Every decent city in America has its nearby escape. New York has the Hamptons and Jersey Shore, and Chicago has, well, Wisconsin. And Los Angeles? We get Palm Springs - only the best escape destination in the entire country. When a town takes sitting by the pool and getting hammered as seriously as Palm Springs does, there’s little to complain about.
But between all those poolside mojitos and dancing at Coachella, where should you be eating? From the classic old haunts where Marilyn Monroe 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 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. Yet sure enough, inside of America’s hipster safe house (Ace Hotel), King’s Highway is the all-day cafe where everyone who just can’t with the pool anymore wants to be seen. Don’t let the wide-brim hat crowd fool you though - with a menu full of things people like to eat before noon, King’s Highway has sneakily become one of the best breakfasts in town and has a Jetson-chic atmosphere going for it, too.
Located on the ground floor of the Rowan Kimpton Hotel, Juniper Table looks and feels like any other run-of-the-mill lobby restaurant. But the food here is much better than that. Open every day from 7am-9pm, Juniper Table has a very solid menu full of sandwiches, salads, breakfast-y things, and one of the best quiches we’ve had in a long time. Their outdoor patio is a great place to eat in the morning before it gets to be 1,000 degrees out.
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 is the kind of scene you came to Palm Springs to experience - especially at 12:30pm on a Saturday. Rich 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.
Wilma and Frieda’s is a bit out of the way in Palm Desert, but the comfort food here is exactly what you need after a long day of mai tais. Don’t be distracted by its location next to a Saks Fifth Avenue in a fancy mall - the food is much better and more affordable than you’d expect. They serve stuff like short rib eggs benedict and a blackberry vanilla custard French toast, and all of it hovers around the $15 mark.
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. We’re warning you now: the line gets ridiculous. But for those who tough it out, a fantastic rotating menu of hangover curing breakfast foods awaits. Two words: bacon flight.
When the Viceroy Palm Springs became the Avalon Hotel, not only did we get a great new place to stay, but also an ideal new poolside restaurant to go along with it. It’s a calm, pleasant setting, and the Latin-ish brunch menu will help soak up last night’s margaritas.
In the heart of Palm Springs sits the Colony Palms Hotel. And at the heart of the Colony Palms sits Purple Palm - their all-day poolside restaurant straight out of your patterned wallpaper dreams. With a weekend brunch menu that has everything from brioche French toast to ceviche to a chorizo-topped burger, this is an ideal spot for those mornings when you can’t decide what your stomach can handle right now. The bright space is calm and quiet, even for a pool restaurant.
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 in a rundown strip mall a few miles outside of downtown Palm Springs, but they make 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 mac salad. Bonus: There’s a grocery component here too if you’re in the mood to cook up an Italian feast later tonight at the vacation rental.
You’re driving back to LA aggressively hungover, and you need some life-saving food. Pull over at the Cabazon outlets and make your way to Crazy Coyote, a tiny order-at-the-window taco shack. $6.50 might seem like a lot for a taco, but when they say “giant taco,” they really mean it. Our order is always one steak and one chicken, each doused in their spicy ghost salsa. Their burritos are excellent too. Life saved.
Most day-drinking scenarios in Palm Springs involve heavily-poured poolside cocktails, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But Draughtsman is here to give you another option. The massive bar/restaurant on the north side of town has a solid craft beer list and good bar food (get the burger). It’s the kind of place you come for a quick bite to eat and end up staying for several hours because there’s a side patio with cornhole, hook and ring, foosball, and life-size Connect Four.
Certain scenarios are expected of Palm Springs, like plenty of pool time, lots of golf, and drunk old people at stoplights asking you if you know their grandson. But a NYC-style kosher deli in the heart of downtown took us by surprise. Sherman’s is a Palm Springs institution, serving 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, this is the casual, hidden lunch oasis you can’t find anywhere else in Palm Springs. While dinner here is only open to hotel guests, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge has opened its lunch situation to the public and it 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 when the temperature hits triple digits.
Lunch is often the forgotten meal in Palm Springs and Trio is hell-bent on changing that. How? For starters, an eight-hour Happy Hour menu isn’t too shabby. And if that doesn’t suit your needs, you can go for the $19 three-course prix fixe lunch menu. If you’re rolling with a big crew, you’ll have no problem walking in and getting seated immediately here.
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 where you can drink cheaply. And with $4 alcoholic oyster shooters, danger is near.
Counter Reformation is one of the newer 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 cool wine bar that happens to have some of the best food in town. 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.
If you’re looking for a lighter dinner spot before a night out on the town, this sushi/whiskey bar can compete with most places in Los Angeles. If you’re coming in with a big group, you can definitely grab a table, but our move is to head directly to the lively bar, where you can order directly from the sushi chefs. Get the scallop aguachile and don’t shy away from the extensive whiskey list.
Located in the courtyard of the former Cary Grant estate, the almost-entirely-outdoor space (with ridiculous mountain views) is that ideal Palm Springs setting you trekked out past the windmills and into the desert for. Also, they have one of our favorite steaks in town. 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, but Workshop’s still stands out far above the rest. 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 restaurant interiors 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 random 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 for a good dinner in P.S. that doesn’t involve the usual long waits and big slabs of steak, make moves to Rooster And The Pig.
It takes approximately three seconds inside 4 Saints rooftop space to realize there’s absolutely no reason why Palm Springs isn’t full of restaurants on top of buildings. Located on the eighth floor of the new Rowan Kimpton Hotel (a certifiable skyscraper in Palm Springs), 4 Saints has panoramic views of downtown, the San Jacinto Mountains, and many people laying out at the hotel pool. But 4 Saints is more than just views - it has seriously good food too. You’re going to want the crudo, the white asparagus, and the filet.
This Austrian-fusion restaurant is a 15-year-old Palm Springs institution. The atmosphere inside this homey spot 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.
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 the sun goes down. But Truss and Twine is here to change that. The all-concrete bar certainly has the industrial look on lock, and if you’re looking for some snacks and a well-made cocktail before a night on the town, this is your spot. There’s a daily Happy Hour from 4 - 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 glamorous 1950s self. And with it came SO.PA, the beautiful all-day, all-outdoors restaurant with a heavy Middle Eastern lean. We like the crispy California squid with spicy yogurt and Alaskan trout with lentils. Also, if they sold the housemade hummus, we’d buy it by the tubs. 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 town. 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 the best pizza in Palm Springs, Birba is also the perfect casual big group jumping-off point before a night out on 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.
Not so much a throwback as it is 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) tableside. Put away your iPhone, tuck in your shirt, and enjoy a classic dinner from a different era.
With an old-school Miami supper club feel, The Tropicale is a grown-up, kitschy oasis and perhaps your best opportunity to finally pull off that flowered button-down you got in Nassau. This is a fine dining experience (and a great one at that), but with an impressive cocktail list and an even better back patio, the recipe is right for things to get weird. The Tropicale is down to party.