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Dec 4, 2010 05:24 PM

Near Joshua Tree NP Lunch & Dinner Recommendations

Flying into Orange County Christmas week...planning to day trip to Joshua Tree NP.... probably on Christmas Day...need some culinary recommendations for lunch & dinner in one of the desert towns near the park. Not sure if we will be entering the park from the north or the south (Cottonwood) depends on our culinary destinations. The recommendations from several guide books are to enter the park from the south & drive thru the park going north. The California Lonely Planet recommends getting off I-10 west of Banning via Hwys 243 & 74 eventually re-joining Hwy 111 west of Palm Springs specifically for a stop in Idyllwild for its bakeries & cafes. Does Idyllwild have chow-worthy destinations to make this detour to Joshua Tree NP worthwhile & to enter JTNP from the south??? Ideally, we would like to have lunch (nothing real expensive) just before entering the park & then dinner after exiting the park at a nice memorable place (just b/c it is Christmas) before getting on I-10 & heading back to Orange County. We are open to all kinds of food but considering it will be Christmas Day, our choices might be limited. We did eat at Jilberto's in Borrego Springs last spring & it was AWFUL. Chipotle & Taco Bell (chains restaurants that we try to avoid in NE Ohio where we are from) can do better. I know that does exist & it is easy to find what is open Christmas Day via their website but the restaurants listed there seem to be very expensive & local culinary gems aren't listed there. Thanks for your recommendations.

Taco Bell Inc.
11879 Kemper Rd Ste 11, Auburn, CA 95603

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  1. You might want to gather some interesting food from Trader Joe's or Cardena's and make an interesting picnic for yourselves, as it does take awhile to cross Joshua Tree NP, especially if you stop a lot along the way. Another interesting stop before heading into the park is Shield's Date Garden where you can get a famous date shake and they now have a little cafe as well, not sure how good it is, but the shakes and dates are worth the stop. I'm not an expert though, just travelling through the area now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Plateaumaman

      Thanks - that's a great idea - the only problem with the picnic is that we won't have a cooler and I won't have picnic basics to start with. It is kind of hard to take stuff like that when flying into OC from Ohio & having limited luggage capacity. Thank you for the idea of stopping at Shield's Date Garden - I think that would be a one of a kind experience in itself.

    2. Last Christmas we had breakfast at Norma's Diner inside The Parker, Palm Springs. I'm not sure if they'll be open for dinner - but if they are I highly recommend you check out their online menu for your nice dinner on Christmas day. They call themselves a diner but the quality of their food, service, and experience in general sets them apart from any diner I've ever been to.

      1 Reply
      1. re: scarmoza

        Thank you - I will definitely check out Norma's Diner. I was thinking we'd have better luck with places being open on Christmas Day right near Palm Springs.

      2. I went to Idyllwild for the first time last February on the way to Palm Springs. First, I love small mountain towns and this is one of them. Second, I spent three hours in Cafe Aroma at the bar drinking their very well-selected wine, eating their very good food, and talking with the interesting people who worked there including the ex-math professor on the next bar stool who owned the place. Oh, there was also great live music by a couple who "dropped in". Idyllwild has become a must-go-there place for me when I get down that way again.

        Photo of Idyllwild:

        Cafe Aroma
        54750 N Circl Dr, Idyllwild, CA 92549