Nomads Global Lounge started as a wine bar that also served beer and appetizers. “I pictured myself behind the bar polishing wine glasses,” said John McCulloch, owner with his wife, Lisa. But the eatery side of the business has quickly gained popularity. “You can’t take your foot off the gas… all of a sudden we’re doing a restaurant!” added the long-time Flagstaff resident who also owns the adjoining, historic Motel Du Beau and the Grand Canyon International Hostel, which leases space from the Downtowner Motel.
“We originally wanted to create a pilgrim space where our young traveling clients could gather and relax over a beer or wine,” explained McCulloch. The hip wine bar and 38-seat eatery that opened in 2016 as a gathering place for young internationals had morphed into a restaurant that is attracting locals, who are 40+. Nomads Global Lounge’s well-executed interior design has an international vibe that attracts mature Flagstaff citizens who yearn for travel as well as young global nomads.
Pictures of Africa, India and Antarctica adorn the horsehair concrete walls, adding to the international vibe. The travel theme is enhanced by features like the globe-shaped outdoor fire pit, Nestle glass coffee mugs from the 1964 World’s Fair and Asian-inspired lanterns. An eclectic assortment of music plays in the background, a fire glows in the Craftsman-style fireplace, and all combine to produce a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
The menu, folded into the shape of a vintage suitcase, also reflects world expedition with items such as Aussie Meat and Ale Pie, Yucatán Chicken and Lamb Kafka. McCulloch teams with Chef Miles Martin to blend flavors from different parts of the world into hearty nosh that is uniquely Nomads Global Lounge. Take the thick tomato soup, for instance. Nomad’s rendition will challenge your idea of this common comfort food. The thick, rich soup is almost a meal in itself. McCulloch wanted to spin the traditional preparation for French onion soup into his recipe. “We add grilled crostini and melt cheese on the top for a sort-of grilled-cheese-sandwich-tomato soup combo,” described the former lead singer and guitar player for local bands.
McCulloch learned the art of making a proper tomato sauce from one of his fellow band members. “He said that when his grandmother sautéed the vegetables for her sauce, she always burnt the peppers. That’s our secret: burning the peppers gives it a real smoky flavor,” the restaurateur revealed. The homemade tomato sauce is featured in the “Nibbler Nosh” of mini meatballs in marinara sauce and the farfalle pasta bowl. Guests can choose between small plates or order the “Smorgasbord,” which is ample enough for two.
The wine list boasts selections from around the world by the glass or bottle, and features wines on tap from Sonoma Valley, Paso Robles and France – and servers offer samples. The beer menu is equally international and offers a local brew, Mother Road’s Tower Station IPA.
“We focus on service,” said McCulloch, a two-term Flagstaff city councilperson in the 1990s. “You can have a five-star restaurant with good food and good service, but you can’t have a five-star restaurant without good service.”
Chef Miles Martin studied at Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu in Portland and worked at Cottage Place after graduating from the Flagstaff High School culinary program.
The space, originally the lobby and breakfast area for Motel Du Beau, was completely revamped and McCulloch used his woodworking skills to build the tables and create the bar, which is inlaid with found stones, seashells and ammonites. A comfortable couch near the fireplace is popular with couples. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, FBN
Nomads Global Lounge
19 W Phoenix Ave, Flagstaff
“All of a sudden we’re doing a restaurant!” says John McCulloch, standing behind the bar he built.
Photo by Stacey Wittig