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Feb 12, 2014 01:03 PM

Palm Springs Weekend

We are going to Palm Springs next weekend for three days. Looking on Chowhound it seems most of the discussions were very old.

Looking for places that won't break the bank, but have interesting food & experience. Will eat almost any cuisine. Want something for breakfast, lunch & dinner.


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  1. Just back from the highly recommended Palm Springs Celebrity Homes Tour which took us to their favorite date shake place for a complimentary sampling, as part of the tour.

    This was out past Hwy 10 on 17080 North Indian Canyon Drive in the Desert Hot Springs area at a little family run cafe called WINDMILL MARKET, in sight of the San Gorgonio Pass wind turbines.

    Yes, it was a great shake -real dates and real ice cream - not the date crystals and ice milk the other places tried to get away with.

    They also sell a variety of dates recently harvested and we were able to pick up a few packages of the hard to find: Barhi. Also had Daglet and Medjoul. Samples to taste. very friendly little place with garden seating in the back.

    1. sorry we got so few responses as i was let to troll past posts. Cafe Beaux-Artist in Palm Desert that had been recommended by Chowhounders was pretty ordinary. the bartender started off by blending Bombay Safire & regular Bombay to make a martini w/o telling us as she ran out of Safire. My McCallann neat was one of the shortest pours ever. We asked to split the crab cake appetizer, which they did, but was very dry with very little sauce. The Shrimp Crepe was OK as was the the rack of lamb that my wife had. Service was OK.

      1. Sorry I missed your request! (Posting belatedly here, anyway; if a future query is added to this thread, I'll see it and may be able to respond.)

        I know 30-40 restaurants in the Palm Springs area that I think worth seeking out; whole valley has unusually many restaurants for its population, at all prices, with excellent independents, small restaurant groups, unusually good branches of some fancier steakhouse chains, even places historic in the restaurant industry. To anyone old enough to remember the Velvet Turtle chain (which helped popularize Beef Wellington in its garish 1970s heyday), the original is there ("Wally's Velvet Turtle" in Rancho Mirage), minus the beef Wellington I think, but going strong, with a good house band (many locals go there to dance to oldies-goodies). Peter Fleming (of Fleming's steakhouses and "P F" Chang's) has an original there. And the restaurant scene gradually evolves as places come and go.

        Unusual strengths are steakhouses and Italian-American restaurants (there are also some real, Italian-Italian restaurants), both UNcharacteristic of California generally, more typical of the Midwest and East, but reflecting the restaurantgoer demographics in the PS area, including many tourists and seasonal residents from colder climes. There's even that rarest of California finds, an authentic central-European restaurant (Johannes in PS) with hip, modern Viennese cuisine.

        Many other moderate to upscale places offer homey, comforting, mainstream American restaurant fare, like grilled fish and chops, and have popular bars (the aforementioned Wally's fits that profile, also Davey's in PS (renamed recently? closed?). The Nest (Indian Wells) has family-style dining with bottomless soup course and fresh hot bread, and a particularly friendly and sociable bar.

        On the other hand, Coachella-Valley restaurant goers tend to shun spicy food and unfamiliar cooking. In my time spent there in recent years, there were few Chinese restaurants of any kind, those few highly Americanized, and none with any spiciness. (In stark contrast to coastal California areas, which include the highest standards of Chinese restaurant cooking I've seen anywhere outside Asia.)

        Some steakhouses there cultivate regular customers; one just cultivates them if they're celebrities. At least one Italian-American restaurant also cultivates celebrities (entertainment industry usually), and gets them.

        An unusual little restaurant group that particularly courts regulars was started by one Kaiser Morcus and is carried on by his family as the Kaiser group. It even has a frequent-diner program, well worth joining if you frequent any of the restaurants. The diverse venues include very casual places, a couple of steakhouses ("Chop House"), Hog's Breath (bar-grill in La Quinta), and two of the most lavish and unusual restaurants in the whole region. The sprawling Jackalope Ranch (Indio) was a project of Marie Callender's founder, who then died suddenly; Kaiser group stepped in and opened it as a huge venue that I think handles enough weddings (the grounds have gardens and streams) and other big events to stay in business. And a member of the family last year opened an unaffiliated but most impressive modern Italian or Mediterranean place, Figue, on La Quinta's main highway, with bright airy ambiance and sort of multiple sub-restaurants inside: small-plates bar dining, a charcuterie counter with seats, a main dining area with both separate and communal tables, and I've probably forgotten more. But very fine food in my experiences, which I hope will continue.

        By the way, the Café des Beaux-Artes in PD, which I've often frequented in past years, was consistently very good at its main business, which is French bistro with a comfort-food flair, lunches especially. Ownership partly from France. (I wouldn't have suggested or steered people to cocktails there -- have never ordered them there -- in a region with so many other restaurants that do focus on cocktails; a glass of wine from the unusually diverse by-glass list is more Beaux-Artes's strength). Lunch specials, unusual main-course salads.

