Day 11 began in Flagstaff, AZ just south of Grand Canyon National Park and around 700 miles from our destination of Las Vegas. Before leaving Flagstaff we stopped for lunch at one of my favorite Southwestern restaurants anywhere, Salsa Brava. My family found Salsa Brava when we were in Flagstaff in 2011 visiting the Grand Canyon as part of a three week tour of the desert National Parks.
Salsa Brava is a local tradition, and has been for more than 25 years with good reason. Huge portions of amazing food and great service no matter what day or time you arrive are the secrets to success in the restaurant business, and Chef Jon Conley and his staff have perfected every segment of this equation. From the warm greeting of a host or hostess as soon as you are through the door to prompt service and a salsa bar that ensures you get a salsa you will love to go with the ubiquitous fresh corn chips brought fresh to your table Salsa Brava hits every mark you would hope a southwestern restaurant would. When you add in a menu that has continuously been named "Flagstaff's Best Mexican Restaurant" by the Arizona Sun Times since it opened you have something that has to be seen to be believed.
I started with their famous Stuffed Sopapilla, and it would be enough for two people's meals. Coop and I shared it in addition to our meals just so he could try it and I could enjoy another of the dishes they are famous for. The stuffed sopapilla at Salsa Brava is traditional fry bread filled with pinto beans, mixed cheeses, and your choice of carne asada, smoked chicken, or roasted pork. Cooked golden brown and topped with your choice of green chili (hot) or enchilada style (mild) it is a must have if you are a first time visitor. We had ours with the roasted pork, and it was so tender and flavorful that it needs to be tasted to believed.
For my main course I had the Cochinita Pibil, a Pit Roasted pork from the Yucatan peninsular region of Mexico, a slow-roasted all-natural pork shoulder with a house-made Yucatan rub. Served with cumin black beans, roasted corn rice, avocado, mango salsa, and fresh-steamed corn tortillas it is a very flavorful and very traditional mexican meal. The pork was expertly done, flavorful and crisped up perfectly on the flat top grill for that final touch before serving. The flavoring of cooking from the Yucatan is unique in its use of sour citrus in marinades, with flavorful seasoning that tends away from the heat that many associate with Mexican food. It is a flavor profile I love but may surprise those not used to it.
After our amazing lunch it was back on the road. We continued on Route 66 through town before turning towards the Grand Canyon on SR 180. It is amazing how many of the old hotels and other roadside attractions are still open along this section of Route 66. Even some newer additions have gotten into the spirit of things. There is also some great architecture in the area, especially in some of the area churches.
As we entered the area around the Grand Canyon National Park there was some amazing scenery, and of course the canyon itself is spectacular. Here are pictures of the trip to and from the canyon up until we were entering Las Vegas, including some great shots we got on and around the Hoover Dam just before sunset.
We got to Las Vegas just after sunset, giving us some great views of the city at night and all lit up as we were coming into town. There is no city on earth that lights up like Las Vegas. We were staying at The Palazzo, and were given an amazing suite for the night. In all it was the perfect way to end the day, and we spent the evening exploring the strip.
As for the rest of our night in Vegas, as the motto goes "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". We had a great night exploring the hotel and the strip, and completed the second part of the great gambling Trifecta. On to Reno!