I spent the last 5 days house sitting for friends in Palm Springs. I have been going to the desert regularly since college in the mid-80's so I learned long ago that the dining scene was not the main attraction. The last few (err...8-10) years our trips have always been limited to house parties with friends where we mostly cook or grab cheap Mexican if we are able to muster the energy to leave poolside.
This trip I decided to treat it like a vacation. Meaning we ate out three meals a day and had cocktails somewhere out in public most evenings. I did a lot of pre-trip research (here and elsewhere), I tried to put my pre-conceived notions aside and start from scratch. Here is what I experienced.
LE VALLAURIS, 385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way 760-325-5059
Conde Nasts FOOD AND WINE (March 2000) called this the best restaurant in the desert. It is grand and old fashioned, perhaps even a little stuffy, but the out door dining patio is not only pretty but oddly a rare thing in the desert. The food was high quality though oddly unmemorable at this moment (Other than an excellent and VERY decadent and abundant chilled bouillabaise veloute) . PRICEY
We always go here (usually lunch on our way in or out of town). It is authentic, but a little more creative, Mexican food. It is very casual, and you can get tamales in a variety of traditions.
LG PRIME STEAKHOUSE, 255 E. Palm Canyon Drive 760-416-1779
A la Carte excellent steaks, presented in sizzling butter. With not so cheap and fattening sauces. It is the apres golf crowd or families celebrating a special occasion looking for great steaks, martinis and a quick hello with the other regulars. Big dining room, plenty of parking. Nice but a little pre-fabricated. PRICEY
LYONS ENGLISH GRILLE, 233 East Palm Canyon Drive 760-327-327-1551
Suits of Armor, dark bar, oak paneling etc. The red leather booths are very retro-fun. The same chef has worked there since the 1950s. There is a popular piano bar, but dont forget your white loafers and polyester pants. I swear I saw Jane Wyman there (is she still alive?)!! We skipped the boring looking menu and stuck to Negronis and so-so caesars at the bar.
MELVYNS, 200 W. Ramon Rd. 760-325-2323
So square its hip. Restaurant and lounge. We skipped the over-priced and over-produced looking food but stayed for cocktails and gossip from a talented bartender.
TYLERS, 149 S. Indian Canyon Drive 760-325-2990
Burgers and Fries. Highly recommended by locals but a tad disappointing. They flat out refused to give me a rare burger! Not a good sign.
JOHNNY COSTAS 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive 760-325-4556
Classic NYC 1950s type Italian. GREAT MARTINIS! The chef supposedly worked for Frank (and I do mean Sinatra ). We had an interesting combination of antipasti and cured meats, some light, hot and crispy fried calamari dusted with raw horseradish, an excellent linguine with anchovies and cauliflower and a perfect veal chop all with excellent service! My favorite meal all week.
JOHANNES, 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive 760-778-0017
I liked it for it's intentions, but it just missed by a hair. The smoked trout salad was good, but over dressed with a vinegary dressing, my partner had a trio of of appetizers: nice roasted beets, mayonnaise-y crab, and a ubiquitous tuna tartar. My goulash was excellent however, and his duck breast with plum, star anise and truffle sauce was delicious and unexpectedly subtle.
EL MIRASOL 140 East Palm Canyon Drive 760-323-0721
Mexican Very Good and Very Popular!
SUNSHINE CAFE, Funky breakfast spot with "Gay or Gray" crowd of Cathedral City locals. The eggs over easy with crispy hash browns and toast were perfect! Especially at $3.49.
I do believe the desert is coming up in the gastronomic world!