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Palm Desert's 10 Best Restaurants for an Unforgettable Dining Experience



Are you a self-described foodie? Does your palette do the picking when it comes to creating your travel plans? Then you'd better make sure to head into Palm Desert for a few gastronomic adventures during your trip to Palm Springs.

Palm Desert is home to a wide range of restaurants, from high-end, fine fining experiences to local favorites serving the tried and true. You'll find many noteworthy restaurants on the noted shopping street of El Paseo. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck debuted his first West Coast pizza cafe here in 2013, and locals love Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar for its scratch kitchen, fresh ingredients and focus on sustainability. Down the street, Mastro's Steakhouse offers some of the finest beef cuts in the desert with an Old Hollywood dining room to match. And if you can't make up your mind, Mitch's on El Paseo serves up everything from fine sushi rolls to steaks, making it easy to please large groups with such a varying menu.

For a Mediterranean-inspired lunch with a French flair, don't miss Clementine's or Cafe des Beaux-Art. Clementine's is home to some of the desert's freshest breads, pastries and paninis, while Cafe des Beaux-Art offers impeccable croque monsieurs and a patio on El Paseo that can't be beat.

Check out the full list of Palm Desert's best restaurants below.


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If you're looking for steak, ambiance and entertainment all under one roof, head to Sullivan's in Palm Desert. This steakhouse delivers prime cuts, stiff drinks and an atmosphere that can't be beat. Upon entering Sullivan's in the El Paseo Gardens shopping center, you might expect to see Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack hanging out at the bar, enjoying fresh steaks and stiff cocktails. If you enjoy live music, sip on a hand-shaken martini and enjoy the live jazz and piano performances as you wait for your freshly cooked steak to arrive. Known locally for its lively bar and happy hour offerings, Sullivan's is a steakhouse with plenty of character.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Sullivan's Steakhouse in Palm Desert is known for its great steaks, live entertainment and fun martini menu.

Marissa's expert tip: Go in the evenings on the weekend to enjoy some of the desert's best jazz and piano performances.

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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.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant has a high-quality seafood menu, an extensive vodka list and some of the best views of El Paseo.

Marissa's expert tip: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant is located on the upper level of The Gardens on El Paseo, an outdoor shopping complex with trendy labels like Bebe and anchor stores like Saks 5th Avenue. Plan to spend a few hours before or after your meal exploring the gardens and surrounding shops.

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Cork Tree Restaurant


Renowned throughout the desert for its upscale California cuisine, Cork Tree Restaurant uses local products to bring Chef Herve's creations to life. Start with an organic rainbow beet salad with local dates, then try the demitasse soup tasting, which offers a sample of three soups of the day. For your main course, you can choose from offerings like duck breast and smoked mushroom risotto, Patagonian sautéed sea bass or hibiscus braised boneless short ribs. The superb food offerings are complemented by quality service, excellent presentation and an extensive wine list that features many California wines. The dining room is home to intimate booths for a romantic evening, as well as live entertainment in the evenings. Patio dining and private rooms are also available.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Cork Tree Restaurant offers fresh California cuisine and a romantic atmosphere, whether you choose a private booth or the intimate courtyard under the desert sky.

Marissa's expert tip: Ask for a booth if you're looking for a romantic night with an intimate setting. Booths are separated with fabric for a more private dinner.

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Nothing will ever compare to the dishes your grandmother used to make for you as a child, whether you were brought up on her top-secret meatloaf recipe or an oh-so-creamy mac and cheese. But you can come dangerously close at Wilma and Frieda's, a Palm Desert breakfast and lunch restaurant that deconstructs classic comfort food dinners to create dishes like griddled meatloaf and eggs and a five-cheese mac and cheese. Serving their own special roast from local java joint Koffi and an impressive presentation of pastries from the in-house pastry chef, Wilma and Frieda's is a must-try when in Palm Desert.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Wilma & Frieda's is known for its upscale comfort foods, comfortable bistro setting and impressive dessert case.

