Palm springs city guide: restaurant + activities
Restaurants (Updated July 2016)
Walking Distance from 436 Olancha (*** = recommended):
*** Ace Hotel (http://www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. 701 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). The capitol of everything cool and one of the best people watching places in town, the food is surprising good with many options for those who are vegetarians, vegan and/or gluten free. The drinks are hit or miss … stick to their their rotating selection of craft beers. For the more adventurous, Monday nights have dinner bingo emceed by a hilarious Judy Garland impersonator, followed by drag queen bar trivia. Check their online calendar for events. The've also recently opened a Stumptown coffee bar for your morning caffeine fix! Indoor and outdoor (poolside) seating. The hotel bar (the Amigo Room) is one of the best late night venues in town $ - $$$
*** Appetito Cal Italian Deli (http://www.appetitodeli.com. 1700 South Camino Real Suite 2, Palm Springs, CA 92264). Great food and casual setting. Service isn’t spectacular, but the food makes up for it. Indoor and outdoor seating. $ - $$
*** Dead or Alive Bar (http://www.deadoralivebar.com. 150 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264). Dead or Alive is VERY unique in Palm Springs - it's a stand alone bar that serves beer and wine. Period. End of story. No brunch. No cocktails. No bells and whistles. That being said: (i) it's a great mix of mid century modern meets modern day urbanity, (ii) it has a solid selection of curated beers and wines, and (iii) the proprietors are actual Palm Springs natives who recently returned to the desert after stints in Los Angeles. They are charming and a wealth of information. No sign - look for the glowing red globe out in front (it's next door to El Mirasol). $-$$
El Mirasol (http://www.elmirasolrestaurants.com. 140 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). We’ve had consistently mediocre food and overly sugary drinks at this tourist favorite. Their location in the north end of town serves much better food, but the one around the corner from us is a disappointment. There are better Mexican restaurants in town! Indoor and outdoor seating. $$
*** Europa Restaurant (http://villaroyale.com/dining/ Villa Royale Inn, 1620 S Indian Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92264). Incredibly romantic, old world setting (it is the former estate of movie star and Olympic figure-skater Sonja Henie). We’ve only been to the bar, and the bartender serves a great cocktail. The food is supposedly very good (we've never been), albeit expensive. Great place to celebrate an anniversary or special occasion. If you go, please let us know about the food!!! Indoor seating only. $$$
*** Koffi (http://www.kofficoffee.com. 1700 South Camino Real Suite 1, Palm Springs, CA 92264). One of the best places for coffee (and snacks) in town. Don’t be intimidated by the long lines – they move people through pretty quickly! Indoor and outdoor seating. $
Kiyosaku (http://kiyosakusushi.menutoeat.com. 1555 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). The food here is good, but somewhat pricey, and not our favorite sushi place in the desert. See below. $$ - $$$
Miro’s (http://mirospalmsprings.com. 1555 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). We’ve never to Miro's. Here’s what we know: (i) the décor is old school formal, (ii) the cuisine is high end (expensive) Hungarian, and (iii) the food is supposedly delicious. If you try it, let us know! We’d love to learn more about it. $$$
*** Mr. Lyons (http://www.mrlyonsps.com. 233 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). One of the new hotspots in town (opened May 2015), Mister Lyons had a rocky start. Fortunately, they have definitely found their stride in 2016! Prices are high for Palm Springs (the bar menu in the lounge is more reasonable than the dining room menu), but the food in recent months has been fantastic, the service was top notch, and the lovely old school lounge setting has felt both classic Palm Springs yet modern at the same time. For what it's worth, when I ask our local foodie friends for their current favorite restaurant in Palm Springs, the unanimous consensus has been Mister Lyons. $$ - $$$$
*** Seymour's Bar (same contact info as Mr. Lyons above). There's good and bad when it comes to Seymour's. Bad first. It's hard to find! Seymour's is a joint venture between the owner of Mr. Lyons and