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The Grand Canyon

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North Rim

There are five very good restaurants on the South Rim, one on the North Rim, and one at Cameron Trading Post just outside the park. If you're here for a week or two and want to explore the area, there are also good restaurants in Williams and Flagstaff. Accept the fact that at any restaurant in the park, prices will be higher. National park concessionaires pay a franchising fee to the park service over and above all their other expenses. They are off the established trucking routes, so shipping produce in costs more. Staff is hard to find and keep, which drives up wages. And these are not large volume restaurants. However, the prices are within reason. Service and food are very, very good. And especially on the Rim, ambience is hard to beat. It's not every day you get to eat with such a view or in such historic surroundings. Remember demand is high and seating is hard to get for the three Rim restaurants. You need to make reservations as part of the same phone call where you make lodging reservations. If not, you can often get in as a walk up if you arrive at 4:30, since most people are out on the trails and don't get to the restaurants until about 5:30. Later in the evening, however, without reservations there is no chance. At right is the lounge just outside the El Tovar Dining Room.

The premier restaurant on the South Rim is the El Tovor Dining Room. Breakfast specialties are Trout & Eggs, Sonoran Chorizo Eggs (two eggs with chorizo, black beans, roast red pepper, jack cheese, ranchero sauce, tomatillo sauce, sour cream and hash brown potatoes), Breakfast Quiche of the Day, a Build Your Own Omelet Bar, and the famous El Tovar Breakfast Burrito (pork loin, scrambled eggs, bell peppers, black beans, onions, pepperjack cheese, refried beans, hash browns, red & avocado sauces and sour cream). El Toro has all the usual coffees, teas and capppucinos. At lunch you can order the Soup of the Day or Vegetarian Chile but what you really need is the Pork Loin Chile, available nowhere else and outstanding. The El Tovar House Salad (baby organic greens, kalamata olives, red onion, toasted pine nuts and goat cheese) is very good, but the Honey Smoked Salmon Salad ( spinach, romaine, olives, roast red peppers, red onions, artichoke hearts, avocado and feta cheese) is even better. Among the sandwiches are a Classic Reuben, Curry Peanut Chicken, and Santa Fe (green chile hummus, grilled eggplant, avocado, red onion, tomato, cucumbers and roast red pappers). Their most famous lunch entree is their Navajo Taco (ground beef, pinto and black beans, red onion, cheddar, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and salsa in a handmade fry bread taco). They also offer Deviled Crab Cakes with Sonoran Romulade and Yellowfin Tuna With Prickly Pear Sauce.

Dinner, however, is where El Tovar really shines. Their Smoked Salmon and Trout Crostini with Goat Cheese and Capers is one of the top appetizers in all of Arizona. There's a Soup of the Day, which is always good, and a French Onion Soup Gratine, but the real star is the Black Bean & Tortilla Soup. Of their four salads, the Spinach & Endive (spinach, Belgian endive, apple slices, bacon, gorgonzola cheese and roast shallots) is outstanding. The Entree Menu is extensive. They think their Wild Alaska Salmon is their signature item, but we think their Rainbow Trout Almandine, Roast Duck, Stuffed Quail and Vegetarian Ratatouille are their best. If after a day on the trails you're up for steak, they do a great job with the New York Strip and Filet Mignon, both Black Angus. There are several vegan entrees, including Stuffed Mushrooms and Garden Salad in a Roast Tomato Sauce. The Chef's Seafood of the Day is always good, especially when it's Scallops or Flounder. Reservations are almost mandatory. You absolutely should make them the same day you make your lodging arrangements. Call 928-638-2631. The wine list is extensive but consists exclusively of California varieties. The El Tovar was an original Harvey Houses built by the Santa Fe Railroad, and from the beginning they have used Mimbres Valley Anasazi Earthenware. Not only will you be served on this rare and beautiful pottery, but you can buy individual pieces in the gift shop just outside the restaurant.

Dinnertime sun floods the Arizona Room. You can watch wildlife grazing on the lawn, people strolling the walkways, and the setting sun casting crimson and purple hues over the Canyon. However, the food will grab your attention back from the view.. Both the Roast Red Pepper Soup and the Smoked Corn Chowder are fabulous. They offer three good Salads, of which our favorite is the Spinach Salad (spinach, jicama, cherries, pistachios, cotija cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing). If you're starving after a day on the trail, the Dinner Sampler will fill you up : Filet Mignon, Chicken, Ribs, Baked Potato and a BBQ Sauce Rack. They do a good job with their New York Strip, Grilled Ribeye and Prime Rib, and Baby Back Ribs is available on its own. There are Pork Medallions, Southwest Style Rubbed Chicken Breast and Salmon. We really like their Panko Crusted Tilapia, and we love their Roast Vegetable Enchilada (corn tortillas with roast vegetables, black beans, avocado, sour cream, cotija cheese, rice and red sauce). We review Mexican restaurants all over the country and this is a great enchilada. There's a half pound Buffalo Burger. Of the obscene desserts, we recommend the Peach Blackberry Streusel. There are some unique drinks here : the Prickly Pear Margarita, Cactus Lemonade, Mexican Coffee, and the famous Kokopelli (Tequila, Cranberry and Melon).

