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El Tovar at the Grand Canyon.....Just ok....

Has anyone else had a mediocre experience at El Tovar?

Went to visit friends that live at work at the Grand Canyon this weekend and went to El Tovar for dinner. I was very excited and had been looking the the menu for a few days, so by the time I got there....I knew what I wanted.
While the apps and martinis were very good, my entree fell short. VERY short.

I ordered the beef tournados with a roasted garlic truffle demi-glace and duck pate.
I was expecting too much, maybe. My demi-glace was more like a heavy gravy and totally overpowered and ruined the dish. It was inedible. at $31.00...I made a stink and had it taken off the bill. Not to mention that the food was only warm when it got to the table.

Our friends who live up there said they have had the same experience a couple of times.

They redeemed themselves at breakfast the next day.....sort of.
I ordered the florentine benedict and my eggs came out with the yolks hard. The waitress asked me if I wanted them poached soft...I said no, I wanted them poached. There's only one way to poach an egg.
It was fixed and it was yummy.

Anyone else have strange experiences up there?

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  1. We stayed there one night in May 2006, and had dinner and breakfast the next day. Dinner was mediocre - a shame, since the room is so lovely. I think their aspirations and/or pretensions exceed the ability to execute. Breakfast was much better, although honestly I don't recall what we ate for either meal. I don't think our room was worth it, either. But I don't regret the experience, as I'm unlikely to duplicate it.

    1. I've had one superb dinner at El Tovar and one merely average one. I think that part of the problem is that chefs may rotate in and out frequently. It would be hard to live long term at Grand Canyon Village, especially with a family, so I don't think a talented chef is likely to stay for several years at a time. It may be luck of the draw.

      1. Though it's been a while, we had two very lovely (surprisingly so) meals at El Tovar. I do not have notes on the dishes, but both evenings were great. The wine list was not bad, either, considering that they are in a National Park. Sorry that your meal was not up to par. I have recommended, them, based on older dining. Maybe I need to re-evaluate.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I was disappointed by the food a number of years ago, and it sounds as if it hasn't improved. Is it possible to go for a drink and an appetizer, or dessert, before or after the peak dinner hour and just enjoy the ambiance? Problem is, of course, that there's nothing much better around.

        2. I worked at the Canyon a couple of years ago and I got everything for 50% off. Still, the only food we considered halfway decent was the fried chicken at the Yavapai Lodge cafeteria.

          Someone was cooking Korean food at a diner in Tusayan just south of the park, only one or two days a week. I never got to try it, though, and don't know if it's still going on. Tusayan would be an awesome location for a good Asian restaurant, considering the enormous amount of Asian tourists and the poor quality and overpriced food served at the Canyon and Tusayan restaurants. Of course people don't go to visit the Grand Canyon as a culinary destination!

          1. Dinner is expensive, and hit or miss (remote location, rotating staff....not to mention the logistics of getting fresh food here everyday). My recommendation..breakfast. The dress code is relaxed, prices are lower, and the elegance of the place really gives a good start to the day. The hot chocolate is the best we've ever had...it tastes like melted chocolate bars. It arrives at your table steaming hot, in a silver pitcher. A couple of cups of this and you'll forgive everything else.

            1. We just got back from a trip to the Grand Canyon. I would say the food we had at El Tovar was ok, but not great for the price. At our table, the sauces on the food were all pretty good, but the proteins were all overcooked. For someone eating duck (which is a little fatty) the results weren't as bad, but the overcooked pork was very dry.
              Breakfast the next morning was better, or maybe our expectations were lower.

              8 Replies
              1. re: mountaincachers

                I worked up there for a while. You don't go up to the Grand Canyon for the food, that's for sure.

                1. re: werewolf

                  Wow, our meals must have been on their best nights.

                  Judging from the other reviews and reports, we must have just been fortunate. Still, they were very good, and I do not judge food lightly.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    I just made reservations as I had heard good things on Trip Advisor but more for the ambience then the food. Looking over the menu and its pricey $25-$30 which is okey to spend if a good quality meal but it doesnt sound like this is the case.
                    the arizona room had better selection of food and far less in price.. Anyone been there??

                    1. re: palmtree38

                      I believe that we also ate at the Arizona Room (for lunch). The food there wasn't remarkable either, but less expensive. I echo everyone above that this is just not a culinary destination. I don't really regret paying the extra to have stayed/eaten a meal at El Tovar for the historical interest, particularly since we won't likely be back. Having said that, if you want the experience for less money, breakfast may be a better bet.

                      1. re: mountaincachers

                        I didnt relise El Tovar does breakfast.. That might be a option and maybe head to that mexican restaurant that is suppose to be quite good in Tusayan (sophies mexican kitchen)

                        1. re: palmtree38

                          When we were last there, some years back for an AZ Town Hall meeting, they did, and it was quite good.

                          One major consideration is that this is in a National Park. US National Parks are not known as gastro-destinations. El Tovar is some driving distance for alternatives. That said, we were greatly pleased at every aspect of the food, and even the wines.

                          Have things changed since then? Cannot say.

                          Now, I am not talking Per Se here, but considering all of the aspects, we were pleased, and did not have to cut them that much "slack." Could have been far, far worse.

                          Please offer a more contemporary, than mine. Hope to get back, but all of our AZ meetings have been down south, and not up north.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            French onion soup $7
                            Chicken entree the least $ is $25
                            Strip loin with ONION RINGS $31
                            I dont mind paying these prices if the flavour/quality is good for these prices but I am not hearing that. I am hearing more good view medicore food.Go for the history.

                            1. re: palmtree38

                              It's been awhile, since we dined there, but those prices are probably in line with what we spent, based on inflation.

                              For us, and we had three meals there, the pricing was in line (even if it was a tad lower then) with what we received.

                              Part of this could have been because of slightly lowered expectations, though I still rate a restaurant hard, regardless.

                              I need to go back, as things might well have changed. Still, we have fond memories, and if they lived up to those meals, I'd still go back.