Update as of November 2023: The caverns are closed indefinitely.
To get to this restaurant, you’ll need to take an elevator. You’ll be taking it down—21 stories down—into a 345-million-year-old cave network that stretches 60 miles to the Grand Canyon.
Walter Peck first stumbled upon the cave in 1927 on his way to a poker game. He mistook the iron oxide and selenite crystals for gold and diamonds, and bought the surrounding 800 acres, though he may have been better served just playing poker. “What it all adds up to is we have one of the largest quantities of the most worthless material in Arizona,” tour guide Ron Pritchard told Arizona Highways TV, “but it’s fun to look at.”
The space is now known as Grand Canyon Caverns, where visitors can explore the cave’s sprawling innards and, as of recently, stop for a bite while they’re at it. Known as the Caverns Grotto, the four-table eatery offers simple American comfort food that makes a not-so simple voyage to your table. Cooked at ground level, the food takes the elevator back down to the cave before it’s hoisted on a pulley 25 feet in the air to the raised wooden platform that is the dining room. With unobstructed, 360-degree views of the largest known chamber in the cave network and zero sound interference aside from other diners, it’s an incomparable auditory and visual dining experience.
A decades-old mummified bobcat speaks to the fact that it is a “dead cave.” Without running water or sunlight, no bacteria (or any living organisms for that matter) can subsist in these depths, which means no creepy crawlies to worry about while you wine and dine. It’s cave eating at its finest.