The Palm Springs restaurant scene is alive with new additions and renovations happening all the time. In an effort to help visitors experience the breadth of the town’s culinary options, the following is a mix of 10 of the best restaurants, old and new, that offer some fun along with their food.
The Purple Palm
Palm Springs brunch should always be like this: brioche French toast and an iced coffee on a vintage pool terrace with a view of Mount San Jacinto. Operating inside the historic Colony Palms Hotel, the Purple Palm was originally opened in 1938 by Purple Gang mobster Al Wertheimer, and it recently underwent a $16 million renovation. Located a bit off the beaten path, the Purple Palm is a luxurious and relaxing respite from all the luxury and relaxation going on in the rest of Palm Springs. The regularly updated menu does hold on to the high performers, like that brioche French toast – a light, airy and slightly sweet rendition of the breakfast classic, soaked overnight in egg batter, then seared and garnished with lemon curd, crème anglaise, raspberries, pecans and house-made lemon ricotta. For dinner you’ll find decadent dishes such as chorizo-stuffed squid, smoked duck and pork terrine, and seared quail. The Purple Palm is open Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.
572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 969-1818, colonypalmshotel.com
This new craft beer pub opened in December 2016 after renovating a long-shuttered Pizza Hut. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of brews, from the local Coachella Valley Brewing Company Kolschella to a $5 tall can of Olde English served in a paper bag (the jury is out on the actual wit of that one). The pub's cocktails include the frothy Ionic Order, a magenta mix of tequila, mezcal and pink peppercorn hibiscus syrup topped with IPA foam – a concoction of egg whites and Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, creating a boozy merengue, if you will. The food offerings are hearty, with short rib poutine and grilled mac and cheese standing out among the burgers and wings. The sister restaurant to the Arrive Hotel’s taco eatery, Reservoir, this place was designed to keep clientele satisfied for hours. TVs line the top of the horseshoe-shaped bar and the back patio is outfitted with cornhole, giant Jenga and the incredibly frustrating ring-a-bull, which no doubt keeps competitive types there longer than intended. The Dråughtsman is open Monday through Thursday and Sunday until 11 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays until “late.”
1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 507-1644, draughtsmanpalmsprings.com.
A favorite among Palm Springs locals, El Mirasol opened during spring break 1985, when cruising down Palm Canyon in a bikini was all the rage. Helmed by couple Felipe and Lisbet Castañeda from Zacatecas, Mexico, the original location on Palm Canyon started as a tiny cafe and has since expanded into two popular locations – a unique story for the volatile industry of Palm Springs. The menu offers a mix of traditional Mexican fare, including camarones en pipian, a mole made with ground roasted pumpkin seeds and dried chiles, and carnitas slow-cooked in a copper kettle, served with all the taco fixings. The menu has evolved to include dishes such as spinach enchiladas, chorizo taquitos and quinoa vegan tamales. Both locations are open until 11 p.m. year-round.
140 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 323-0721, elmirasolrestaurants.com.
It’s time for pizza and wine at Birba, the stylish California-Italian eatery on Palm Canyon just north of the bustling center of downtown – when it’s below 90 degrees, anyway. The Neapolitan-inspired pizzas are sizable and creative, including the braised greens with Serrano chili and green olive, and the cavolo with spicy salami, kale, goat cheese and egg. All pizzas can be made on a gluten-free or cauliflower crust for an extra $2 to $4, a tactical attraction for guests concerned with their poolside physiques. Proteins such as branzino, roast chicken and pork belly round out the menu, with homemade ice cream for dessert. Birba is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m., with live DJs on the weekends.
622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 327-5678, birbaps.com .
This little cafe next door to the always-packed Cheeky’s serves a very brunchy brunch in a laid-back atmosphere. The brunchiness really shines through in its cocktail offerings, including the BLT Mary made with bacon-infused vodka; the Mexi-mosa made with tequila, sparkling wine and orange juice; and the Spiked Arnold Palmer – sweet tea vodka and lemonade. The egg dishes are hearty and grease-free, with standouts including the eggs Blackstone, a reimagined Benedict with roasted tomato and spinach, and the "eggs in purgatory," a baked dish with olives and sausage. And let's not forget the chocolate chip waffles, and lobster roll on brioche, which are best eaten, like all Jake's dishes, on the front or back patios. Jake’s is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch, and Saturday and Sunday for brunch; it's closed during the hot months (July through September).
664 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 327-4400, jakespalmsprings.com.
