Preservation Magazine, Summer 2016

Place Setting: Parkside Dining at National Parks

El Tovar Dining Room

photo by: Xanterra Parks & Resorts

​El Tovar Dining Room

El Tovar Dining Room

1 El Tovar Rd.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

928.638.2631 |
$$$$ | American, Southwest

When it opened in 1905, El Tovar was considered one of the finest hotels in the West. Located steps from the rim of the Grand Canyon, which became a national park in 1919, the hotel was established by hospitality chain Fred Harvey Company with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. “They needed a hotel, and they needed a nice one, to entice people from the East Coast to ride their new train and visit the Grand Canyon,” says Bruce Brossman, Arizona regional director of sales and marketing at Xanterra, the park’s concessionaire. With its Oregon pine-and-limestone exterior, the hotel (now a Historic Hotel of America) boasted electricity, running water, and the upscale El Tovar Dining Room, which, aside from its more relaxed dress code, feels much like it did in the early 20th century.

The salmon tostada with tequila vinaigrette is a perennial favorite dish.

The Bistro at the Cliff House, Night View

photo by: John Benson

The Bistro at the Cliff House

The Bistro at the Cliff House

1090 Point Lobos
San Francisco, CA 94121

415.386.3330 |
$$$$ | American, Seafood

From its perch above the Pacific Ocean, the Cliff House has been an iconic San Francisco eatery since 1909. There were two Cliff House restaurants before it—one completed in 1863, and the other in 1896. Both were destroyed by fire. But like its predecessors, today’s steel-and-concrete iteration offers spectacular views of the Seal Rocks and crashing waves below.

The Cliff House became part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1977. In 2003, longtime owners Dan and Mary Hountalas teamed with the National Park Service to restore the aging structure. They revived its Neoclassical facade, added a wing for a new upscale restaurant called Sutro’s, and turned a former carriage road into a walkway through the property.

Today, the Cliff House’s more casual Bistro restaurant in the original part of the building is popular with both locals and hikers, who often order the cioppino, a traditional San Francisco fish stew.

Update: The Cliff House restaurant closed for good on Dec. 31, 2020.

Spottswood Dining Room

photo by: Delaware North at Shenandoah National Park

Spottswood Dining Room

Spottswood Dining Room

Skyline Dr. Mile 51
Shenandoah National Park, VA 22835

877.847.1919 |
$$$ | American

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park in 1936. Three years later, Big Meadows Lodge, the park’s second lodging facility, was completed. Named for the large green expanse near its Skyline Drive entrance, it was built by local craftsmen who used native wormy chestnut and stones from the nearby Massanutten Mountains to create a rustic structure befitting its surroundings. Those same materials extend into its restaurant, Spottswood Dining Room, which features oak beams along the ceiling and large windows looking out at the park. Little has changed since opening day, save for basic safety and accessibility upgrades.

The National Register–listed lodge and its restaurant are open from mid-May through early November. Diners can pair a glass of Virginia wine with dishes such as the New Deal pot roast or Roosevelt half chicken, saving room for the blackberry ice-cream pie.

$ = Value, $10-19 per person

$$ = Moderate, $20-29 per person

$$$ = Expensive, $30-39 per person

$$$$ = Splurge, $40+ per person
Lauren Walser headshot

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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