Lisa Dahl’s 23-year-old son, Justin Wesley Jones, was murdered when he tried to break up a robbery in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district on March 27, 1994. Shortly after Justin’s killer was convicted of second-degree murder, Lisa packed up her belongings and left the Bay Area for Sedona, Arizona, where she opened a restaurant. Inspired by the red rock majesty around her and Justin’s indomitable spirit, Lisa now owns and operates Sedona’s award winning Dahl & DiLuca, Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, and the newly opened Mariposa restaurants. She is the queen of Sedona.
Last Friday night Violet and I had an opportunity to eat at the Latin inspired Mariposa restaurant and then visit with Lisa for several hours. We both opted for steak. My NY Strip was perfectly cooked over an open flame: charred on the outside; moist, succulent and pink on the inside. However, it was the mashed Potatoes with Canadian Cold Water Lobster Meat that totally spun the top off of my head. Similarly, Violet’s Chimichurri marinated Skirt Steak with Frijoles Negros and Yucca Fries was the bomb. Particularly the Yucca Fries. OMG! They were so crisp and salty on the outside, and so piping hot and creamy inside. All in all dinner was dreamy.
After dinner a long ranging conversation with Lisa and her long-term boyfriend Scott Yates covered familiar ground. We spoke of our fallen children, how they inform and inspire our lives, shared experiences, but most importantly the future. You see, many people who have lost children never experience the future. Their pain is so great, their loss weighs so heavily on their souls that they are unable to move forward with their lives. Instead, they are held in the grip of a past that they cannot change, that compounds depression, and refuses peace or relief.
That is what is so remarkable about Lisa Dahl. I would never argue with the long held belief that Sedona a magical or even spiritual location. However, stepping into one of Lisa’s amazing restaurants takes spirituality to a whole new level. Justin’s altar, which exists in each of the restaurants reminds you of the gentle soul who lost his life while in the act of being a Good Samaritan. His beautiful face and buoyant spirit is reflected off of the walls, the art, the ambiance, the staff, and the amazing food. It is a feeling so strong that it cannot be denied or overlooked.
Like so many before her, Lisa refuses to be bowed by tragedy. Instead, like the namesake of Arizona’s capital, Lisa Dahl has been transformed from the ashes of catastrophe into a stronger, more focused and enlightened than she was before. Oh, and man, can that woman cook!