milk and eggs at Tourist Home, but you can also buy exotic cheeses, homemade pâté and gourmet cornbread mix. However, what really sets this new venue apart from the growing number of Southside restaurants is the selection of breakfast and lunch items, which are prepared in less than 10 minutes but reflect the Tinderbox motto of “American comfort food redefined.”
“We are focused on fresh, flavorful ingredients,” says Tourist Home general manager Dara Wong, who is also a gourmet pastry chef. “We are carrying over some menu ideas from the Tinderbox in terms of offering simple, bold food. Everything on our menu has minimal ingredients but is executed very well.”
Take, for example, the pastrami sandwich (pictured). This exquisite rendition of an American lunchbox staple is packed 2 inches thick with pastrami made from New York strip-steak loins, treated in a special brine and then smoked. The savory sandwich is served on raisin-pumpernickel bread and also contains caraway slaw and melted Gruyère cheese. Other quick-serve items on the lunch menu include a warm spinach salad with duck-fat vinaigrette and a steak torta made with carne asada and queso fresco. And Wong always has fresh-baked pastries popping out of the oven.
Just about everything Tourist Home serves from its kitchen is house-made, from the breads to the smoked salmon and even the ketchup. “We are raising the bar for quick-service food,” Wong says.
Tourist Home Urban Market is located at 52 S. San Francisco Street in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-779-2811 or visit www.touristhomeurbanmarket.com.