WHERE TO DINE OUT IN PALM SPRINGS
WHERE LOCAL FOODIES EAT
Every once in a while, I see it on Facebook: someone Very Important has decided where visitors should eat in Palm Springs. And every time, it is written not by a bonafide local food critic, but by a PR firm or someone getting paid to promote certain restaurants.
Which is why the usual suspects keep coming up.
Or should I say, the wrong restaurants.
They shall not be named here. This is not any kind of effort to tear anyone else down. And frankly, it’s not any kind of effort to promote the places we love. Business is booming for them, and they need no help.
WHO THIS IS FOR
Do you love fine wine? Do you love fine food? Do you love a creative menu featuring entrees and appetizers you would never make at home?
Do you feel like sometimes the highest “rated” places aren’t offering much more in exchange for truckloads of cash?
Do you look for locally-owned, LGBTQ-owned, or allies of the community?
Yes to all of the above? You’re the target here.
We have gotten to know, to varying degrees, all of the folks who own these restaurants, and we care about service too when we talk about value.
Some of the restaurants we didn’t include have amazing food, but it’s too pricey, or the service is too inconsistent.
WHO THIS IS NOT FOR
Maybe wine doesn’t matter to you.
Or, you think fine dining is overrated. You look for sit-down places that to you taste delicious, for a lot less money.
I’m not judging you! Eat what you like!
Or, you’re someone who has to deal with numerous or specific dietary restrictions. You’re Vegan, and gluten intolerant, and maybe even lactose intolerant. Peanut dust is life threatening. I mean no disrespect and I apologize—this post isn’t for you, either. Patrick and I are lucky not to suffer any of those maladies and we really feel for our friends who do. In fact my brother’s young daughter is a celiac and he doesn’t even trust restaurants ADVERTISED as gluten-free. He calls and talks to the staff and even sometimes the chef. Every time. I can’t imagine.
And, this isn’t for you if you want to support conservative owners or big chains. For a bloomin’ onion, head down valley (Palm Desert, La Quinta).
WHO WE ARE
Patrick is a WSET-trained wine educator and an award-winning professional chef and caterer. He has lived in the desert for a decade.
I suppose I am a “bear” which makes me a professional eater, and on top of that I know enough about wine to be dangerous. I’ve lived in the desert for over 16 years. So I’ve eaten everywhere and seen this place grow from a backwater into a foodie Mecca… some of these places I’ve eaten in hundreds of times.
Every time I travel, to Los Angeles, to Seattle, to New York, I find good food. But is it that much better than these places? I say no.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?
Nothing. The restaurants don’t know we did this. Nothing came to us for free. Nobody paid us. This is probably the only review of its kind—at least that I’ve seen.
Okay, here we go.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
ROOSTER AND THE PIG
We would crawl through broken glass to get to this place. Fortunately, that isn’t necessary; Rooster and the Pig is walking distance from everywhere downtown.
It’s creative Asian fusion with a gorgeous little affordable wine list, and if it were in Hong Kong or Copenhagen or Manhattan or San Francisco you wouldn’t find similar food for under $100 per person. Notable items: fresh Asian rolls… fried rice with pork belly and Chinese sausage… panko chicken ball in curry sauce… Such a creative menu from chef Tai, who shops at Asian fresh food markets himself.
Rooster and the Pig is dinner only, and it’s cashless. Since they don’t take reservations, we try to go right at 5 or 5:15. Also, Rooster and the Pig is LGBTQ-owned.
JAKE’S PALM SPRINGS
Here’s another high value, affordable, creative menu. Jake, named not for me, but for the owners’ Westie (now in that doghouse up in the sky) is Californian/American cuisine in the Uptown Design District.
We live a block away, so we’ve been here hundreds of times over the years.
Whenever it’s time to go to brunch, we struggle to come up with a place we’d rather go. It’s equally wonderful for dinner. The cocktails are excellent.
Trust, you need a reservation. Specify that you want the patio unless it’s July. Save room for the best cake EVER. Jake’s is closed Monday, and Jake’s is LGBTQ-owned.
