Every decent city in America has their escape place. New York has the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore, and Chicago has, well, Wisconsin. And Los Angeles? We get Palm Springs. Only the best escape destination in the entire country. When you have a town that was created solely on the idea of sitting by the pool and getting as hammered as f*cking possible, there’s little to complain about.
Where should you be eating in between all those mojitos and dancing at Coachella though? Between the classic old haunts where Marilyn Monroe used got her freak on, to the new, modern spots popping up all over downtown, Palm Springs is a culinary destination to be reckoned with. Here’s our updated guide on exactly how to navigate it.
Breakfast / Brunch
It’s not often you eat brunch in an abandoned Denny’s and want your friends to see it on Instagram. Located inside America’s hipster safe house (Ace Hotel), King’s Highway is the all-day cafe for everyone who just can’t with the pool anymore. Don’t be fooled though. With a recently overhauled menu of things people like to eat before noon, King’s Highway has sneakily become one of the best breakfasts in town and has a not-cheesy retro atmosphere going for it, too.
Wilma and Frieda’s is out in Palm Desert, but wherever you find yourself after a long night of Mai Tais, this is a brunch must. Open only from 8am-3pm, Wilma and Frieda’s is next to a Saks Fifth Avenue in a high-end shopping plaza, but don’t let that fool you - this place is all about comfort. Think short rib eggs benedict and a blackberry vanilla custard French toast. And with everything hovering under $15, it’s really affordable too.
Norma’s might not have the best brunch in Palm Springs, but it definitely has one of the best patios to eat it on. Technically serving as the all-day cafe at Parker Palm Springs, Norma’s at 12:30pm on a Saturday is an all-out scene -- the kind of scene you came to Palm Springs to experience. Rich old women drinking chardonnay before lunch, stressed-out bridal parties guzzling mimosas, and you and your friends going to town on taco salads and Bloody Marys before hitting the pool for the next 72 hours.
If you hear someone shout “brunch!” in Palm Springs, it probably means they’re on their way to Cheeky’s. Open only until 2pm each day, this cafe has become the absolute go-to morning dining destination in Palm Springs. Just be warned: the line gets ridiculous. But for those who tough it out, a fantastic rotating menu of all the breakfast foods your hungover stomach wants awaits. Two words: bacon flight.
When the Viceroy Palm Springs became the Avalon Hotel, it not only gave us a fantastic new place to stay, but also a great new poolside restaurant to go along with it. It’s a calm, tranquil setting, and the Latin-tinged brunch menu is a perfect complement.
In the heart of Palm Springs sits the fantastic Colony Palms Hotel. And at the heart of the Colony Palms sits Purple Palm - the immaculate all-day poolside restaurant straight from your desert dreams. The weekend brunch goes from 8am-3pm, ideal for all your hazy Coachella mornings, and there’s a special sunset menu from 3-6pm for when you just need a breather from the mayhem. The American-ish menu is very solid and the ambience can’t be beat.
The Real Italian Deli is one of those places everybody wishes they had around the corner from their apartment. The small, order-at-the-counter spot is located in a run-down stripmall a few miles outside of downtown Palm Springs, but despite its lackluster surroundings, it’s home to some of our favorite sandwiches in town. You’re going to want the Parma sandwich (prosciutto and mozzarella) on a housemade torpedo roll with a side of their fantastic mac salad. Bonus: There’s a grocery component here too if you’re in the mood to cook up an Italian feast tonight at the vacation rental.
Most day-drinking scenarios in Palm Springs revolve around strongly poured cocktails by the pool, but Draughtsman is here to change that (or at least give you more options). The massive bar/restaurant on the north side of town has a solid craft beer list, good bar food (get the burger), and is the kind of place you come for a quick bite to eat and end up staying for several hours. Why? That side patio with all the games you could ever want. There’s cornhole, hook and ring, foosball, and life-size Connect Four.
One can come to expect certain things from Palm Springs. Plenty of pool time, lots of golf, and drunk old people at stop lights asking you if you know their grandson. But an NYC-style kosher deli in the heart of the city? Not particularly. And yet, there’s Sherman’s, a Palm Springs institution, dishing out immensely respectable versions of all the old classics. It might be 114 degrees out, but sometimes a hot pastrami on rye is simply what needs to happen.
Located in one of the most underrated little hotels in Palm Springs, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge has expanded its menu to include a lunch situation that’s open to the public (dinner is not) and has quickly become one of our favorites in town. The ham and mustard melt has no business being as good as it is, and the smoked salmon spread is all you need as the temperature hits triple digits. This is the casual, hidden lunch oasis you can’t find anywhere else in Palm Springs.
Frankinbun is a small joint on the south end of downtown Palm Springs serving hot dogs like you’ve never had before - on French baguettes. But if you’re not feeling one of their traditional dogs, we recommend going for the currywurst, chicken and waffles on a stick, or something they call the tornado potato. This is your power move when brunch got a little too drunk and you need some further sustenance to get through your Saturday.
