Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series written in a coffee centric stream of consciousness about coffee bars we’ve visited and enjoyed. We stopped by for a cup of coffee and discovered a wonderful oasis of architecture, art, Southwest history, architectural restoration, human dedication and respect.
A TRUE OASIS--A few steps south of La Posada Hotel in Winslow AZ are the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad tracks. In fact, the lobby of this classic hotel is now the waiting room for two AMTRAK passenger trains that stop for passengers once in the morning and once at night. Mary Jane Colter, the chief architect for the Fred Harvey Company, designed La Posada in a deco/Spanish Revival style in the late 1920s.
Opened in 1930, La Posada was the last of the Santa Fe Railroad Co’s string of Fred Harvey hotels and restaurants. It was Fred Harvey, who brought style and elegance to transportation hospitality.
For the next 30 years, the town of Winslow prospered as a train hub for Santa Fe Railroad and because the Howard Hughes built airport (he owned TWA) was a refueling stop for those coast to coast Constellation flights. La Posada to this day remains as a must see establishment along route Highway 66.
Today, sitting in the window of La Posada’s Turquoise Restaurant you can see train buffs and/or hotel guests sitting on tree-lined stucco walls, chairs or garden swings watching the cross-country freight trains roll by seemingly every five minutes. If you think the humble freight train is going to soon be extinct—think again, the freight trains are often 100 double deck cars long.
Obviously, slow to get to the coffee story, but we had to praise the La Posada for its architectural history, stylish rebirth and for the best Southwestern cuisine we tasted between Kansas City and San Diego. Chef John Sharpe was on the ground floor of the late 1990s remodeling of La Posada (more on the trio who saved the hotel later in this blog post) and he opened the Turquoise Room in 2000.
It is a superb dinner house. The menu is shaped for all hours of the day and it sings. Harkening to its early Fred Harvey days our waitress wore a classic Fred Harvey Girl apron uniform.
If you are driving Interstate 40 and bypass Winslow and the La Posada you’ve cheated yourself.
We ended up staying three hours for lunch. And, a month later after our visit, we could easily be convinced to train it back to Winslow to spend a week at the La Posada for relaxation, train watching and the best food in Arizona.
Of course, we asked our Turquoise Room Restaurant waitress what brand of coffee we were drinking.
Her answer—Late For the Train—is sold in bulk at the restaurant but not in the hotel lobby gift store. We purchased a full pound.
Also, did a bit of research on Late For the Train Coffee Co., and learned it has been in operation in a hole in the wall storefront in Flagstaff since 1993. They still operate out of 107 N. San Francisco Street but have since added a new roaster and two new outlets elsewhere.
|Since 1993, the Late for the Train Coffee operation has been based in Flagstaff, AZ. Above is the main shop on San Francisco Street, in the historic downtown area.|
Late for the Train roasts a special Turquoise Room house blend using its Diedrich CR-50 roaster. The LFTT blend is only available in the Turquoise Room and not in the La Posada gift store. That tip came from our excellent waitress in the Harvey Girl uniform that she says “is really cool to wear. I feel like a part of history.
REBIRTH OF THE LA POSADA HOTEL.
The hero of this story is Allan Affeldt (with help from restoration partners Tina Mion and Daniel Lutzick), who saved the La Posada from possible demolition after the Sante Fe Railroad Co., decided to sell the property.
To back up a bit in history, we pointed out earlier that the 60-room La Posada enjoyed a heyday until the 1950s. From mid-century the property was surplus space for the railroad and was used as Santa Fe Railway Division offices beginning in the 1960s. Through the early 90s, the interior of the La Posada was corporate.
Allen Affeldt fell in love with the old dowager of a hotel when he first visited Winslow in 1994. Soon, with the encouragement of local preservationists and others, he began a three year journey of negotiations with the railroad to overcome legal, environmental and financial hurdles.
Life partners Affeldt and Mion as La Posada Hotel LLC took on the $12 million project. Lutzick is the third partner and hotel GM. They moved in April Fools Day of 1997 and have been there ever since.
The hotel remains an ongoing restoration project. Big backers have been the Arizona Heritage Fund, Arizona Department of Transportation, private foundations and loyal fans of the La Posada, including a wide range of the arts communities in the region. The partners are still accepting restoration donations from the public.
|Patricia and John Sharpe|
The interiors of the hotel and restaurant have been enhanced dramatically.
The menus feature retro dishes from the days when Fred Harvey ran the show. Chef Sharpe’s contemporary Southwestern cuisine is first rate by all standards.
And, they serve a delicious cup of Late for the Train brand of coffee.
NEXT WEEK: 10/4 Arbuckle's Coffee at Hubbell's Trading Post, Ganado, AZ