There’s working off your dinner and then there’s working to get to your dinner. Whether it’s arriving via boat, ferry, tram, hike or snow-grooming mobile, you can’t just pop into these five restaurants. That said, getting to each one is more than half the fun.
The Saltry: Halibut Cove, Alaska
To grab dinner here you’ll need to reserve a spot on the evening ferry, which is actually a fishing boat that serves as both a passenger ferry and tour boat. It makes daily runs from the Kenai Peninsula town of Homer to Halibut Cove—a community also home to an impressive art gallery that displays the work of 18 local artists. As for the menu at The Saltry, Halibut Cove’s only restaurant, it’s not surprising that it skews towards seafood, with an emphasis on fresh-off-the-boat salmon. Get it pan-seared, smoked and cured all on one plate alongside seasonal greens from The Saltry’s nearby garden.
Phantom Ranch Canteen: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
By the time you hike down the 9.6-mile Angel Trail or the slightly shorter 7.8-mile Kaibab Trail to get to this restaurant, you’ll have worked up a serious appetite. (You can also access the restaurant by mule or a whitewater trip if that’s more your thing.) The Phantom Ranch Canteen loves its rules, offering two reservations-only seatings for both breakfast and dinner. Only early birds can enjoy breakfast, with the first seating at 5 am and a “late” seating at 6:30 am. Tardiness won’t be tolerated at any time since the Phantom closes its doors during mealtime—meaning those who dare to stumble in late will be shut out. For dinner you can request stew or a veggie entree during the 6:30 pm seating but if you want steak you’ll need to show up at 5. Like we said, a bit strict, but when you’re the only restaurant at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can do whatever you want.
Barnacle Phil’s: North Captiva Island, Florida
This waterfront restaurant is one of only a handful of spots on North Captiva Island, a 4.5-mile-long strip of land (half of which is undeveloped state conservation land) along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Not to be confused with the more popular Captiva Island that you can drive a car to via bridge, North Captiva is totally separate (thanks to a hurricane in the early 1900s that detached it) and can only be accessed by ferry, water taxi, seaplane or personal boat. Inside the shanty-esque restaurant has dollar bills pinned to the wall; outside there’s a palapa and painted picnic tables in the sand. The menu focuses on seafood platters of grilled grouper, gulf shrimp and deep-fried conch fritters served on paper-lined plastic baskets alongside buckets of beer.
The Montana Dinner Yurt, Big Sky, Montana
Remember that final scene in The Shining when Wendy and Danny escape from Jack on a Snowcat? You’ll need to hop onto one of those babies if you want to dine at this yurt-slash-eatery within Montana’s renowned Big Sky Resort. After a 15-minute Snowcat ride through the backcountry to Lone Peak, guests arrive at the candlelit yurt and enjoy a three-course meal of French onion soup, filet mignon and chocolate fondue while an acoustic guitarist performs in the background. After dinner, warm up by the bonfire or take a spin on a torch-lit sled run before it’s time to Snowcat on home. It all sounds way more pleasant than being chased by a possessed man with an axe, right? (Open December through April only.)
Peaks Restaurant: Palm Springs, California
To get to this restaurant that’s at the top of Mt. San Jacinto, you’ll have to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tramcar that ascends 2.5 miles in a mere 12 minutes. The 360-degree views of the Coachella Valley and the cliffs are mind-blowing, even if it might look like you’re about to slam into the face of the mountain during your ascent. (Don’t worry, you won’t.) At the top you can explore more than 50 miles of trails or hike another five miles to reach the mountain’s 10,800-foot peak before heading back down for dinner. The menu at Peaks is all about comfort food, with entrees like meatloaf, brick chicken and grilled pork chops. There’s also a prix fixe deal that includes the tram ride ticket. For those looking to save some dough, however, you can always try the five-plus hour hike to where the tram would drop you off and then hitch a free ride down.