After a long day exploring the Grand Canyon recently, my travel partner and I left the South Rim feeling awestruck by this natural wonder, which we had always dreamed of experiencing. While buoyed by its vast beauty, all the hiking and walking had made for two hungry travelers.
We quickly fell into a valley of over-priced tourist traps with mediocre food, all appearing to be less than grand. What are two undaunted yet dinner-ready wanderlusts to do but consult Trip Advisor to flesh out the best possible non-fancy spot in the quaint town of Williams, Arizona.
Just clicks later, South Rims Wine and Beer Garage popped up as a top choice. I loved the word play with “South Rims.” Drinks sounded nice, but we were also in search of a bit more sustenance. After finding the phrase “full menu,” however, we fired up our cylinders and headed down Route 66. Our adventure was about to take a fun little detour, as the sun set in the endless Arizona sky.
Inside South Rims, we were greeted by a beautifully restored jet-black 1967 Pontiac GTO. We quickly learned we were in what was an old Route 66 gas station that had been lovingly restored and converted into more than just another local dive. South Rims’ host and chef, Greg Cole, sat these two traveling Texans right next to the spotless classic car and brought out the drink menus, which featured both wine and beer flights from Arizona.
Choosing a red and white wine from the same winery seemed to fit well into my flight, so I went with the Arizona Angel White and Angel Red blend. Hailing from Cellar 433 in nearby Jerome, AZ, these two angels soared. The white blend was well-balanced, with notes of peach, green apple and pears, while complementing the savory crab cakes drizzled with chipotle ranch sauce. Pairing perfectly with the sweet Peppadew peppers and red onions of the Arizona Cheesesteak sandwich, the Angel Red blend could easily hang with strong and spicy food on the palate. This wine was also the perfect companion to the triple-layer dark chocolate dessert, appropriately named “Mile High Chocolate Cake.”
For the beer drinker, there are ample craft beer options on tap, by the flight or in a growler. One of South Rims’ most popular menu items is their house-made pretzel bread. This bread, along with the tangy buffalo chicken wings, beckons for a round of beer. The Double-Barrel Red Ale is brewed exclusively for South Rims and blends the red ale perfectly with an IPA, not overly bitter. Reminiscent of Munich, the Hefeweisen from award-winning Oak Creek Brewing Company in Sedona, is a medium-bodied German wheat brew with earthy hints of clove and banana. This one drinks well alone or with the Pretzel Burger, featuring Gold Canyon Angus beef from just down the road in Phoenix.
We sat down with Chef Cole to talk about the history and concept for South Rims. In a time when customer service and reviews are everything, Cole is a natural at personally welcoming each party at the door and offering a word of thanks for coming into his eatery. Combining his passion for youth ministry and cooking for large groups, Cole saw an opportunity to bring new life to South Rims in 2017. He has since created menu items which reflect the local flavors and put a new spin on familiar foods. On first glance, said Cole, “people typically think we are only a beer and wine garage, but we are actually known for our food, and especially our steaks. I came up with the Arizona cheesesteak sandwich, and that has taken off with the customers. Most people notice the peppadews and garlic aioli, which really add to the flavors.” That, they do.
While the owners opened South Rims primarily as a tasting room and lounge, their establishment has been rebranded with a full menu of culinary delights in a casual and funky atmosphere. Local artisans even sell their creations here, if you’re in search of something special to take home. Whether curious to sample a few local wines and brews, or maybe an appetizer or two followed by a perfectly prepared steak or hearty burger, you can be sure to order a taste of Arizona to complement your beverage of choice. The menu changes regularly with “Chalkboard Specials” for the season or the latest creations by Chef Cole, who invites you to create your own dining experience.
Pull into South Rims Wine and Beer Garage, and you will extend your Grand Canyon adventure beyond those boring food caverns and directly into the next best South Rim on this side of the train.
Cover photo Brian Maass
A native of Louisiana and married to Brian Maass, Louisiana State University graduate Dana Kent Maass now hangs her hat in Round Rock, Texas. When not traveling and writing, Maass enjoys practicing occupational therapy, volunteering, supporting the LSU Austin Alumni, attending live shows and hiking.