        2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Wow, rather a letdown on the spinach! I've not encountered anything like that (don't recall any spinach, good or bad), and have always eaten at tables rather than bar there. But my few Johannes memories are of things like the Wiener Schnitzel and other Viennese classics, organized by someone clearly with Viennese experience, even to the little details, yet also some creativity. (Thus I notice in your account the classic lemon and cold vegetable salad accompaniments; potatoes, which in Europe might well be part of the cold salad; and cranberries, which I've never seen served with this dish in Vienna.)

            A disappointing side order is one thing that can make a single visit memorable. Here's another, very different, example. One of my Johannes meals happened because one of the good, artisanal German winemakers, through its US distributor, set up a tasting dinner to show new releases, for the trade and interested public, something like $60 p/p prix-fixe. (I gathered later that Johannes is chosen for various events of that sort.) At least half the diners were European visitors, maybe a consular official or two (not rare at such functions), I don't remember now. But I was seated at a shared table opposite the regional head of one of the venerable Euro-US organizations of food and wine fanatics, which led to further contacts, invitations, and friends, and to learning more about PS-area restaurants (not to mention that the German wines were very creditable, and good values, worth learning, well set off by various faithful Austrian specialties of which Wiener Schnitzel is just one of Johannes's). Europeans I spoke to at the dinner seemed quite pleased too. That's the only time I've had a set or banquet meal there, other meals were ordered from the menu.

            Conclusion: Your Meal May Vary! I still want to return and sample more of the menu, based on good 6-8 impressive dishes to date.

            PS area by the way has some really decent bar dining -- I've tried a fair amount of it. Places that specialize in it, and offer impressive happy-hour, or small-plates, food deals. Or notable wine list, half priced on Tuesdays, etc. Deals become more aggressively priced in the warmer months as the tourist trade drops. And the newish breezy upscale Figue in La Quinta, mentioned upthread, is deliberately organized with some fraction of its seating at counters of various kinds. Charcuterie plates, interesting pizzas. Figue hired a genius chef when it opened last year, and is among the first places I'd send visiting students of food, depending on interests. Or the super-upscale steakhouse Mastro's that opened late 2012, but I have only been there once, at the bar, which is not enough for me to justify much opinion. For more mainstream, good-value bar dining, there's a cluster of places around Palm Desert.

            Unusual demographics foster certain behaviors. Accordingly, one long-popular bar-grill renamed itself Cougars Bar & Nightclub, but the gambit flopped. ("None of my 'cougar' friends wanted to go to a place called Cougars," remarked a longtime local friend of mine there, herself of mature years.)

        1. I am really glad this NEW Palm Springs discussion got started. I am going to Palm Springs next month. I have been several times, but am always looking for best dining spots. Currently, I am torn between Cuistot, Miro, and Catalan. Any thoughts? We'd love outdoor dining if possible, but we are primarily focused on great food.

          3 Replies
          1. re: BouquetGarni

            Cannot compare the three you named: I've only experienced Cuistot, and that a few years ago -- but it WAS very impressive, probably the most authentically high-end European cooking _sensibilities_ I've seen in the Coachella Valley to date, with polished execution to match. Some of this came across from the food, some also from talking later to the chef, who has French countryside origins. (Please note just as a general comment, in restaurants I tend to be very attentive to the food, maybe less so to service and ambiance provided they're reasonably comfortable. From some volume and attention to restaurant dining, it's often possible to spot certain of the kitchen's sensibilities on the plate -- little cues like herbs, broths, type of cooking fat used to finish vegetables, approach to side dishes, menu phrasing -- can hint at instincts developed in Europe, southeastern US, midwestern US, Sodexho-Marriott cafeteria contractors, etc., as the case may be. As just one tiny example, cooks literate with French cooking instinctively understand the word "beignet" in its classic, international, sense of a fritter, or tempura; so if they happen to feature the offshoot New Orleans type of "beignet" on a menu, they'll be more apt to identify it as a New Orleans beignet, to avoid ambiguity.)

            Comparing the much newer Figue that I mentioned upthread, another ambitious cosmopolitan restaurant whose chef I've also spoken to and who also has impressive background and scope of interests, I think one difference is Figue aims for "upscale" but Cuistot truly "high-end" dining and ambience; also Figue's chef is from the US, though ethnically French. I see from its website also that Cuistot currently offers a happy-hour bar dining menu, characteristically both edgier and pricier than the local norm for such menus. I hope to sample it before too long!

            Restaurants are numerous there (the majority in the Valley are somewhere near Highway 111, and are in towns east of Palm Springs itself, although PS has good diversity and a dense little pedestrian-friendly business district). I try as many as possible -- neighborhood hangouts where the year-round locals get breakfast or pizza, a few intense high-end kitchens, and a great many restaurants somewhere in between, whence the summary of prominent restaurant styles mentioned earlier here. Based on several hundred restaurant meals, past year-round residence and random visits at all times of year.

            1. re: BouquetGarni

              The other Palm Springs discussion was only a couple months old and tho' I get to PS about twice a year, I don't think a lot has changed in the 2 months.

              Le Vallauris is one of the best restaurants in PS and the patio is lovely, along with the food, service and wine list.


              1. re: BouquetGarni

                For overall quality and innovative dining:

                1) Copley's on Palm Canyon-outstanding creative cuisine. Attracts those who know excellent food.

                2) Jillian's - the locals know it well, off of El Paseo. Very consistent, excellent quality.