Between mesas that interrupt the horizon of northern Arizona are a few buildings that look like they've seen a thing or two. Decked out with bygone quirkiness from parking lot to bathroom, the general store and restaurant of the Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn were an entertainment all their own.
All of us—my sister, her boyfriend, my boyfriend, and I—walked around the restaurant, each finding an interest in decor typical of what you'd find on Route 66, until the staff was ready to seat us for our reservation at the Caverns Grotto. I didn't know much about the Grotto—just that it was a dining room located in the underground caverns and that it took several tries to get someone on the phone to book the reservation.
After walking past yellowed display cases with various stones and crystals, and beneath a massive T rex skull lurking above an elevator door, we made our 210-foot descent into the ground.
I didn't expect the supposedly haunted caverns to be so homey. The first massive cavern room we walked into had a warm glow about it, made even more inviting by the red, green, blue, and purple lights cast against the walls.
Our nice, yet nervous and inexperienced guide walked us up a ramp framed by a chain link fence with white lights roped around the railing. We were the first group to be welcomed by an only less nervous and inexperienced waiter.
Once drink orders were put in, my sister and I helped ourselves to a small salad before the unavoidable picture taking. While the entrees weren't anything extravagant, all of the food was very well done. I was a little uncertain about the $70 per person price, but everyone agreed that the whole experience was definitely worth it.
I got the ground chuck steak and sampled my boyfriend's honey battered fried chicken and sister's meatloaf. Each entree came with a biscuit and two sides (I strongly recommend the white cheddar mac and cheese) as well as unlimited dessert—although we didn't have room for much more than a slice of one of their house-made pies.
We finished our meal with a good, strong (and much needed) cup of coffee before being escorted back upstairs by the owner. He was the type of friendly old man that made you glad to hear his Caverns Grotto restaurant was booked until New Year's.
Our dinner was topped off by brisk night air (something we've nearly forgotten about in Phoenix) and the brightest stars I've seen in a while. The Big Dipper sat massive and distinct just above shadows of trees, as if flaunting an ability to scoop them off the land, away from us.