Contemporary Native American cuisine in a historical setting
Then John Sharpe arrived in Winslow in 2000, he had no intention of staying. But fate intervened and The Turquoise Room is the result.
Sharpe, a native of England and a European-trained chef, had just sold a restaurant in California. With time on his hands, he decided to visit Allan Affeldt, a longtime friend who was restoring La Posada, a historic Fred Harvey hotel in Winslow. After several of Sharpe’s visits, Affeldt offered him an opportunity to open a restaurant in the hotel.
After negotiations and extended planning, Sharpe and his wife, Patricia, began remodeling a dining area inside the hotel. They named it The Turquoise Room in honor of the dining car on the Santa Fe Railroad’s Super Chief, which used to make daily stops in front of La Posada.
The Turquoise Room opened with 24 tables and five employees. Today, the restaurant can seat 100 at 35 tables, and is serviced by as many as 53 staff members. On most days, every seat is taken. When restoring the room, Sharpe made an effort to match the Spanish-Hacienda architecture of the hotel. Guests immediately notice the large overhead beams, the Native American decor, and the spacious windows that provide diners with views of the passing trains.
Sharpe uses as much local produce and meat as possible, harvesting many items from the garden alongside the hotel. Many of his dishes are based on Churro lamb, which he buys from members of the Navajo tribe. Local residents also supply him with homegrown products.
His menus also feature meals created with beef, elk, pork, salmon, and quail, as well as pasta, squash, beans, corn, and fresh vegetables. It’s Southwestern cuisine, but Sharpe also refers to it as contemporary Native American.
The Turquoise Room’s clientele is as varied as its menu. Some make regular trips from the Valley, Flagstaff, and Albuquerque by car; others come from greater distances by Amtrak train. The restaurant has been highly rated by Conde Nast Traveler, and Sharpe has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award as the best chef in the Southwest.