Palm Springs' Best Restaurants for Dining in the Desert
By Marissa Willman
Palm Springs Local Expert
Variety is the spice of life and it’s also the defining principal of the Palm Springs restaurant scene. Local restaurants offer a mix of flavors and styles sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. The Coachella Valley’s best restaurants range from the upscale and elegant to the hole-in-the-walls servings some of the desert’s best-kept secrets.
Most Palm Springs restaurant owners and chefs are as well known as their establishments, and it’s not uncommon to run into an owner or a chef while dining around Palm Springs. Many restaurants update their menus regularly, incorporating new trends, seasonally produce and customer requests to serve food that truly pleases the customer. A number of restaurants also incorporate prix fixe menus, allowing diners to sample a few of the chef’s new or signature dishes at a set price.
Local restaurants focus just as much on their ambiance as they do their dishes, often excelling in both. Restaurants are often inspired in their décor by modernism, retro style, old Palm Springs and the desert’s natural beauty. Restaurants like Le Vallauris offer outdoor dining on the tree-canopied patio, allowing patrons to enjoy dinner under the stars. Other restaurants, like Melvyn’s, remain true to their classic Hollywood roots, while restaurants Spencer's master the classics for all three meals of the day. These ten restaurants are just a sample of the variety found in the Palm Springs restaurant scene, and they offer some of the best dishes, ambiance and service found in the Coachella Valley.
10 Pacifica Seafood Restaurant
While Palm Springs might be more than 100 miles away from the ocean, locals can still enjoy fresh seafood at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant in Palm Desert. This fine dining restaurant offers fresh catches daily, and popular Pacifica dishes include the Surf 'n' Turf, which includes steak and lobster, and the Seared Ahi Tuna. For a seafood splurge, try the Butter-Poached Australian Lobster Tail, which is just as decadent as it sounds. Not a seafood lover? Don't fret--Pacifica offers plenty of beef, chicken and vegetarian options, too. For before- or after-dinner drinks, pull up a stool at the Vodka Bar, which boasts more than 140 different types of vodka from around the world. (7606748666)
This Iron Chef-owned restaurant specializes in pintxos, the Basque answer to Spanish tapas. The perfect accompaniment to a dinner of small Basque plates? A nice glass of Tinto, or Spanish red wine, for which the Jose Garces concept was named. Stepping into the dim and intimate interior feels like stepping into an old wine cellar, as wooden wine racks and corks serve as accents throughout the restaurant. After taking your pick of a popular pintxos like datiles con almendras (bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds) or chicken brocheta, take your pick of one of Tinto's classic Spanish reds or a refreshing glass of cava. You'll also find a handful of Spanish-inspired California wines on the list. ((760) 323-1711)
8 DISH Creative Cuisine
Although this contemporary American restaurant in a Cathedral City strip mall might look unassuming on the outside, DISH has quickly become one of the most notable players in the desert's fine dining scene. Serving up gastronomy at its finest, DISH focuses on exquisite dishes with unexpected pairings. Take, for example, the crab cakes prepared with sweet potatoes, roasted beets, panko and a ginger plum sauce, a rich blend of flavors that's a guest favorite at DISH. Entrees like the tenderloin also come with unexpected touches like a coffee and spice crust and pomegranate red wine reduction. DISH is well-known for its amuse bouche, or one-bites, that keep the flavors coming between courses. ((760) 832-6526)
7 Workshop Kitchen + Bar
The Uptown Palm Springs district is known for its modernist architecture, retro art and chic d--cor. Now, a farm-to-table restaurant is blending the modern architecture that made the city famous with a menu inspired by locally sourced ingredients. After much anticipation, Workshop Kitchen + Bar opened in the historic El Paseo building on Palm Canyon Drive. Chefs and owners Michael Beckman and Joseph Mourani work with roughly a dozen local farms, many within an hour of the Coachella Valley, to source fresh ingredients for their rotating menu. Menu items include market veggie enchiladas, a huevos rancheros bowl and slow-roasted lamb tajine. A farmhouse-style table and a selection of large format plates allow patrons to meet new friends over a shared ribeye or grilled chicken. Combined with an alcoholic punch bowl that can serve up to 12 people, you're not likely to dine alone at Workshop. ((760) 459-3451)
6 TRIO Restaurant
