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Mar 23, 2009 06:38 PM

Palm Springs trip report

I was down in the desert for a long weekend, staying in Palm Springs and meeting up with friends with kids in Rancho Mirage. It was a lovely trip all in all.

I was reminded repeatedly that I was in Southern California, and often the atmosphere was better or bolder than the food. There was definitely a time warp in terms of portion size, menus, and the number of varieties of potatoes (at one place, we chose from fries, steak fries, curly fries, waffle fries, or hash browns--and this was just the grill at the golf course).

I stopped in at Koffi a couple of times, once for iced coffee, another time for tea, a blueberry muffin ($2.75! Palm Springs resort prices), and the NYT. Great spot, very popular. I had to share a table on a Sunday. Free wifi.

Had decent pollo con mole at El Mirasol ($12), with stale tortillas and not very good iced tea. This is a popular place. Not sure I'd return, although the enchiladas looked good.

Respectable pastrami at Sherman's in Palm Desert. This was like Miami Beach in the 70s, when I grew up, including the patrons, perhaps more Wolfie's than the Rascal House (which had meaner waitresses but better food). The challah looked very good. Awful sauerkraut and pickles! Very friendly service.

I grabbed a late breakfast at Rick's in Palm Springs. Chicken fried steak was probably not the right choice, although the sunnyside eggs were good--and huge, I've never seen such yolks. Home fries with onions and red peppers were tasteless. Excellent biscuits. Dreadful cafe con leche. I should have gone back to Koffi.

The Saturday farmers' market was a disappointment, with higher prices than in San Francisco and not very tasty fruit driven from far away. I tried strawberries from Santa Maria ($4 a basket and not sweet), tangerines ($2 a pound, and not that good), and skipped the Fuji apples (from Indio?). The highlights were definitely the dates and honeys.

We did drive down to Shields' Date Farm for date ice cream and shakes, which were so sweet they were hard to finish. The fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is a good deal here.

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  1. That's an accurate view of the places you tried, but you missed a few possibilities: the Cowboy Way in PS for very good BBQ from a competition-winning cook; the Burger Box in Indio for old-fashioned burgers and good fries ordered at and received from a window at a gas station; the Vienna Beef hot dogs in front of the Lowe's on Ramon Rd. near the airport (I assume this little stand is still there -- I haven't been in a year); Bit o' Country, on Indian Canyon, for homey breakfast and lunch; and Elmer's, on Palm Canyon in PS, for the big, puffy German pancake only. (Not nearly as good as any Original Pancake House, but this is the desert.) Also, I'd restrict my meals at Sherman's to breakfast only; same goes for Manhattan in the Desert on Palm Canyon.

    Now, if you're interested in high-end restaurants in the desert, you can't beat Los Angeles, which is only 109 miles away!

    1 Reply
    1. re: sbritchky

      Thanks! Wish I'd posted beforehand. I did pull together a list from past reports, but they were mostly high end, which wasn't an option.

      And I wasn't expecting Katz's or even Langer's pastrami. But I can't see pastrami and not order it.

      BTW my flight home was delayed, and I discovered the restaurants in the airport stop serving food at 7:30 p.m. (Unfortunately I found this out at 7:45.) They do have Peet's coffee and teas, and giant muffins (a PS theme).

      And yes, LA's full of great chow and great ambiance, without the high carb time warp factor.

    2. Going Memorial Day weekend and one of our friends wanted to go for mole at El Mirasol..can't have stale tortillas with my mole..
      Good Report Windy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Beach Chick

        The giveaway was being asked if I wanted corn or flour tortillas. El Mirasol was not bad, but the flavors are awfully muted for the non-Latino diners.

      2. we actually just returned from a weekend in PS as well. typically i don't expect greatness from hotel restaurants, but we were more than pleasantly surprised with the restaurant at our hotel - king's highway. the ace hotel is a small chain and we had visited their sister location in portland, and the restaurant clyde common (a chowhound favorite). we were not disappointed with their palm springs location! very moderately priced, nice attention to detail. the grilled tomatoes at breakfast were delicious!

        sadly, we ventured off hotel property for dinner one night at johannes and had total buyer's remorse after dropping $140 on a slightly better than average dinner. urgh.

        1 Reply
        1. re: beachbunnySD

          Funny, I was staying next door at Caliente Tropics and noticed the crowd inside the white walls at King's Highway. Sorry I didn't check it out.