Fuel up for a big day or relax and unwind at these Grand Canyon-area restaurants

A trip to Williams is a joyful little flashback. It’s a small town that feels vibrant, like in days gone by. And on summer evenings, the burg jumps!

All the shops and restaurants stay open well into the night along with the saloons. Sidewalks bustle with tourists, traffic slow-rumbles up and down Route 66 and music spills from every open door. The town is awash in the liquid velvet glow of neon and it’s easy to forget what decade it is. And as a bonus, there’s that Grand Canyon you’ve heard so much about, waiting just up the highway.

Now that you have a reason for a road trip, better know where to eat. Here are good spots to dine in Williams.

South Rims Wine and Beer Garage
Start digging and you never know what you’ll come across. During renovations of this east-side structure, the owners discovered a car lift and grease pit from the building’s origins as a Route 66 service station. That find provided a theme for their new enterprise.

South Rims Wine & Beer Garage features 16 Arizona craft beers and 28 wines, many from local vineyards. It’s a comfortable place to enjoy a beverage or two, with a handful of tables, plush chairs and a patio overlooking the Mother Road.

A menu of sandwiches, salads and meant-to-be-shared appetizers pairs nicely with the beer and wine selections. Crab cakes ($10.66) are made from scratch and drizzled with a chipotle ranch sauce that gives them a lingering spice note. Even skeptical New Englanders rave. The bruschetta platter (three pieces for $12.66) is full of surprises ranging from salami with pesto and olives to bacon-wrapped dates with caprino goat cheese.
Even if you’re not hungry, stop for a beer ($4) or wine ($6-10) and admire the jet-black 1967 Pontiac GTO that proudly occupies the lift.
Details: 514 E. Route 66, Williams. 928-635-5902, www.southrims.com.

Crazy Thai Buffalo
Williams’ newest hidden gem is so well hidden that you might need a little help to find it. Hint: It’s behind the Buffalo Point Inn.

Opened in early April, Crazy Thai Buffalo doesn’t even have a sign to lure people in, although that will soon change. The sign is being hand-carved in Thailand and should arrive by the end of May. Meanwhile, make the journey to sample some delightful Asian fusion.

Try larb ($10.95), a zesty salad of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fresh herbs and greens, topped with your choice of ground meat. Larb is considered the national dish of Laos. The Spicy Thai Seafood Combination ($16.95) consists of mixed seafood cooked in a house-made spicy sauce, Thai basil and onions, served on a hot pan. Weekday lunch specials feature a choice of pad thai, red curry, yellow curry, fried rice or pho — a Vietnamese noodle soup — starting at $9.95.
Details: 103 S. Fifth St., Williams. 928-255-3991, www.facebook.com/crazythaibuffalo.

Red Raven Restaurant
Almost a decade has passed since Red Raven opened as a culinary oasis in downtown Williams. At the time, restaurants here were mostly pancake houses or steakhouses. Owner David Haines raised the bar by offering casual fine dining in a long, narrow, very stylish room.

Lunch consists mostly of wraps and sandwiches, all wonderfully fresh. Or try the Baja tacos ($10), tempura-battered mahi stuffed into three soft corn tortillas, topped with green and red cabbage and served with Southwest rice pilaf, pico de gallo and chipotle sauce.

The dinner menu is more expansive. Brochette of lamb, marinated skewers of sirloin charbroiled and served with potatoes and grilled asparagus ($26), proved so popular as a special that it landed on the regular menu. Don’t forget to take advantage of the impressive wine list.
Details: 135 W. Route 66, Williams. 928-635-4980, www.redravenrestaurant.com.

Twisters ’50s Soda Fountain
With a black-and-white floor, shiny red booths and walls plastered in vintage Coca-Cola signage, Twisters feels so authentic that you might catch a whiff of Fonzie’s Brylcreem.

It’s no surprise that charbroiled burgers play a starring role. A quarter-pound patty with fries costs $7.99, and you can double it up to a half-pound of beef for just a buck more.

Another standout is the fried catfish plate ($8.99), from a recipe passed down from owner Jason Moore’s grandfather. Two farm-raised filets are coated in house-made breading and served with fries and hush puppies. The dish was just featured in “Arizona’s Best Recipes,” a new book from Arizona Highways.

And since this is a genuine soda fountain, if you want a shake, malt, cherry Coke, root-beer float, Brooklyn egg cream or some other fizzy/creamy concoction, they can whip it up. Mmm … a juicy burger and a cherry Coke. You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you?
Details: 417 E. Route 66, Williams. 928-635-0266, www.route66place.com.

• Kicks on Route 66 Bar and Grille converted a former Denny’s into an urban-chic eatery with a wide-ranging menu, full bar and multiple televisions. 2550 W. Route 66. 928-635-2052, www.williamsazrestaurant.com.

• Pine Country Restaurant is known for down-home cooking, an expansive menu and delicious, artistic pies that are displayed near the door so you’re tempted as soon as you walk in. 107 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. 928-635-9718, www.pinecountryrestaurant.com.

• Cruiser’s Route 66 Café functions as the Mother Road’s unofficial patio. You’ll almost always find ribs sizzling on the grill and a guy with a guitar playing the soundtrack from your youth. 233 W. Route 66. 928-635-2445, www.cruisers66.com.

• Station 66 Italian Bistro features wood-fired pizzas and a good selection of craft beers from the adjoining Barrel + Bottle House that opened in April. 144 W. Route 66. 928-635-3992, www.kennellyconcepts.com.

Find the reporter at www.rogernaylor.com. Or follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RogerNaylorinAZ or Twitter @AZRogerNaylor. Read the full article by clicking here.

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