Opened in 2009, Tinderbox Restaurant was the first elevated-cuisine restaurant on the south side of downtown Flagstaff. Owner Kevin Heinonen has received multiple accolades for his renovation of Tinderbox and companion restaurant concepts The Annex Cocktail Lounge and Tourist Home. Together, all three concepts were the first to bring a sense of “specialness” to the Southside.
Chef Schmitz serves up well-executed spins on reimagined American fare.
The wine selection mirrors the Tinderbox menu; ever-changing. The bottle list is global with full renditions of varietals selected to match that evening’s menu. The by-the-glass list is a special selection of wines made along with their Companion Sutcliffe Vineyard in McElmo Canyon, Colo. The wines are selected and even specifically blended to add and compliment each dish.
What's with the stag character? Well, for a while Tinderbox was considered a stuffy, special occasion restaurant. We changed all that by adding a sense of humor and poking fun at ourselves so we never take ourselves too seriously. While every dish is just as delicious and gorgeously composed as before, we made our prices consistent with everyday fine dining restaurants and refined each dish to keep it filling and also memorable. We have kid friendly, gluten free and vegan options. And if for some reason we are booked solid, on many nights you can order from our menu next door at the Annex. Just ask and we will do our best to accommodate you. Have a large party? We can also help and the restaurant is available to rent out for big occasions.
“Tinderbox Kitchen is at the epicenter of the Flagstaff culinary awakening.” —New York Magazine. “Best Restaurants in Flagstaff,” Arizona Republic. Tinderbox is located at 34 S. San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. Dinner is served Sunday thru Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 p.m to 10 p.m
Pictured L-R (Nick Williams, Chief Spirit Officer, Mike Schmitz Executive Chef, Sous Chef Zach Zickefoos and Owner Kevin Heinonen
Mike has been passionate about cooking 12 years. Prior to becoming our Culinary Director and Executive Chef for all THAT Place Project restaurants, Mike cooked in and around Colorado and Illinois. Most recently he works at Big Grove Tavern in Champagne Illinois as a line cook and a pantry cook at Turley’s in Boulder Colorado including a turn as a vegetarian chef and a sous chef.
Mike is studied chemical engineering before realizing he had a passion for food. His culinary point of view is to “give people what they want, create something for everyone and never alienate people or make them feel confused or stupid.” He designs dishes that are approachable but refined. His greatest passion is teaching and growing other chefs and his proudest accomplishments is growing all three brands into the profitable successful, well reviewed restaurants they are today.
In 2017 Sunset Magazine named Annex one if its “Travel Stars,” and all three restaurants have consistently made the “best of” lists from media sources across Arizona.
Mike believes the most important part of the day is when he arrives. He touches everything and ensures that everything is in its place so that his team is most successful. An he has high standards for quality products. “There is nothing like standing in a strawberry field and tasting a strawberry right there, where it grows, it’s magic,” he said.
Culinary Director, THAT Place Projects
Executive Chef, Tinderbox Kitchen, Annex Cocktail Lounge & Tourist Home All Day Cafe’
His passion for details extends to offering purposeful dishes for everyone. All vegetarian and vegan dishes are carefully thought out and composed and can “go toe to toe” with any protein centered dish. His favorite ingredient? Smoke Paprika. And Avocados.
Mike takes a wholistic approach to his creations. For example nothing goes to waste. For a duck breast, the entire duck is broken down with absolutely every part going into a dish here a dish there, or to create stock for which his sauces are famous.
Rather than outsourcing everything, he is passionate about doing it in house, like his house smoked bacon.
Everything is purposefully inventive and never stuffy or forced.
He loves a challenge. “Give me the pickiest or fussiest eater or those with dietary restrictions and I will not just embrace the challenge, I’m set on pleasing them beyond their expectations.
In MIke’s kitchen form follows function, poetry follows intention and logistics are king.
Plus the chicken dish is “sneaky good,” he adds devilishly with a twinkle of pride.