Lonely Planet Writer

Enjoy Native American cuisine on this Grand Canyon-Vegas helicopter tour

Filled with world-class restaurants, Las Vegas has become a leading destination for gastronauts. Now, its regional roster includes Sa’ Nyu Wa, an eatery that features Native American food traditions. Sa’ Nyu Wa is perched on the breathtaking edge of Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation, some 75 miles east of the Strip. The dining room is part of a new excursion offered by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters.

Grand Canyon Skywalk
Skywalk on the Hualapai Reservation, Grand Canyon. Photo by: Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Tours start with a shuttle bus from Las Vegas to the company’s private airport in nearby Boulder City. From there, it’s a 45-minute flight over Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Hoover Dam, the Colorado River, and the rugged Mojave Desert to lofty Eagle Point, where tour-goers disembark and build up their appetites with a thrilling walk out onto the steel and glass Skywalk. This horseshoe-shaped bridge has a transparent floor with a view 4,000 feet straight down to the bottom of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Call it an aerial appetizer.

Following a jaunt around the Skywalk, it’s onto sit-down service in Sa’ Nyu Wa, which has picture windows looking out onto the rocky walls and the rumpled horizon of Grand Canyon National Park stretching into the distance. Starters include traditional fry bread made from corn (also known as maize), one of the major pre-Columbian cultural gifts to the world’s modern kitchens. The bread is akin to a puffy Mexican tortilla and is served with butter infused with prickly pear cactus fruit and smoky chipotle peppers. There’s also a savory soup of acorn squash served, filled with chunks of locally ranched beef and a sprinkling of pine nuts, which grow in abundance in the forested mountains and plateaus that surround the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park. Photo by David McNew Getty Images

Native American-inspired entrées include pan-roasted quail with corn stuffing and a sweet-and-sour gastrique with prickly pear and agave nectar (another regional desert plant). For something from the water, the restaurant also serves pan-fried trout accented with a vibrant beurre blanc sauce with berry-tasting prickly pear fruit. For dessert, chocolate decadence hearkens back to the cacao beans first cultivated in Central America millennia ago.

Sa’ Nyu Wa also serves more familiar modern American dishes like salads, sandwiches, burgers, and steaks. The Papillon helicopter tour lasts around seven hours, and ends with a return flight and shuttle bus back to Las Vegas.

By Greg Thilmont