a well-known bar manager here in town, and it is housed within the Mr. Lyons structure. From the outside, there are no signs or visual clues that it even exists - very speakeasy-esque! My suggestion - walk into Mr. Lyons and any member of their staff will happily show you how to get there. Now the good. SEYMOUR'S IS BY FAR THE COOLEST BAR IN PALM SPRINGS. Fantastic design/decor, inventive cocktail list, and shockingly reasonable prices (all a few dollars less than the Mr. Lyons lounge). Trust me, once you go in, you won't want to leave. $ - $$
SOPA (http://lhorizonpalmsprings.com/sopa-restaurant. L'Horizon Resort & Spa. 1050 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). Chances are, you already know about SOPA. It has garnered press from all over the world in the past year. We used to recommend SOPA because the super charming outdoor setting (L'Horizon is a lovely, historic mid century gem, which has recently reopened after an extensive renovation which cost more than the GDP of most small countries) compensated for the medium quality food and service. Unfortunately, on recent visits, both the food and the service have been sooooo poor that we can't in good faith recommend SOPA to anyone. Oh, and it's f***ing expensive. Hopefully they'll work out the kinks and elevate the quality of the food and service to match the gorgeous setting and the prices!! $$$$
*** Sparrows Lodge (http://www.sparrowslodge.com. Sparrows Lodge. 1330 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264). Sitting beneath a canopy of citrus trees in this impeccably designed "rustic chic" hotel, you'll be hard pressed finding a more lovely outdoor eating venue (there are a handful of tables inside the "barn" but I personally think the magic happens in the gorgeous courtyard gardens of the property). Oh ... and they are currently serving some of the best food in the desert. Dinner (Wednesday and Saturday only) is family style and books out far in advance, but they are open daily for lunch (the menu is small - for picky eaters I suggest perusing the menu online first). Budget at least a few hours for lunch ... once you get comfy and that feeling of blissful relaxation starts to kick in, you won't want to leave this magical spot.
Other Favorites by Category:
Palm Springs Classics: When you want to feel like you’re in an over-the-top magazine spread shot in Palm Springs, stop and pay homage to the following Palm Springs temples: (i) Ace Hotel (see above), the epicenter of all things cool; (ii) Parker Hotel (www.theparkerpalmsprings.com. 4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264), a magic Alice-in-Wonderland-like resort on the outskirts of town with a fantastic history and delicious (albeit expensive) restaurants. Brunch at Norma’s is one of our favorite indulgences! (iii) Spencer’s at the Historic Tennis Club (http://www.spencersrestaurant.com/index.php. 701 West Baristo Road, Palm Springs CA 92262), the ultimate “ladies who lunch” spot, serves good (not amazing) food in one of the loveliest outdoor dining areas in town. The people-watching is a fabulous flashback to the Hollywood grandeur of Palm Spring’s past. Fun for brunch, lunch and dinner, (iv) Avalon Hotel (http://www.avalonpalmsprings.com/dining. 415 South Belardo Road, Palm Springs CA 92262), very recently known as the Viceroy, has taken over a Palm Springs classic. Time will tell whether the new management will be a proper steward of this local landmark. Their restaurant was always one of our favorites, far smaller and quieter than the other Palm Springs hotspots, and definitely a place for the famous and infamous to hide out from the rest of the world. We’ll update this review once we’ve had a chance to try out the new restaurant!, and (v) Melvyn’s (http://inglesideinn.com/melvyns-restaurant/ 200 West Ramon Road, Palm Springs CA 92262). Melvyn’s Restaurant at the Ingleside Inn is charming and dripping in Hollywood history. Skip the food, order a basic cocktail at the bar (anything invented within the past 40 years will baffle the cranky bartenders), soak up all the Rat Pack stories, and enjoy the dance floor packed full of 85-year-olds busting a move to bar mitzvah music. Quite the spectacle! The crowds are mixed at each of these venues ranging from grandmas decked out in Chanel to LA’s hippest hipsters. Reservations (and vintage Rolls Royces) are recommended for each of these places during the high season. Ace $ - $$$, Parker $$ - $$$$, Spencer’s $ - $$$, Avalon $$ - $$$, Melvyn’s $$ - $$$.