Pappy and Harriet’s
Deciding to write about Pappy and Harriet’s is always a little tough because it risks ruining what’s special about this place: its seclusion. But a best of (Greater) Palm Springs list wouldn’t be complete without this diamond in the rough, rocky hills of Yucca Valley. Located 30 miles northeast of Palm Springs, Pappy and Harriet’s is a biker bar/restaurant serving straightforward pan-American barbecue, and a music venue that hosts local acts like The Sunday Band and, last fall, a surprise performance by Paul McCartney. But back to the food: All the entrees, including a porterhouse steak, baby back ribs and salmon, are grilled on a mesquite fire under the stars. The Nachos Von Rabbit, a creation by the lead singer of Joshua Tree–based band Gram Rabbit, are a smart take on the common pub appetizer: Eight giant tortilla chips equally distributed with a tangy mix of cheddar, jack, bleu cheese, pico de gallo and green onions. Nary a naked chip in sight. Reservations are essential here these days, especially midweek when better-known bands tend to perform. All ages are welcome and dinner is served until 9:30 most nights, but check the website for seasonal hours.
53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown. (760) 365-5956, pappyandharriets.com.
This elegant French restaurant has been serving traditional European fare under the same ownership since 1974. A departure from the newer restaurants in town, the regularly changing menu focuses on classic proteins and sauces, such as roasted duck with cherry sauce and white fish with mustard mousseline. Daily offerings are handwritten on boards that are presented to your table, encouraging you to consider starters like escargot, foie gras or the wild boar pate, and ending with a vanilla soufflé or white chocolate crème brulée, depending on what makes it on the menu that week. Meals are best enjoyed under the trees of the large patio, where chandeliers light up for dinner. Le Vallauris opens every evening at 5 p.m., with brunch Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's closed during the low season, July to early September.
385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. (760) 325-5059, levallauris.com.
This urbane restaurant at the north end of downtown often makes top-restaurants lists for its interior design and lighting – and rightly so. While patio seating is preferred at most Palm Springs restaurants during high season, the best seat in this house is inside. But the food here shines too, especially if you’re in the mood for decadence and complicated cocktails. With the same chef de cuisine since its opening in 2012, the sophisticated restaurant takes an independent, local approach with its menu. Starters like pork cheek fries and romanesco with whipped goat cheese stand out, along with the honey-lavender black cod and a Maine lobster breakfast burrito with prosciutto for brunch. The menu is relatively large, so choosing can be tough, and be prepared to spend as if you’re on vacation. Dinner is served until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch ends at 2 p.m. on the weekends.
800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 459-3451, workshoppalmsprings.com.
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The diner at the Ace Hotel has updated and consolidated its menu under the direction of award-winning chef Carlos Salgado of Orange County’s Taco Maria. With its complete overhaul to the sandwich and burger offerings, the Cortez the Killer leads the charge with its three wagyu beef patties, idiazabal cheese, crispy fried onions and an oxtail jus for extra meaty messiness. The mushroom “chorizo” tacos, similar to Taco’s Maria’s jardineros, pile two soft blue-corn tortillas with a savory and spicy shiitake mixture, along with crispy potatoes, Chihuahua cheese and scallions – a win for the vegetarian set. The breakfast burrito also is rebooted, with home fries, garlic salsa, Chihuahua cheese and charro beans, with the option to stuff it with bacon, chorizo, chicken sausage or the same spicy mushroom chorizo used in the tacos. King’s Highway is open daily until from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 969-5789, kingshighwaydiner.com.
Peaks has gotten a “meh” rap over the years. It’s located inside the mountain station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, next to a cafeteria that serves grab-and-go sandwiches. The decor is outdated; schools take field trips there. And the food was catered by Aramark, the corporate concession provider for stadiums, universities and hospitals. So now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, Peaks actually serves an excellent pork chop with mashed potatoes at 8,500 feet above sea level. In July 2016, the fine-dining restaurant on Mount San Jacinto ended its 10-year contract with Aramark and now takes a more independent approach to itscooking. The "American-Continental" menu uses locally sourced ingredients from within a 173-mile radius, featuring an apricot portobello flatbread with brie, miso salmon, and a selection of steaks, burgers and salads. The food is meant to appeal to visitors from around the world, and is taken up a few notches by the fact that you’re enjoying a meal on the side of one of Southern California’s tallest mountains. The desert panorama below is breathtaking, especially at sunset. That said, getting to Peaks is a multistep process. The only way up and down is via tram – $25.95 per person – which launches riders 6,000 feet up the mountain in 10 minutes. No exception for the chefs, staff, equipment and all the ingredients that make up the menu. While a meal at Peaks isn’t as simple as dropping your car off at the valet and walking in the door, it’s an experiential event that's unique to Palm Springs.
1 Tramway Road, Palm Springs. (760) 325-4537, pstramway.com.