The Bright Angel Lodge Restaurant is more modest than its upRim rivals. It has no panoramic picture windows, no hunting lodge decor. It's a very clean, spare ambience. But the food is still really good. Some top items from the Arizona Room are also available here, beginning with the Smoked Corn Chowder and Roast Red Pepper Soup. There's an appetizer only available here that is worth trying : Sonoran Stuffed Jalapenos (jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and served with Cucumber Ranch Dressing. Surprisingly, these are red jalapenos. You may think they're not true jalapenos, but they are. Google them.). Among their Salads, we like the Fresh Fruit Sampler (honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, orange slices, vanilla yogurt and banana bread) and Supai Salad (spinach, smoked trout, tomatoes, julienne jicama, cotija cheese, pecans, orange slices). There's a menu section of Trail Favorites, featuring three items served in a Sour Dough Bread Bowl so you eat the entree, then eat the bowl. These include Wrangler's Chili (ground beef, tomatoes, beans, onions, peppers, spices and cheddar cheese), Trailhead Chile (meatless chili packed with vegetables, four kinds of beans, cilintro, jalapeno, cheddar cheese, diced red onion) and Packer's Stew (stew packed with beef tips, garden vegetables and red onion). Among their traditional entrees, The Rainbow Trout is particularly good. The wine list is all California, but they have a fine selection.

In addition to the three Rim restaurants, the South Rim offers two cafeterias, in Yavapai Lodge and Maswick Lodge. Both feature the same menus and very good food. The photo at left shows the Yavapai Cafeteria. Prices are much less than the Rim restaurants. If you bring your own wide mouth trail bottle you can have unlimited refills of beverages from the dispensers. At breakfast the selection of fruit (melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.) is great and the Breakfast Burritos are competitive with average Mexican restaurants. At lunch and dinner the Soups are very good and there are plenty of tasty sides. Meats are typical of any commercial cafeteria; there's always a chicken, fish and pork or beef dish. The soft serve ice cream is good and there's always a variety of pies, cookies and other desserts. When they have their pot pies or meat loaf they're always good. When the breads are fresh they're great; try to get there at the beginning of each meal cycle, before the breads have sat under the UV lamps for 90 minutes.

Dating back to 1911, the Cameron Trading Post Restaurant is a MUST stop if you have a few extra days. To get there you retrieve your car and drive an hour eastward out of the park and onto the Navajo Reservation. It is in a cluster of buildings at the old Navajo / Hopi trading post and features Native American, Mexican and Southwest items with a few standards thrown in for the kids and tourisrs. The overwhelming favorite here, and the main reason you come, is the Navajo Taco (ground beef, red onions, garlic, pinto beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, green onions and green chili wrapped in a fry bread pancake rather than a Mexican taco). Be Careful. One of these could feed two people and possibly three. There are mini tacos which are half the size and more manageable. Huevos Rancheros, even though a traditional breakfast, can usually be oredered all day. They still serve the old fashioned Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, and their Green Chili Stew is one of their signature items. If you've never had one, this would be a good place to try a Sopapilla. Cameron's serves theirs as a dessert (other places stuff them with beef and vegetables and serve them as entrees). There is a problem here with tour buses. This trading post is a huge tourist attraction and tour buses pull in daily with 60 people. If as you arrive the restaurant is inundated with a busload, just browse in the art gallery or the crafts shop for 30 minutes, buy a blanket or basket, and check back.

For all of the crowds at the South Rim, it's at the North Rim where the Grand Canyon Lodge is located and where many people think the best restaurant in the park is. And it is a magnificent restaurant. Its windows are right on the edge and the views are breathtaking. The theme is the 1930s. At breakfast and lunch you can order off the menu or take advantage of the bountiful buffet. At breakfast, the Multigrain Pancakes are unique and most people think are delicious. They offer a TiYo Tomato Salad (mozzarella, basil and a mountain of tomato slices) which is unlike anything you've ever seen. Tomato lovers speak of it reverently. Signature items include Utah Trout, El Grande Ravioli (made with five cheeses, baby spinach and marinara), Miners Meatloaf and Buffalo Flank Steak. For the timid there's Chicken, Pasta, Salmon, Pork Chops, various Steaks and a Soup of the Day. There's also a Cookout run from this restaurant, which features a trip 60 minutes down the trail and dinner in the woods at a spectacular overlook. Realize that the drive from the South Rim to the North Rim takes basically all day. You do get to stop at Lees Ferry and the Vermillion Cliffs. Grand Canyon Lodge is not a Xanterra property. Forever Resorts runs the North Rim operations.
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