We just finished a fine vacation with family members in Arizona and California.
While driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles (which incidentally is not all that exciting really, but we really got into the idea of driving 80-85 mph), we started getting hungry just before Indio heading west towards LA. Right at the Palm Desert exit on a whim, we turned off onto Ramon Drive and ended up in a Palms Springs area known as "Cathedral City".
(Why is it called "Cathedral City" by the way??)
We then did the Chowhound thing, and looked for a non-chain restaurant on this street and ended up eating outside at Don and Sweet Sues Cafe at 68-955 Ramon Road. It was pretty good, and I'd recommend it for a quickie sitdown lunch outside. (The inside looked a bit cramped and tight, but then again, we didn't try the inside.) My wife had a chicken avocado salad that she gave rave reviews to. I had "chicken in a basket" which was basically three fried chicken breast slices and a ton of seasoned fries. (I liked my wife's meal a LOT better.) Other meals I saw included a full Californian breakfast meal, fruits in season, and a light dinner meal. The prices seemed to be quite reasonable, yet the food was FAR better than any chain's. Looks like the salads were the best things to get.
We had never been to the Palm Desert region before to eat. The mountains are gorgeous there. There are a LOT of retirees. We were told to go to the rich areas "Where the stars live" when we asked a waitress about it. OK, maybe later, I said, we just wanted to eat. In any case, it's a nice spot to go on drab interstate 10 among all those windmills.
We actually ate a lot at relatives during this Christmas week vacation. My general comment (speaking as a New Englander) is that the beef in the west is so far superior to the beef in the northeast that it's almost unfair to even compare.