The Cave That Linus Built – Giant Rock Meeting Room
By Ed Heethius
MMany a day tripper taking Highway 62 through the Morongo Basin has driven past Old Woman Springs Road and thought, “I wonder what is up there?” Turns out, there is quite a bit. Officially known as Highway 247, the thoroughfare which connects Yucca Valley and Apple Valley is dotted with legendary scenery, a lot of local history, and Giant Rock Meeting Room.
While many small businesses dotting the highway beckon, Giant Rock Meeting Room (GRMR) stirs the imagination. A mere 10 minutes north of the 62 and named after the largest freestanding boulder in North America, GRMR first opened as a coffee shop in September of 2018. From the onset, it drew rave reviews from locals, tourists, and commuters alike for excellent java, as well as breakfast sandwiches, avocado toast, and fresh baked goods produced on-site.
Owner Linus Xavior’s philosophy when he began building Giant Rock Meeting Room was simple. “My shop is my cave,” explains Xavior. “My hypothesis is, ‘we’re all animals.’ The other animals come into my cave and they want to feel like it’s their cave too. My job is to make them feel comfortable, like they belong here.”
Born in Michigan, Linus moved to Silicon Valley when he was eight years old. He spent his formative years there before his best bud, Thor, scored a sweet place up in Flamingo Heights in 2010. Linus soon joined Thor and began looking for opportunities in the area. Finally, in 2017, the property which is now Giant Rock Meeting Room became available, and he literally leapt at the opportunity.
Linus has most certainly made this his cave, and there is little doubt about the atmosphere – it’s as comfortable as a twenty-year-old pair of slippers. This popular local hang, often providing a stage for live local music, is easily recognizable on the east side of Old Woman Springs Road, across from Hero Meat Market. It shares its building and parking with Moon Wind Trading Company. The low-slung wood and stucco building is easily recognizable with its large Giant Rock signs, welcoming Edison-lighted patio, and desert-faded Rangoon Red 1964 Ford Ranchero permanently parked out front.
Entry to GRMR gives way to an L-shaped bar sporting ten of the most comfortable bar seats this side of Las Vegas. On this particular Thursday night, every chair is filled with homegrown residents, ranging from millennial to boomer. Conversations are flowing as quickly as the libations being slung by Shaindy, the bartender-extraordinaire currently in charge of herding this hungry, thirsty, and vocal herd of local cats. On occasion, the din quickly subsides, signaling that another round of pizzas has been delivered by the kitchen, which is neatly hidden behind the creaky swinging doors behind the bar.
As the sun begins to dip below the mountains, the patio can often be in full-swing with a large family gathered to celebrate a birthday or other special occasion, while local entertainment sets up to perform. The cozy covered deck sports propane heaters for the inevitable cool Flamingo Heights nights with a stage built into the northeast corner. Ample seating abounds, a sure sign that this portion of Linus’ cave has seen many a friendly party animal.
The dining area is arranged with two-top tables, each equipped with western-style high back chairs. One can attempt to take in all the artwork and bric-a- brac within the cave, but every scan of the premises reveals another hidden gem. Photo opportunities are everywhere in this quaint desert playground, but all pale in comparison to the flamingo-papered bathroom, which simply screams, “Take a selfie with me!”
The pizza menu lists eight different house combinations as well as a build-your-own option. I decided upon The Flamingo Pig pizza, an amazing assortment of prosciutto, mozzarella, mascarpone, tomato sauce, capers, arugula, and shaved parmesan. One look at this pie and my first thought was, “Boy, am I going to enjoy breakfast tomorrow,” knowing I could never finish this in one seating. Fast-forward 25 minutes and I found myself picking at the remnants left on the pan. That poor pie never stood a chance.
Other pizzas of note are the Mushy Tina; made exclusively with hi-desert grown organic Canyon Creek Mushrooms, and the Jalapeno BawkBaQ featuring (as you might imagine) BBQ chicken and a more than generous dose of jalapenos. Vegan diners have reason to celebrate as there are vegan cheese, vegan pepperoni, and vegan BBQ chicken options available. A gluten-free, cauliflower crust is available as well.
Behind the bar is a wonderous selection of adult beverages carefully curated by Shelley Kush. Revel wines highlight the grape list including an exciting sparkling red and the beer selection is delightfully well-thought out. The current draft options include a delightful pale ale from El Segundo and a satisfying pilsner from Fall Brewing, one of the hottest new breweries in San Diego. Shacksbury Cider from Vermont rounds out the rotating tap list and is a personal favorite. This craft cidery uses only native, wild Vermont apples and utilizes a slow, natural, native yeast fermentation which takes up to six months. The bottle and can beer selection boasts a myriad of styles sure to delight novice beer drinkers and entertain those serious about their suds, as well. Ms. Kush should be promoted to the head of the class!
It’s no surprise that the original Giant Rock has attracted earthlings and (allegedly) aliens alike. The boulder covers 5,800 square feet of ground and is over seven stories tall. It is reported to have special electromagnetic forces – a vortex of sorts – where it is said that people and animals are drawn to for spiritual energy. Beginning in the 1950s, UFO conventions were held at Giant Rock with attendance topping 11,000 people in 1959. These conventions continued to draw UFO aficionados for the next ten years, with many attendees eventually settling in Landers and the surrounding area. This locale is enchanted, and now there is a perfect meeting room to enjoy gathering once again. For updated offerings and hours, follow them on Instagram @giantrockmeetingroom. Visit them at 1141 Old Woman Springs Rd Unit A, Yucca Valley, CA 92284 or reach them at (442) 272-1472.