TRIO Restaurant prides itself on being where Palm Springs eats and drinks--and for good reason. This trendy restaurant serves a variety of American dishes in a chicly decorated dining area that embraces Palm Springs' modernism roots. The dishes are well-prepared and elegantly served, but lack the pretentiousness often found in other dining establishments. The staff strives to make every diner's experience impeccable, from offering the perfect recommendations to being attentive throughout the meal. Best of all, TRIO tends to draw a rather friendly crowd, making it easy to make a few new Palm Springs pals in TRIO's bar area. This restaurant is perfect for families, couples and large groups. ((760) 864-8746)
5 Jake's Palm Springs
If you're in downtown Palm Springs and looking for fresh lunch options, be sure to stop by Jake's Palm Springs. Named for the owners' beloved West Highland Terrier, this popular restaurant is known for its fresh fare and superior service. The pet-friendly courtyard is also perfect for a leisurely lunch filled with people watching. For a hearty lunch, try the chicken milanese sandwich, a breaded chicken breast served with melted gruyere cheese, greens and dijonaisse on a ciabatta roll. Be sure to check out the custom cocktail menu, too, which includes a cactus pear margarita and Bloody Mary served with horseradish-infused vodka. ((760) 327-4400)
4 Melvyn's Restaurant
If you've ever wondered where Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor dined after shooting their latest films, head to Melvyn's at the Ingleside Inn. No detail was overlooked in the design and decoration of Melvyn's, which exudes old world charm. Guests are given a glimpse of Old Hollywood's glamour as they step back in time when entering this swanky restaurant. The dishes at Melvyn's range are just what you'd imagine Old Blue Eyes himself dined on (think Steak Diane, filet mignon stuffed with oysters and wilted spinach salad) and are served by waiters in classy white jackets. After dinner, grab a Manhattan at the bar, appropriated named Casablanca, and enjoy live music from the piano bar. (760-325-2323)
3 Le Vallauris Restaurant
Le Vallauris is one of the finest culinary destinations in Palm Springs. Located just off Palm Canyon Drive in a historic ranch-style house, Le Vallauris specializes in five-star dining and first-class service. The menu includes upscale dishes like wild boar pate, Maine lobster ravioli and seared whitefish with mustard sauce. Dine inside surrounded by tapestries and Louis XV furnishings or head to the outdoor patio for one of the best al fresco dining options in the desert. Covered by a canopy of lush trees and surrounded by fragrant flower bushes, the outdoor patio is an elegant option for lunch or dinner. Perfect for date night or dinner with friends, Le Vallauris is commonly considered one of the classiest dining options in Palm Springs. (760-325-5059, 888-525-5852)
2 Copley's on Palm Canyon
Star power is on call at this Uptown Palm Springs restaurant; not only was it a hangout for Cary Grant, but it's also under the masterful tutelage of celebrity chef Andrew Manion Copley, and it attracts personalities like Anderson Cooper. Diners can't get enough of the romantic, open-air patio in the garden, and the sublime cuisine, informed by Copley's tenure at restaurants across the globe, includes Muscovy duck breast, seared Scottish salmon, lobster pot pie, and tandoori chicken breast. A broad wine list arranged by type promises an appropriate accompaniment. Terrific service is a pleasant perk, as is the onsite herb garden. (760-327-9555)
1 Spencer's Restaurant
If you're searching for a lunch restaurant soaked in quintessential Palm Springs style, make a reservation at Spencer's Restaurant. This award-winning restaurant in Palm Springs serves American fare influenced by French and Pacific Rim cuisine, and attracts locals, tourists and celebrities alike. At midday, the express lunch option--served with soup or salad, bread, an entree and pastry, is perfect for a filling midday meal. Other options include a lobster club sandwich, wild mushroom ravioli, an Ahi tuna nicoise salad. Reserve a table on the canopied outdoor patio to enjoy a Palm Springs lunch surrounded by Mount San Jacinto, palm trees and sunshine. (7603273446)
About Marissa Willman
Marissa Willman moved to the Coachella Valley in 2001 and loves discovering the best that the desert has to offer. As a Palm Springs local, Marissa enjoys sharing her knowledge of this desert destination through her travel writing. In a previous life, she worked as an English teacher in South Korea and spent months traveling throughout Asia. Today, Marissa prefers to explore her backyard in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, while occasionally jetsetting as her wanderlust strikes.
Read more about Marissa Willman here.