HOME > Chowhound > California >


Good ethnic and other cheap eats in the Desert?

  • b

I head out to La Quinta a few times a year to spend time with family, golf and of course, eat! We almost always settle for fine dining -- Cuistot, Blend, Arnold Palmers, LG's, Jillian's, Wally's, Desert Sage, etc. But I'm trying to find some lesser knowns, and less expensive dining. My preference would be to find spots closer to La Quinta, such as Indio, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, but I'm willing to go farther. I'd greatly appreciate any help.

I'd really like to get away from what seems to be a bit of the norm in the desert (i.e., lots of meat and continental cuisine). So mostly, I'm looking for ethnic foods, but feel free to offer some other gems, cheap or pricey. Mostly, here's what I'm looking for:

Really good Mexican food -- cheap or pricey. This is really what I'm after and I haven't found it. How about some really good tacos? Or moles (Manchamanteles, Teloloapense, Negro, you name it)? Chiles en Nogada, etc.

Asian too - Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Korean.

Why not some Eastern European if it exists . . . does it? And how about Middle Eastern?

A good Jewish deli (wasn't so enthused with Manhattan in the Desert and Sherman's was decent). Is there anything else?

Are there any good down-home breakfast places? I'd love to find grits, biscuits and gravy, stick-to-your ribs food.

And if you have any recs for BBQ (wood smoked), burgers, fried chicken or pizza (thick or thin, I don't care), I'd love to hear them. I've been to Matchbox in PS and enjoyed it, but anything closer to La Quinta?

Well, that's a long list, and if there's a hidden gem that doesn't necessarily fit into any of the above categories, I'd still like to hear from you. Thanks in advance for any recommendations you might have.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have been going to Ciro's in Indio for years when I want some pretty good pizza. I travel there from Palm Desert. I have never been to the La Quinta Location. Johns in Palm Desert is the Typical Greek Diner/Burger place. You order and they bring it to you. Best place of all is Murphs. Its a family style fried chicken place at the Bermuda Dunes Airport. You must go here if you want fried chicken. I have been going here for over 15 years.

    Ciro's Ristorante & Pizzeria
    81963 US Highway 111, Indio, CA 92201

    Ciro's of La Quinta
    78110 Calle Estado La, Quinta, CA

    John's Restaurant
    74601 Highway 111, Palm Desert, CA 92260

    Murph's Gaslight
    79860 Avenue 42, Bermuda Dunes, CA 92203

    3 Replies
    1. re: Foodandwine

      This sounds like a great start -- thanks for the help. I absolutely love fried chicken . . . can you tell me a little more about Murph's. Pan fried or deep fried? Sides? This sounds like a definite stop.

      Ciro's pizza - what kind of crust is it -- thin, thick, NY?

      Looking forward to checking these out.

      1. re: BRB

        Murphs is Family Style Pan Fried Chicken all inclusive meal. As to the sides they vary but typical Southern Fare.. I am not a fan of the ribs so I dont order them. Just go with the chicken meal, sit back and enjoy. They even give you a doggie bag to go!!

        Ciros is medium crust. its good not great but the best I have had in the valley.

        1. re: Foodandwine

          Thanks . . . definitely going to try Murph's.

    2. Anyone else? Any good ethnic or cheap eats near La Quinta or in the general area?

      1. After years of passing by the DEAR HUNTER, we decided to sptop in. Itis pretty divey, with a sign tha twarns you about wet floors due to spilled beer. The hot sandwiches and the wings were good. They have a cooling element that they place in the pitchers.

        It is very divey. Lots of tvs.

        1. . . . Just bumping this and hoping someone knows of ethnic eats in the desert . . . any??? Please :)

          4 Replies
          1. re: BRB

            Thai Smile
            Wang's in the Desert
            Monsoon Indian
            El Gallitto Mexican

            All in PSP except El Gallitto in Cat City

            1. re: RBCal

              I second El Gallitto.Good Mex food,fun atmosphere.