Marissa's expert tip: Check out the butcher paper roll for the daily specials, and don't miss a chance to try Wilma and Frieda's own special coffee roast from the Rancho Mirage Koffi location.

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Since Mastro's opened its doors in the desert, Palm Springs has a new favorite steakhouse. The upscale steakhouse chain opened in Palm Desert's ritzy El Paseo district in late 2011, offering a dining experience with a glamorous, Old Hollywood atmosphere that fits the desert perfectly. Mastro's Steakhouse is well-known for its succulent, hand-cut steaks and fresh seafood dishes. From bone-in T-bones to lobster mashed potatoes, Mastro's is sure to please the pickiest of carnivores. The thick, USDA steaks are cooked to order, but be careful before digging in--steaks are served on 400-degree plates, and a fresh helping of mouthwatering sizzle. Enjoy your cut of choice with a glass of wine from the extensive list, featuring more than 500 varieties from around the world.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Mastro's Steakhouse serves top quality cuts of beef and offers an Old Hollywood-inspired dining experience.

Marissa's expert tip: Leave room to try one of M Bar's signature cocktails and Mastro's signature warm butter cake.

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Café des Beaux-Arts


If you're planning on spending a day checking out the designer boutiques on El Paseo, be sure to stop in at Cafe des Beaux-Arts for a French-inspired lunch. The Parisian patio is one of the most popular in Palm Desert, and inside, you'll enjoy a quaint interior sprinkled with fine French art. This charming cafe serves casual French fare ready to be savored during a long lunch. Options include a brie burger, croque monsieur, linguini diabolo and cold poached salmon. If it seems like the servers know everyone's name, it's because they usually do. Most of the patrons are longtime regulars.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Cafe des Beaux-Arts is one of the top French-inspired dining experiences in the desert. It also boasts an enviable patio.

Marissa's expert tip: If you're visiting during summer, note the restaurant closes seasonally in July and August. Call ahead for availability.

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When it comes to farm-fresh cuisine, it doesn't get much fresher than ingredients handpicked from the restaurant's onsite garden. With that in mind, Chef Vince Cultaro at La Spiga Restorante serves one of the freshest menus in Palm Desert. He creates his menu from whatever is ready to be picked in his backyard garden, and with more than 5,000 feet of groves and vegetable gardens, there is a large variety of farm-to-table options at La Spiga. This Tuscan-inspired Italian restaurant serves dishes like veal with porcini mushrooms, burrata salad and authentic tiramisu. Aside from the onsite garden, La Spiga uses fresh produce and meats from local farms.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: La Spiga Ristorante Italiano offers some of the finest Italian cuisine in Palm Desert, with one of the most romantic atmospheres, as well.

Marissa's expert tip: Try the daily special, which is created based on which ingredients from the restaurant's onsite farm are ready for picking.

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Cuistot


Chef-owner Bernard Dervieux runs this charming restaurant, which offers quaint dining rooms, an outdoor patio, a bar, and a separate room for diners indulging in tasting menus. As one of the finest dining experiences in Palm Desert, Cuistot is known for its flawless food, service and ambiance. The eclectic cuisine has French and Californian influences, as seen in the lobster ravioli, roasted rack of lamb, and sweetbread-stuffed quail. Other possibilities include oven-roasted beef chop, rabbit, and veal. Match your meal with a selection from the award-winning wine list, and don't miss the homemade desserts. If you're headed to Cuistot for lunch, you can choose from the gourmet menu of salads, sandwiches, and hot entrees.

Recommended for Palm Desert's Best Restaurants because: Cuistot is an award-winning French restaurant in Palm Desert. It offers one of the city's top dining experiences and also offers a noteworthy wine list.

Marissa's expert tip: Don't miss the mushroom soup, one of Cuistot's signature dishes.

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Meet 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...  More About Marissa

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