"Some place Nice": After the Palm Springs classics, the most common request I get is for "you know, like someplace nice, but not too nice, and nothing formal." I've learned that usually means "medium to high end contemporary and inventive California cuisine in a pretty setting." The three pillars in town are: (i) Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel (https://reservoirpalmsprings.com/ 1551 North Palm Canyon, Palm Springs CA 92262), (ii) Dish Creative Cuisine (http://www.dishcreativecuisine.com/ 1107 North Palm Canyon, Palm Springs CA 92262), and (iii) Workshop Kitchen + Bar (http://workshoppalmsprings.com/ 800 North Palm Canyon, Palm Springs CA 92262). I think all 3 are great, but here's how I'd differentiate them ... Reservoir: Reservoir is the most casual and "young" feeling. The seating is predominantly outdoors and you'll have beautiful views of the mountains. On a windy day, stay away - you'll end up with your salad in your lap. The menu is made up of tacos, salads, crudo etc. My favorite salad in town (their version of the Cobb) can't be beat. The attached ice cream shop is delicious! Dish: The most expensive of the group (probably slightly more than Workshop), Dish usually has an incredibly inventive menu. Sometimes their creative ambitions overshoot, but when the execute (which, in fairness, is most of the time!), it's some of the best food in town. Nearly all of the seating is indoors and the decor is somewhat like an urban city loft. Workshop: Highly recommended for larger groups (reservations are required though) as they'll put you in a private room. Great service and one of the first restaurants in town to focus on local, organic produce. The food is great, and you'll be eating in either a gorgeous outdoor courtyard or a cool modern converted movie theater. I suggest checking out each website or giving me a call to discuss if you just can't decide! Reservations are highly recommended for all 3!!! $$ - $$$
Brunch: Brunch is a religious experience in Palm Springs and there are tons of great options (Cheeky's and Elmer's are two of the best known for both the food and horrendous wait times), but our favorites are: (i) the Ace, the Parker, Spencer's and Workshop Kitchen (see above) and (ii) Indian Canyons Golf Club – South Course Restaurant (http://www.indiancanyonsgolf.com/dine/. 1097 East Murray Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). Don’t be intimidated by the attachment to a golf club (it is open to the public and there is no dress code); the place is modest in décor, cuisine and price. Why the recommendation? VIEWS VIEWS VIEWS. The setting here is truly breathtaking. Also, it is rarely crowded and can accommodate large groups! $$
Thai: Palm Springs has surprisingly good Thai food options. Both Thai Smile (http://www.thaismilepalmsprings.com. 100 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 922642) and Pepper’s Thai (http://www.peppersthai.com. 396 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) are delicious, and Peppers Thai even delivers! Both $$
Sushi: There is no life-changing sushi restaurant in the desert, but Gyoro Gyoro (http://otootorestaurant.com. 105 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262) has super fun design/atmosphere and consistently great food at reasonable prices. Desserts are funky and worth ordering. Skip the cocktails and instead order from their great selection of Japanese beers and sakes. Indoor and outdoor seating. $$
Vietnamese: Palm Springs has gone in a short time from having wretched Vietnamese options to have 2 great offerings. Pho Vu (285 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) serves classic Vietnamese “street food style” options (similar to what you’ll find in SF, LA etc.). The menu is small, but the food is cheap, genuinely delicious and arrives fast. We eat here probably more than any other restaurant in town. The newcomer on the block is Rooster and the Pig (http://www.roosterandthepig.com. 356 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262). Don’t be fooled by the strip mall location - the interior is hip and stylish and the Cal-Vietnamese menu is Palm Spring’s answer to San Francisco’s The Slanted Door. The food is inventive, delicious and unlike anything else you’ll find in the desert. One of our newest favorites!!! Pho Vu $. Rooster and the Pig $$ - $$$.
Burgers: 3 caveats: Cash only! Brunch/lunch only! Outdoor seating only! Putting those aside, Tyler’s (http://tylersburgers.com. 149 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) serves fantastic, high quality food at reasonable prices in a super charming setting (right on the Palm Springs Plaza). There is often a short wait, but it’s definitely worth it. A huge favorite of ours! At nighttime, our go-to place is Woody’s (http://woodysburgersps.com. 450 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). They recently merged with their sister restaurant, the Palm House, so don't get confused by the signage. The affordable food is consistently good, and there is live music every night. Tyler’s $. Woody’s $.
