I ate dinner twice at the El Tovar restaurant with friends who flew in from England and Washington, D.C. and we all agreed on the following review.
The food is good, but not outstanding or memorable. I know that this is the best food in the park and the general Grand Canyon area (although the food is quite good at the nearby Best Western), but this doesn't mean that it should be "good enough" because there are few other fine dining options around. Why couldn't they hire a well known chef and revamp the food at the park? We found most of the options on the menu to be very heavy and old-fashioned. There were no kid friendly options at all. Nor did the waiter mention that kids could order a half portion instead. The Elk steak was great and so was the lamb shank. The Schnitzel was cold and greasy and I've had much much better elsewhere. The Salmon served over the torillas was horribly over-cooked and the rice pilaf was greasy. Someone in the kitchen is way too heavy handed with oil/butter. The only way that I was able to eat the salmon was by cutting it into tiny pieces and mixing it into the rice and salad, as it was so tough. The shrimp cocktail tasted borderline fresh and the shrimp were definitely not jumbo in size. Cocktail sauce tasted straight out of a bottle. The bloody mary mix tasted no different than a cheap bloody mary on an airplane. The salads were over dressed and not special enough for a fine dining establishment.
The best dessert by far is the apple pie. The flourless chocolate cake was not bad, but extremely dense. It was served with a bright green sauce that looked straight out of a bottle with artificial colour, not classy.
The vegetable sides were the best part of the meal. Excellent choice of using Broccoli rabe and surprisingly not over-cooked. If the rest of the food was cooked in that way the food would be much better.
The bar needs updating even more than the restaurant. You can't charge premium prices for your rooms and then have a bar that looks like it belongs at a cheap roadside motel. What a surprise. The bar food menu is all too fried. If you wanted that kind of food and vibe you'd go elsewhere. The entire experience of El Tovar should be world class. You are at the most magnificent location in the world and yes you have a captive audience, because this is the best option at the park, but seriously do something to make the hotel reflect the grandeur of its location. People come here from all over the world. Based on the prices for rooms and food they can certainly afford to revamp the food and refresh the hotel. The carpets in the hallways were stained and old. We were awoken both days with early morning vacuuming, which was unnecessary since check in is only at 4pm. I know that Xanterra has a monopoly on lodging and food at the park, but this is no excuse to offer second rate food and facilities.
We spent around $300 for 5 people (two of them kids) the first night for dinner and $250 on the second night, so be warned it's not inexpensive. If you are coming from any urban place like New York, London, Los Angeles etc. and if you are used to fine dining then you will be bitterly disappointed. The restaurant was filled with diners from all over the world, this should be a showpiece.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
4 April 2012
I appreciate you taking the time to submit feedback on your dining and overnight accommodations at El Tovar. All feedback left on TripAdvisor is personally reviewed and ultimately used to assist us with improving the quality of our products and services.
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We understand your comments related the the food at El Tovar. We are often challenged with finding the selection of quality food El Tovar has become synonymous, yet offer it at prices that nearly every Grand Canyon guest can afford. We want to make El Tovar accessible to as many guests as possible, and we do that through menu prices. We've hired well-known executive chefs in the past, and they have helped improve the menu over the many years of El Tovar's existence. The menu is also always under constant review and updated regularly by the executive chef. The choices you had on your menu will likely be completely different if you later decide to visit El Tovar again. We are always looking for was to improve. Your comments help.
As far as the decor and design of El Tovar, little can be done to modify the existing layout and construction of the hotel since it's now on the National Historic Register. We must now adhere to strict guidelines to ensure that El Tovar is preserved and remains on the register. Fortunately we have flexibility with the condition of the carpeting. The hallway carpet is scheduled for professional cleaning this year, the lobby/mezzanine is cleaned monthly, and the hallway carpet is scheduled for replacement in January of 2013.
Again, thank you for providing your feedback. I hope your recent experiences do not prevent you from returning to the South Rim and re-experiencing El Tovar, or any of our other in-park lodges.
Grand Canyon South Rim
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC