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Apr 1, 2009 08:45 PM

Anza Borrego Update

After searching for Hound recommendations for this area and finding very little, we have just finished up about 4 days in Anza Borrego and can report that there is decent, even quite good food to be found there.

We were staying at the Borrego Springs Resort, which is a perfectly fine place for families. The restaurant serves a decent (no buffet) breakfast -- pretty standard hotel fare -- a spot or two above mediocre. We ate there twice -- the oatmeal is "fine," the egg dishes above average (cooked to order the way you ask for them), the juices come from the finest of Tropicana cartons, and the coffee is weak. Fruit plate was large and pretty good. Everyone is very nice. We did not try it for dinner -- the atmosphere was too red velvet and octogenarian for our tastes (every single dinner patron was at least 80 when I popped my head in) and the menu prices typically hotel high.

We had lunch at Calico's, a little sandwich and pizza shop in The Mall. This place makes exellent pastries -- we went back twice for blueberry and cherry turnovers. The kids had chicken soup which was definitely homemade and pretty good, and I had an egg salad sandwich. I found the bread not soft enough, but otherwise the place is a nice little place to grab a quick lunch.

We had one dinner at Jilberto's, the taco place on the main drag. It's a humble little shop -- give your order at the counter and then go pick it up; if you want beer with your food, you hit the liquor store next door and the staff at Jilberto's will pour it into styrofoam cups for you. I wasn't enthralled (the "fish" tacos had breaded and fried fish in them!) but the food is edible and there's a huge amount of choices. My beef tostada was a bit greasy, but I liked my cheese enchilada. Beans and rice were so -so.

A lot of disappointment that "the French Place" -- I think it's called The French Corner -- was closed until April 9th, but it looks very promising.

The two best places that we ate at, and we found them to be really very good, were The Red Ocotillo and the Krazy Koyote Cafe, both of which are on the property of the Indian Palms, a very retro hotel off the 22, a couple minutes off the main drag. We had breakfast and lunch at the Red Ocotillo and dinner once at the Krazy Koyote. Food is very fresh and prepared to order, so it doesn't come racing out of the kitchen 5 minutes after you order it. Blueberry pancakes, french toast, tofu scramble, bacon, all excellent. They serve breakfast all day.

For lunch one day, we had the California Club, which was a bit piled on with the meat, but otherwise good. A very tasty Caesar salad, and my kids split a burger, which they felt was among the best they've had (they are little burger afficianados, their favorite being from The Rusty Pig in Oceano).

Dinner one evening at the Krazy Koyote was very good. Staff there was very friendly. We had the baked brie appetizer, one daughter had tuna sashimi, the other had 4 cheese penne (you can order off the Red Ocotillo menu for dinner at the Krazy Koyote) and I had a wonderful shrimp scampi served with brussel sprouts and very good mashed potatoes. Perhaps the best thing about the place was the Toasted Coconut Snowball I had for dessert -- this was a relic from my Pennsylvania youth and I hadn't seen one on a menu in decades. It needed more coconut, but was otherwise a tasty trip down memory lane.

I would probably avoid Carlees -- it's your typical small California town tavern restaurant with enormous portions of vaguely edible food. We had ribs, steak and pasta, and nobody could, or was inclined to, finish their meals. My massive rib eye was mostly fat. Although I will say, for $8, they give you one hefty shot of Patron. STars for that.

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  1. thanks for the report! We were in A-B a few weeks ago and ate breakfast at the Borrego Springs Resort. Agree w/ your assessment of their food. Decent, edible but nothing to get overly excited about. They certainly give ample portions. I couldn't finish my breakfast burrito and potatoes. We didn't stay in town very long so we didn't check out any other eating spots but will keep these in mind.

    1. I'm not suggesting that NAspy didn't have good meals at The Red Ocotillo/Krazy Koyote, but just to put forth a differing point of view, I dined there for lunch three weekends ago and was pretty disappointed. I cruised this board for suggestions and found very little (apparently that's because there is very little to eat in Borrego Springs). I ordered a steak sandwich and my friend ordered a tofu sandwich. Both took over half an hour to arrive at the table. The steak was way overcooked (why bother asking me how I want it cooked if it's just going to be gray when it arrives anyway?) and the french fries were barely cooked. The tofu sandwich looked like it had never seen a heating element. In fairness, most of the tables were filled, but if that's the best that Borrego has to offer, I'll pack a picnic basket next time.

      1. Thanks to all for these tips; after a recent hike in the desert I was wondering if there might be any good eats in the area. Unfortunately I had to rush home due to an unexpected circumstance and couldn't find check it out myself. Any suggestions for a refreshing adult beverage in that area?

        1 Reply
        1. re: juantanamera

          We were out there a couple weeks ago and ended up at Pablito's-little Mexican place in the back of the "mall" with the grocery store. They were totally overwhelmed at 130 in the afternoon, but did manage to pull off fairly efficient service. The food was ok, routine Mexican-American type fare. Generous pitchers of iced tea. Mediocre salsa but after hiking around all morning, it tasted way better than it probably does.
          We did Carlee's once before years ago and when I was at the bar asking for ketchup for our burgers (waitress forgot to ask) some local came up and said "ya ain't from around here are ya?" No indeed. We used to routinely stay at Casa Del zorro, now Borrego Ranch Resort, until they really jacked up their prices and have a no kids policy. They had a really fine brunch on Sundays, especially on Mother's Day, but I don't know what it is like there after all the changes. I always want to bring a picnic lunch which I do believe is the best option, but my kids still think that Pablito's is good, so I am outnumbered.

        2. Recently stopped at Carlee's during a dirt-bike ride and had a burger. Meh.

          I had a FANTASTIC meal at La Casa Del Zorro a little over a year ago. Took me completely by surprise, truly a fine-dining experience- tasting menu, wine pairings, the works.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Fake Name

            Stayed for a long weekend at La Casa Del Zorro a couple of years ago..
            I so loved this place...charming resort...dining room with the fireplace and pianist on weekends with the gorgeous paintings by Majorie Reed and scultpures by Olaf Wieghorst.

            Breakfast, lunch and dinner were exquisite.
            Highly recommend this place..even its for lunch for the day.


            1. re: Beach Chick

              I think a poster mentioned above that La Casa del Zorro has been re-worked as Borrego Ranch Resort -- a local we got friendly with was pretty disdainful about the latest efforts to prettify Anza Borrego, and highlighted this latest transition -- we liked Anza Borrego as the anti-Palm Springs, and hope the "progress" stops with Borrego Ranch Resort.

              We did hear a guest at the hotel talking to someone about a "hidden gem" restaurant with "phenomenal food" and where they brought out cucumber water before the meal -- I'm thinking that is either Borrego Valley Inn (not adults only, but does have a "clothing optional" pool) or the new Borrego Ranch. We'll probably suss these places out next trip.

              1. re: Beach Chick

                The website says that this resort closed 1/8/2010. I am wondering if it means the restaurant is also closed.

                1. re: CurryLover

                  I am almost positive that it is indeed closed, the restaurant was in the main building. That is too bad because the couple of times I ate there it was pretty good.

                  1. re: CurryLover

                    This was such a special place and we used to go out in the summer when it was scorching hot and loved the dining room and the piano was excellent!
                    I believe the whole resort is closed..
                    I see that one of the Indian tribes just purchased Warner Springs resort so maybe La Casa del Zorro/Borrego Ranch will be next.
                    Salty has some good rec's.
                    Borrego is stunning.

              2. Jilberto's was nothing short of horrifying. They had a picture on the wall of tripe tacos. I was thinking slow-cooked tripe (which is what the photo looked like) and I got little deep fried rings of... ?! It looked like calamari, but made of tripe, and fried so long that they were inedible. It was disgusting. Mr. Geeky's rolled tacos were serviceable, while our friends' burritos were literally falling apart because they were soggy. Like NAspy said, the rice was definitely so-so.