After 15 years and hundreds of visits, Johannes never disappoints. The cuisine is upscale Austrian, and true to form, they boast a stunning wine list, including many different labels of the great white wine of Austria, Grüner Veltliner. If you love dry white wine, you can’t go wrong here. Try it with the spaetzeln and the schnitzel. Now say that 100 times.
Do you like fish done right? It’s a specialty here.
This place holds a special place for me; it was one of my former partner’s favorites, and one of the last places we ate together as he declined at the end of his battle with cancer.
You need a reservation. Ask for Barrie in the main dining room, or sit and laugh and eat with Stephanie at the bar. Located walking distance from everywhere downtown, right on Arenas and Indian Canyon. Not open Mondays.
Please do not infer that Miro’s ranks fourth behind the three restaurants above. On the contrary, Miro’s remains one of our absolute favorites. The service is outstanding, the menu is Eastern European, the cocktails and wine list are both amazing.
Try the jaw-dropping stroganoff over spaetzeln or mashed potatoes, with a fine wine from Croatia. Like Jake’s and Johannes, Miro’s is not open Mondays. You’ll need a reservation and a ride down to South Palm Canyon to get there from downtown, but it’s not far.
If you’ve eaten in Greece and you loved it, you’ll feel transported. It’s Greek-owned and operated, and as you would expect in the Aegean, Greek Islands specializes in fish and seafood. There is lamb, to be sure, and the gyros are amazing, but the fish… oh…
And, unlike many Greek restaurants, this one boasts an outstanding selection of white and red wines from Greece. The Red Naoussa goes with the fish! The white Moschofilero or the white Assyrtiko both go with lamb! Forget what you heard.
The fun doesn’t end there: see that green martini below? That’s made with Midori and Sambuca and pineapple juice and some other secret ingredients.
ZIN AMERICAN BISTRO
The best wine list in the valley belongs to Zin American Bistro. Owner Mindy has the awards to prove it. Zin is right downtown, and Mindy asterisks her faves, so pay attention. In the mood for a succulent white? Look for Savennières. The service is great and Mindy is a fierce ally of the LGBTQ community, participating most years in the AIDS Lifecycle Ride.
CORK & FORK
I know, I know. No one in Palm Springs likes to drive down to La Quinta to eat.
You need to. Cork & Fork, down off Jefferson south of CA-111, is one of those places where the other restaurants’ chefs go to eat. It is outstanding, and the chef, Andie Hubka, has an exceptional wine palate. Whatever is on the wine list, expect perfection at an amazing price. Share delicious small bites. Andie uses La Quinta High School’s culinary institute to train kids, and their work is on point.
In honor of Patrick, the Sugar Pig, I am including our favorite ice cream shop, Kreem, in South Palm Springs. Since it’s also a coffee shop, YES YOU CAN have a coffee float, cold brew with some cookies and cream or chocolate chip. For our wine tasting one night, Kreem made limoncello sorbet. Twas dreamy.
MEXICAN FOOD — RIO AZUL has the best Mexican food—in our opinion it’s not even close—and a Sunday drag brunch to boot! Try the cioppino, or the Oaxaca tamal, or the conchinita pibil. Ask to the see the high-end Tequila list.
STEAK HOUSE — MR LYONS in South Palm Springs is a no-brainer. Owner-chef Tara whips up a mean Beef Wellington, the cocktails are great, and last we checked, there was no corkage fee. Even if that’s changed, it’s worth it.
FUN FUN FUN — TROPICALE is a must-try for any visitor to Palm Springs. The theme is Havana/Miami, and the Southern Fried Chicken is the valley’s best. Even I always finish his collared greens (I always thought greens were decorations!). Amazing cocktails and a great brunch, too (weekends only).
SPEAKEASY — SEYMOUR’S, inside Mr Lyons.
AFTER HOURS — DEAD OR ALIVE wine bar, in South Palm Springs down across the street from Mr Lyons and Miro’s. Owner and wine connoisseur Christine keeps a great list of interesting wines. Check out the shots below!
Thanks for checking out this post!
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are new places to try all the time. If you’re curious why we DIDN’T include someone, please private message us or ask us in person. We are not here to bad-mouth anyone.
Stay tuned for additions to our list!