Lunch is often the forgotten meal in Palm Springs and Trio is hell-bent on changing that. How? Well, for starters, an eight-hour happy hour isn’t too shabby. And if that doesn’t suit your needs, you can go for the $19 three-course prix fixe menu. Ultimately, Trio nails the casual walk-up vibe you want for lunch and is also big enough for your whole crew to find a seat.
Not everything has to be a big deal in this town, and in the case of Ruben and Ozzy’s, they made a business out of providing an alternative. You come to Ruben and Ozzy’s because the midday sun is taking zero prisoners and you need a beer and some oysters. This is a glorified dive bar with a great patio to get your buzz on for cheap. And with $4 alcoholic oyster shooters, danger is near.
Counter Reformation is one of the newest spots in all of Palm Springs, but it’s already operating on a higher level than just about everyone else. Hidden in a corner of the massive Parker Palm Springs, this is a wine bar that happens to have some of the best food in town. The place is small (it’s one long bar with counter seats), but the vibe is fun and cool. You’re going to want the cheese plate, the beef charcuterie, and the hen of the woods. Also, lots and lots of wine. More places like this please, Palm Springs.
As far as Palm Springs is concerned, Copley’s still might be considered a relative newcomer. And yet, this decade-old restaurant is easily one of the best restaurants in town. Located in the courtyard of the former Cary Grant estate, the almost entirely outdoor space (with ridiculous mountain views) is that essential Palm Springs setting you came all the way out here looking for. Not to mention, the food is pretty good too. If you’re looking for that quintessential Palm Springs date night, this is it.
Farm-to-table (desert-to-table?) menus have quickly become the norm in Palm Springs dining culture, but Workshop’s still stands far above the rest - making it one of the most popular dinner spots in town. You probably didn’t think you’d come to Palm Springs and eat octopus carpaccio or duck leg confit, but here you are and you’re going to love it. The restaurant is also located inside a ridiculous all-concrete, chapel-like space that puts even some of LA’s great spaces to shame.
Taking a page out of the LA dining handbook, Rooster And The Pig proves some of the best food in town can be found in weird strip malls. This is modern Vietnamese food and despite being open for a few years now, there’s still nothing else like it in Palm Springs. The space is small and modern, but with an atmosphere that makes you feel welcome the second you walk in. If you’re looking a good dinner in PS that doesn’t involve the usual long waits and big slabs of steak, make moves to Rooster And The Pig.
An Austrian-fusion restaurant might be the last place you’d choose to go to in Palm Springs, but this 15-year-old institution has other plans. The atmosphere inside this homey restaurant is quiet and casual, with fantastic service, good wine, and a schnitzel that had us at hello. If you’re looking to avoid that overcrowded tourist scene, you should go here.
For as much fun as it is to look at all the furniture stores you can’t afford, the north end of Palm Canyon can get a little sleepy when it comes to nightlife. But Truss and Twine is here to change that. The all-concrete bar certainly has the industrial look on lock, but if you’re looking for some snacks and a well-made cocktail before a night on the town, this is your spot. The waitstaff is friendly, there’s a daily happy hour from 4pm - 6pm, and they have these prosciutto-wrapped pretzel things that are downright addictive.
The L’Horizon resort underwent a massive overhaul and came out looking like its old 1950′s glamorous self. And with it came SO.PA, the beautiful all-day, all-outdoors restaurant with a heavy Middle Eastern lean. Think crispy California squid with spicy yogurt, Alaskan trout with lentils, and a housemade hummus we’d buy tubs of. Your date night in the desert is set.
Solid Mexican food in Palm Springs is not always easy to come by. Which is why you need to know about Felipe’s. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this family-run cafe is serving familiar Mexican classics better than anybody in Palm Springs. The tiny spot is out by the airport, perfect if you’re flying in for Coachella or aren’t in the mood to deal with the downtown crowds. The Hawaiian torta is a must.
Right next door to Cheeky’s (with the same address) is Birba. Home to hands down the best pizza in Palm Springs, Birba is also the perfect casual big group jumping-off point before a night out in Palm Canyon. With bar, lounge, and table seating, you can make Birba into whatever you damn please. Expect a lively (but not sceney) courtyard atmosphere and a lot of white pizza in your mouth.
Not so much a throwback as a perfectly-preserved relic, Melvyn’s was a favorite of Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack. Stay on the staff’s good side (not an easy task), and they’ll treat you to some carefully-practiced banter as they prepare their famous Steak Diane (pan-fried beefsteak with pan juices served tableside). Put away your iPhone, tuck in your shirt young man, and enjoy a classic dinner from a different era.
With an old-school Miami supper club vibe, The Tropicale is a grown-up, kitschy oasis and perhaps your best spot to finally pull off that flowered button-down you got in Nassau. This is certainly a fine dining experience (and a great one at that), but with a fantastic cocktail list and an even better back patio, the recipe is right for things to get weird. The Tropicale is down to party.
Pressed up against the base of Mount San Jacinto Mountain in The Palm Springs Tennis Club, Spencer’s is an icon and one of the all-time great restaurants in the city. Come for a wine-soaked power lunch on the patio with your interior decorator or bring the parents along for dinner to get a glimpse of how the upper crust really do it. You don’t come to Spencer’s to skimp, and that means the Black Angus Petit Filet is your order.