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While the ocotillo and Mexican bird of paradise are blooming with a vengeance in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley, perhaps the most welcome sight is culinary institutions like Las Casuelas Terraza, Sherman’s Deli and Mr. Lyon’s Steakhouse reopening for dine-in service.

The bar at Las Casuelas Terraza (Michele Stueven)

Walking into the Palm Springs Mexican restaurant that Anthony Bourdain helped put on the national map, Las Casuelas doesn’t feel much different than pre-pandemic. The few changes made in keeping with the governor’s guidelines for restaurant re-openings have little effect on the beauty of the dine-in experience.

Waitstaff and bartenders wear masks, tables are a little more spread out and the paper menus offer a scaled down menu, but diners line up outside the Highway 111 hotspot six feet apart and the tacos are arguably better than before. A big burly Dominick  is positioned at the front door clearly filling the position of safe distancing  rule enforcer. The band is missing, and dancing is currently prohibited, but the doors are open and a steady breeze flows throughout the restaurant.

“It’s a bittersweet moment, but we’re so happy to be back,” server Vanessa Loza says as she delivers two large top shelf margaritas. Terraza opened on Friday and sister restaurant Las Casuelas Nuevas re-opens on Friday, June 5.

Tacos Dorados at Las Casuelas Terraza (Michele Stueven)

As of Friday, Riverside County was allowed to reopen more businesses, including shopping malls, and dine-in restaurants and eateries are scrambling to open, all at their own pace. Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage is back in business as well, serving up martinis at a safe distance and Sam Harris is welcoming guests back to the patio and indoor restaurant at Sherman’s Deli and Bakery.

The only hitch is lodging, hotels and most rentals are still shuttered.