We’ve been to this little Northern Arizona town before but each time we come back there is a wee bit of evolution that blends nicely with the nostalgia that goes with this historic route 66 town.
Check out the reviews of restaurants in this town and you’ll find a boatload of mediocrity. …a plethora of 3 star reviews. Not really surprising for a small tourist town that is basically a home base for Grand Canyon day trips. Mediocrity has been our experience in the past. …Grand Canyon Brewery, …meh. Marginal greasy spoon joints with passable tourist burgers and fries and minimal creativity. Touristy t-shirt traps …Everything just good enough to not be bad.
This trip was a little different. We saw really good reviews of South Rim’s Beer and Wine Garage so we decided to give it a try after we unhooked and set up shop. The beer selection was great. They serve all Az beers which is great for the true local experience. Although we tend to gravitate to IPAs, the stars of the flight we ordered were the Big Blue Van Blueberry Wheat from College Street Brewery and the full Moon Belgian White from Mudshark Brewery. From someone who tends to shy away from wheat beers these were both very well balanced and delicious beers.
From the food menu we had the pretzel basket and charcuterie and cheese tray The pretzels were pretty damn good. Perfectly cooked and a really tasty beer cheese (we’re pretty easy to please). … The charcuterie tray was marginal at best. Nothing special about anything on it and pretty much something you could put together yourself from your local grocery store. Net, net – really good service but just OK overall.
The star of the weekend was the Historic Brewing Barrel and Bottle. We’re fans of this brewery and has visited the small industrial garage space they started in Flagstaff in their infancy. There was a tasting room in Williams the last time we were here but we were surprised to see that they had a full blown restaurant that opened just a few months earlier. First off, their brews are outstanding. We started with a flight and everything was delicious and distinct. I say this because often times you will order a flight at a brewery and many of the beers have the same underlying flavor profile. I think this shows that the brewer lacks imagination. .. but I digress. Favorites? The Opposable IPA and Bear Arms 2016 Imperial Red (9.8% IBV).
We love great brews but it is always great to pair them with great grub. That was not an issue here. The Smoked Lolipop Pub Wings were uniquely smoky and delicious. We also had the Charcuterie Board (t’s kindof our thing) which was creative, local, and well thought out. The combination of quality suds and delicious bar grub made this one of the highlights of our weekend. More so, it feels like this touristy little town may be starting to evolve into a hip, but not pretentious, potentially destinationy (yeah I know that is not a word) type of place that can stand on it’s own. …review – great service, great beer, great food, gotta try it! Now, it is a little pricier than other places in town but the quality and originality are well worth it. (Note: we did come back for a quick bite and a beer after golf the following day during a busy lunch hour and did notice a decline in the food prep quality. The food was still good but fries were cold and the burger a little over cooked. This is a fairly new restaurant and the start of tourist season so I’m sure they are working on consistency and staffing. That said, the service and beer were just as good as the day before!)
We stayed at the Railside RV Ranch just outside of town. It was a nice little RV park with about 85 sites. The spaces are not overly tight, but not spacious either. We were lucky enough to not have a neighbor on either side but if there was it may be a little too tight considering our two furry boys that like a little space to roam. That said, I think this is primarily a home base kinda place and not necessarily a hang around camp kinda place. …After all, Williams is the Gateway to the Grand Canyon ya know. Anyway, the star of this place is the customer service. The folks that run this place are extremely friendly and accommodating. On Sunday morning we asked if we could get a late checkout. They asked us how late and and we said the later the better because we were hoping to get a round of golf in. They gave us until 5 PM! Who does that! They also gave us some great tips on the course and asked us to come back and let them know how we liked it. While there we also saw the staff interact with others and they were always friendly, accommodating, and helpful. It was definitely one of the better RV park experiences we have had.
We planned to golf on Saturday but had an unexpected mechanical issue with the truck that took up most of the day. This was another reason we were so pleased to get a very late checkout and another full day in before we headed back to the real world. Elephant Rocks Golf Course was another pleasant surprise in this little town. We had no problem getting a tee time at the last minute so we loaded up our sticks and made the 10 minute trip to the course. First off, it’s a weird name for a golf course, right? Well, it turns out it is named for some rather large, and kinda elephant looking lava rocks that stand near the entrance to the course. The building that houses the golf shop and restaurant is an old stone building that was built in 1932 and contributes to the very rustic and casual feel of the place. The first few holes wind through pine tree lined fairways and eventually spills out into some wide open panoramic fields before eventually finishing back up through the hills and trees to a dramatic downhill par 3 finish. Several holes on the course offered views (in May) of the snow capped San Francisco peaks in the distance.
The golf course conditions were good, not great, but pretty much what you would expect for a small town golf course. The overall experience and feel of the course was perfect for the day we wanted – casual, serene, relaxed and fun. Most of the course is right in front of you but there were a couple challenging holes, most notably the long par 5 17th. I would say it is the best course in town but it is, in fact, the only course in town. …It’s probably the only course within 30 miles. The rates were reasonable and even better if you play later in the day. Overall it was a great course that we will be back to play again! Great finish to the weekend!