Coffee: 2 best bets are Koffi (see above, with additional locations in north Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage) and Ernest Coffee (www.ernestcoffee.com. 1101 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) which is housed in the former location of Don the Beachcomber, an iconic Tiki bar and restaurant from the 1950’s. They serve Stumptown coffee, treats and beer/wine, and at nighttime, their back room turns into Bootlegger Tiki (http://www.bootleggertiki.com), a super cute (albeit small) tiki bar in homage to the building’s past. The Ace Hotel (see above) has also recently installed a small Stumptown coffee bar inside their main restaurant for folks on the go. Koffi $. Ernest Coffee $ - $$.
Seafood: As someone who grew up on the coast, I struggle psychologically with eating seafood in the middle of the desert. That being said, we have been consistently impressed with the food at Shanghai Red’s/Fisherman’s Market and Grill (https://www.fishermans.com/locations.php?id=4. 235 South Indian Canyon Road, Palm Springs CA 92262). We usually skip the full table service at Shanghai Red’s and instead just order at the counter at the Fisherman’s Market (same owner, kitchen, food etc.). The food is basic, but the fish is consistently fresh and of a high quality. The (fried) fish taco's at Shanghai Red's are legendary. $$ - $$$.
Mexican: Southern California is renowned for its Mexican food and, on a clear day, as Sarah Palin would say, “I can see Mexico from my house” (Ok, so technically we can’t see Mexico from our house, but there are a variety of vantage points in Joshua Tree National Park where you can see across the border to Mexico!). Thus, a lot of our guests come to Palm Springs prepared for a gastronomic tour-de-force of Mexican cuisine. If that's you, please reset your expectations – we haven’t found any truly outstanding Mexican restaurants of any shape or size in Palm Springs. There is a lot of good Mexican food, and a lot of bad Mexican food, but nothing amazing. With that big caveat aside, there are 2 places that we can recommend: (1) Las Casuelas Terraza (http://www.lascasuelas.com. 222 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) – not to be confused with its other locations, this extremely popular restaurant (I think it’s probably the most touristy restaurant in all of Palm Springs) has a super charming setting, live music and big drinks. The food is fine (not amazing), but after a few of their giant margaritas, you’ll forget that you even ordered food (or that it has taken over an hour for your food to arrive). The clientele is tourist central, so men in Tommy Bahama shirts dancing with their overly face-lifted wives to a Jimmy Buffett cover band is the norm … but it’s fun. If your main motivation is food, Rio Azul (http://rioazulpalmsprings.com. 350 South Indian Canyon Road, Palm Springs CA 92262) is the winner in town. Note – there are about a million other similarly sounding Mexican restaurants in Palm Springs, many which serve wretched food, so make sure you go to the right one! We’ve really liked our food here, and on certain nights there is an amazing live harp player, a fun and unexpected twist. See also above the recommendation for Taco Tuesday at the Hacienda Cantina and Pool Club. Las Casuelas Terraza $$ - $$$. Rio Azul $$ - $$$.
Sandwiches: Silly name aside, our favorite sandwiches are at the Real Italian Deli (http://www.therealitaliandeli.com. 100 South Sunrise Way, Suite B, Palm Springs CA 92262). If you’ve ever been to an AG Ferrari Deli in the San Francisco Bay area, the menu here is a total rip-off … and that’s a good thing, as the food here is delicious. Try the Genovese – my personal favorite. $ - $$
Bakery: The recent opening of the VERY French Peninsula Pastries (611 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264) transformed Palm Springs from a barren bakery wasteland into a food destination drawing people from all over the Coachella Valley and beyond. There are a million caveats about this place (it helps to speak French, there is a $12 minimum on credit cards, it’s on the expensive side, they sell out nearly every day, they keep odd hours as they often take French holidays/hours, weird strip mall location, etc.) but Helene and Christophe are turning out genuinely world-class delicacies and breads rivaling the best bakeries around. One bite of a Chocolate Tongue (my personal favorite) will make San Francisco’s Tartine look like Entenmann’s. Looking for a birthday cake or cupcakes? Head to Over the Rainbow Cupcakes and Desserts (http://www.romanblas.com. Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center, 1775 East Palm Canyon Drive #150, Palm Springs CA 92264) run by celeb Pastry Chef Roman Blas. All sheet cakes need to be ordered in advance, but they have a great selection of delicious cupcakes for purchase every day. Peninsula Pastries $ - $$. Over the Rainbow $ - $$.