                1. re: RBCal

                  El Galito has the most addicting chips and salsa.
                  Cash only ! (Closed Sundays)

              1. Searching for a good margarita in Indio last week, I was directed to El Campanario, just off I-10 over the Monroe St. bridge on the right. Looking over their menu I asked the owner/manager(?) if they had a specialty and was told the en molcajete dishes. Tried the Tampico which was a mix of king crab legs, scallops, prawns and added octopus on my request. Very tasty.

                Ate breakfast the next morning at Rincon Norteno where I tried the Chilaquiles con Huevos, also very good. Noticed some posts on this board about them having the most authentic and tasty Mexican food around.

                El Campanario
                44185 Monroe

                Rincon Norteno
                83011 Indio Blvd

                1. We also like Thai Smile- there is one in Rancho Mirage (Bob Hope and 111) and also one in LQ although we prefer the one in RM. It has better atmosphere and usually better service.

                  For good breakfasts (including biscuits and gravy and grits!), try Keedy's in PD (on 111 near El Paseo). A friend of mine took me there 2 visits ago and I can't wait to go back again later this month.

                  Also in LQ, we like Okura for sushi and robata. Not exactly cheap or hole in the wall-ish but we've had good meals there.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: minnesotajane

                    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Saraya... it's on Highway 111 in Cathedral City, very close to Trader Joe's. They have awesome Middle Eastern food!

                    1. re: mollycat

                      Hey Mollycat.. Never knew.. thanks for the rec!

                  2. As I prepare to visit the desert, I thought I'd bump this and see if there's anything new these days.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BRB

                      For Middle Eastern, especially moderately priced for lunch, Omri Go Med has reopened in Palm Desert. Excellent.

                      If you've never had breakfast at Silver Rock's Annenberg ranch house, I recommend it for the setting. We saw a bighorn Ram up on the ridge one year.

                      Omri Go Med
                      73675 Highway 111, Palm Desert, CA 92260

                    2. Has anyone been to Bamboo Cove in Palm Desert (French Vietnamese)? Any good? And how are the prices?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: BRB

                        Hi there,

                        just bumping up this thread any new additions. I here for the week and looking for new finds??

                        1. re: Foodandwine

                          Interestingly, last night I enjoyed my favorite ethnic meal in the desert. It was at Joy Asian Cuisine, inside the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. Now I fear that there's no way Joy will make it in this location - Vegas, maybe, but not here. I sure hope I'm wrong because what I had was pretty good.

                          Now another complaint is that Joy, whose chef ran a vegetarian restaurant in the Jilin Province of China, seems to want to be all things to all people. Although the menu is largely Chinese, and perhaps leaning towards Hong Kong bbq (albeit upscale), there's Ameri-Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian food on the menu. In my experience, places that serve pho, banh mi, congee, dim sum and Hong Kong-style bbq (not to mention food from many provinces in China) don't know what the hell they are doing.

                          But what I ate last night impressed me. The boring sounding shrimp and pork wanton soup boasted a wonderful broth that screamed of well roasted pork, it was accented by bok choy, and the dumplings themselves were tender and flavorful.

                          I thought the pot stickers featured a slightly too-thick dough, but the filling was delicious.

                          The honey glazed walnut prawns were excellent and reminded me of a similar dish I have always enjoyed at Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago. The dish featured lightly crisp and perfectly cooked shrimp in a light, honey (and maybe citrus) glaze and honeyed walnuts. Really good stuff, but overpriced at $24.50.

                          We also ordered the Peking Duck, which was really overpriced at $45. It was very good, but not as good as I have enjoyed elsewhere. But the skin was crispy and delicious, served with your choice of buns or pancakes (we chose buns) and served with hoisin sauce, cucumber and green onion. My complaints about the duck were the lack of tableside slicing (but not a huge deal), it only came with 4 buns (but they brought us extra at no charge) and it's only served in one course (I think 2-3 are typical, including duck fried rice and sometimes duck soup, but I've seen a 5-course presentation). In any event, they included the wings and drumsticks which made for a nice, albeit overpriced treat.

                          Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and would certainly run back. What I tasted was surprisingly authentic. Here's a link to their website which has a link to the vast menu (which includes bbq, congee, hot pots, etc.): http://www.fantasyspringsresort.com/p...

