Simply put, there’s no place quite like Joshua Tree. Home to mysterious energy vortexes, sound baths, and a National Park that fell out of a Dr. Seuss book, this remote high desert East of LA has been home to hippies, artists, and friendly neighborhood mystics for decades. But thanks to Ingrid Goes West and every annoying lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, Joshua Tree has quickly become one of the more popular weekend vacation spots in SoCal. And while the town of Joshua Tree isn’t exactly known for its abundance of restaurants, there’s more here than you might think. This is everywhere you need to be eating and drinking during your spiritual quest in the desert.
No trip out to Joshua Tree is complete without a night at Pappy And Harriet’s. The iconic restaurant/saloon/outdoor music venue has history dating back to the 1940s when the original building (and the surrounding Pioneertown) was designed to be a 1800s frontier set for Hollywood movies. Needless to say, we wish these walls could talk. If you aren’t stumbling out after a long night of drinking, eating BBQ, and dancing uncontrollably to a live band you’ve never heard of before, you’ve done Pappy and Harriet’s wrong.
Every person who goes to Joshua Tree is there to hike, take shrooms, or do both at the same time. And that means pretty much everybody is looking for a good breakfast or lunch to put in their stomachs before hitting the trails/seeking enlightenment. There are a handful of spots right outside the entrance to the National Park catering exclusively to this crowd, but you should go straight to Natural Sisters. Lines get long on the weekends, but the order-at-the-counter cafe has fantastic vegetarian wraps, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. There’s also a vegan carrot cake that will change you, but you might want to wait till after the hike to eat it. Or not.
Even by Joshua Tree standards, La Copine is in the middle of nowhere. That said, this new-ish daytime cafe (open 2-7pm) serves some of the best food in the area and is worth the extra 20-minute drive into the desert. The menu is on the smaller side, but with options like duck liver mousse, pork belly banh mis, and fried chicken, it covers a lot of ground and is more upscale than most places you find around Joshua Tree. The bright, open space is the ideal hangout spot after you’ve immersed yourself in The Integratron sound bath in nearby Landers, CA.
If you need to pick up some vitamins or supplements during your trip, you can do that here. But that’s not why JT Health Store is on this list. It’s on this list because it’s a fine purveyor of the greatest hummus ever created - Majestic Sprouted. Yes, you can order this hummus online for an exorbitant price, but what’s the fun in that? This is a must-stop before heading out of town, because everyone knows that hummus is the best road trip snack. Get some falafel chips for dipping.
As fantastic as Pappy and Harriet’s is, it’s also a 40-minute drive from the town of Joshua Tree, and tonight you’re in the mood to keep it local. Head to Joshua Tree Saloon. As the name suggests, this restaurant/bar has a kitschy Old West aesthetic, and after three beers and a whiskey shot, you’re completely fine with it. The menu is full of burgers, sandwiches and big plates of meat, and while nothing will blow you away, it’s what you need after a long day of taking photos of big rocks. There’s live music most nights and a boozy brunch on Sundays.
You just showed up to Natural Sisters and the line is 30 people deep. Head one block over to Crossroads Cafe. The all-day diner has solid food any time of the day, but their breakfast is excellent and hearty. By mile eight of your hike, you’ll be grateful you ordered those huevos rancheros. The bar is also a solid place to down a beer or two after you’re done with the trails.
It’s been a long day at the park and the last thing you want to do is stand in the kitchen for two hours to make dinner for everybody. Give the cutting board the night off and order takeout from Pie For The People. It’s easy to be skeptical of a NYC-style pizza place in the middle of the California desert, but after one pie your instincts will be proven wrong. The pizza is solid, and the menu is big enough to ensure everyone will be happy. The meat-heavy Hwy 62 Revisited is our favorite.
You can find bags of Joshua Tree Coffee’s beans in markets all over Southern California these days, but a visit to the original location for early morning caffeine is an essential JT experience. Not only is the locally roasted coffee excellent, but its slightly hidden location (down the alley in between two other businesses) is the perfect place to sit, relax, and shake off last night’s Pappy and Harriet’s hangover. Prepare for lines and don’t leave without a nitro cold brew.