Jewish Deli: The world is full of famous rivalries; Coke vs. Pepsi, Jobs vs. Gates, Montagues vs. Capulets, etc. Well, in little Palm Springs, the rivalry which polarizes the city is, “Sherman’s Deli vs. Manhattan in the Desert”. Both are good. Both have their loyal faithful. Both can be very crowded during the high season. That being said, our place of worship is Sherman’s (http://www.shermansdeli.com. 401 East Taquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262). Their dessert counter is one of the best in town. Note – for those that keep Kosher, I believe that both Sherman’s and Manhattan are “Kosher Style” yet on occasion carry some Kosher items. Please call in advance. The local Chabad house (http://www.chabadps.com) is literally around the corner from 436 Olancha and they can assist those seeking Kosher options in the desert.
Pizza: After a leisurely day of floating in the pool, soaking up the desert sun, and drinking (most likely) a few too many cocktails, the last thing you'll want to do is cook, so pizza for dinner sounds like a great option. Fortunately, Palm Springs has 2 solid pizza options. Unfortunately, the other 50,000 people visiting Palm Springs have had an identical day, and also have a hankering for pizza, so the wait times for both of these places can be unbearable. We suggest ordering ahead for pick up (neither place delivers). Bills Pizza (http://www.billspizzapalmsprings.com. 119 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262) and Guiseppe’s (http://www.giuseppesps.com. Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center, 1775 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264). The deep dish style pizza at Guiseppe’s is particularly good. Bill’s $$ (cash only), Guiseppe’s $$.
Vegetarian/Vegan: Although not 100% vegetarian/vegan, our go-to place is the Palm Greens Cafe (http://www.palmgreenscafe.com. 611 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92264). It's in the same weird strip mall as Peninsula Pastries (see above), but the menu is extensive, the food is usually great, and it's a regular haunt of many celebrities :) In fact, Suzanne Somers visits so frequently that they have a smoothie named after her (it's my favorite item there!). The Ace always has a decent selection of vegetarian/vegan options, and if all else fails, there's always Native Foods Cafe (http://www.nativefoods.com. Smoke Tree Shopping Center (behind the Post Office). 1775 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264), which has been serving up tasty vegan food since 1994. Little appreciated fact - the original Native Foods Cafe was in Palm Springs! Palm Greens $-$$. Native Foods $-$$.
Smoothies: You'll see "Date Shakes" everywhere in the Coachella Valley ... they all seem to be some variation on the same theme: vanilla milkshake + handful of dates. Tasty, but far from healthy, and not what I'd consider a smoothie. If you're looking for a more nutritious option, Fresh Juice Bar (http://www.freshjuicebar.com. 2 locations in town - see website for details) has an extensive menu (I'm partial to their pitaya offerings) as does the Palm Greens Cafe (see above). Fresh Juice Bar $-$$.
Greek: There's only one option (that we know of) in town, but it's a good one! We've been consistently impressed each time we've eaten at Greek Islands (139 East Andreas Road, Palm Springs CA 92262) and they have a nice outdoor dining area. It also fits in well for the "something nicer but not too fancy" dining category. $$-$$$
Dessert: There are plenty of tasty sweets all over town, but two places stand apart from the rest. The dessert counter at Sherman's Deli (see above) is legendary - their artery clogging German Chocolate Cheesecake is worth the scolding from your cardiologist - and Great Shakes (http://www.greatshakesps.com. 160 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262), serving up incredibly inventive and delicious milkshakes (don't be intimidated by the long line - they usually can crank through it pretty quickly). Great Shakes $.