                          There's also a newish Israeli/Mediterranean restaurant which I tried in Palm Desert called Kabobz. It's decent but nothing great. Decent hummos, decent falafel (wonderfully moist and tasty, but too much exterior coating). Shawarma was lamb and turkey and again decent, but nothing exciting. I liked the flat bread with za'atar that they bring to the table when you sit down. All in all, pretty good for the area but not wonderful for Middle Eastern. Just beware of desserts . . . I noticed chocolate "moose" on the specials menu. http://www.kabobz.com/

                          1. re: BRB

                            I erred in my above post. The Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant I visited was Garbanzo's in Rancho Mirage, not Kabobz. Sorry for the confusion - my review is for Garbanzo's.

                            1. re: BRB

                              We're glad you enjoyed your meal at JOY. You summed it up perfectly - authentic Chinese alongside Western favorites.

                              Hopefully you'll be able to return.

                              1. re: BRB

                                Thanks to your review here a bunch of us when to Joy Asian while visiting family in Indio. We entered from the self-park so it was quite surprising to take the kids wandering through the casino in our quest for har gow.

                                When we got there, we had a nice table in the front area as the dining room was full. We had an assortment of dim sum as appetizers, shrimp dumplings (nice), pot stickers that were more like gyoza, and some wontons that were fine. The dipping sauces were nicely presented with little spoons. The grownups had some white wine that was inexpensive and went well with the food, while the kids had very good coconut water on ice.

                                Next came our main dishes which we shared. We all loved the vegetable stirfry with asparagus, choy sum and bok choy. Another standout favourite was the lemon chicken - the sauce was not too sweet and tasted like fresh lemons. The Szechuan eggplant was delicious enough for those who usually dislike eggplant. The soy chicken was a bit disappointing and dry, and while some of us loved the prawns with walnut it was sweet enough to be a dessert and pretty pricey compared to the other, rather more delicious chicken and vegetable dishes.

                                All in all, a very enjoyable meal and it made the Asians in our group (the Indio Indos with part Indonesia blood) very happy. Service was attentive and helpful and luckily there are no compulsive gamblers in the group, considering the location.

                              2. re: Foodandwine

                                Gurreros in Indio has some authentci Mexican food at rock bottom prices. I had 3 taco and a trip to the very stocked salsa bar with com chips very tasty. And washed down with a mexican sweet bread from the panaderia next door with the same name.. All for $5 bucks. Not a bad lunch..

                            2. Just got back from 6 nights in PS -- Places to add - all new to me this trip - Good and cheap: Cheeky's & Bit of Country - the locals go to both for breakfast/lunch. Best meal (by far) Johannes - Week nights only in bar area - $22-$25 entrees for $12.... Both of us had the Weiner Schnitzel (Johannes is from Austria) which was amazing, along with braised potatoes, cranberries, and cucumbers in a lemon dill dressing....FOR $12! Next would be Trio. Prix Fixe meal on week nights $20..Had the baked chicken rigatoni with mushrooms / spinach/ 3 cheeses, w /caesar salad...just excellent. Others had the Austrlian sea bass/couscous & they were all happy w/their choices. Split an order of fried artichoke hearts for an app -- excellent with a caper/aioli dipping sauce. Both Johannes and Trio were doing a very brisk business early on both week nights - which is great news. Also, after stumbling upon El Gallito at about 2:30 one afternoon, we decided to have a late lunch, no lines!! Fun is the word... Tamales and the chili rellenos (true tests for me) rocked with an ice cold Modelo Especial . Can't wait to go back there ... Along with our regular stops ( Davies, Thai Smile, The Amigo Room, etc) PS has some downright great restaurant choices on many different price levels....

                              El Gallito Restaurant
                              68820 Grove St, Cathedral City, CA 92234

                              Thai Smile
                              651 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

                              Bit of Country
                              418 S Indian Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

                              1. Looks like there is a Korean restaurant in La Quinta called Sam's Korean BBQ & Teriyaki Grill. I am not sure if it is authentic Korean food as I have not tried it yet, but I plan to check it out the next time I'm in the area. I find Thai generally OK in the area. I like the burger place called Grill-A-Burger, although it closed their Palm Springs location. They still have a location in Palm Desert.