Originally published in USA Today 10 Best
Known as a favorite Southern California desert escape, Palm Springs has recently become a culinary oasis as well.
Gabriel Woo, chef at the Barn Kitchen says, “It is a very exciting time for the Palm Springs food scene. As the area introduces more events and activities to draw a variety of experience-seekers, the food scene is becoming more chef-oriented, leading to diverse cuisines at the helm of talented, industry-conscious, socially involved individuals.”
Executive Chef Jason Niederkorn from the Pink Cabana restaurant added, “With the continuing growth and development of the Coachella Valley, we notice a more diverse and discerning demographic coming with it. Successful restaurants in the area are inventing fun and unique concepts that have become really appealing to these guests.”
Here are several notable restaurants in this Southern California desert oasis that are worth a visit.
Del Rey’s cozy, intimate space — Photo courtesy of Villa Royale hotel
Tucked away inside the sprawling, Mediterranean-style Villa Royale resort, Del Rey restaurant is a cozy hideaway with a cool vibe. Featuring dark paneling, a fireplace and an intimate, dimly-lit twelve-seat bar, the stylish dining room emits the ambiance of a secret speakeasy.
Created by chef Louis Martinez, the menu is small yet offers several specialties, including grilled branzino with poblano cream and sprouted almonds; brick chicken that’s seared with an actual brick from the hotel and served with braised lentils; and the charred octopus featuring salsa verde and potatoes.
The mixologists create distinctive cocktails, including Permanent Friends, made with gin, grapefruit and pineapple juices, and jalapeño vanilla maple syrup. Or perhaps try the Floating Hat, a tequila-based drink featuring Ancho Reyes Verde and Cointreau.
Dining room at 4 Saints — Photo courtesy of Kimpton Rowan hotel
Featuring stunning unobstructed views of the four surrounding mountain ranges that inspired this restaurant’s name, 4 Saints is located on the top floor of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel in the center of town. As the only rooftop bar and restaurant in the area, 4 Saints offers a robust wine and cocktail program to accompany the panoramic vista, and the spacious bar is a lovely place to relax with a beverage.
The stylish dining room’s menu features a variety of Mediterranean-influenced plates that feature seasonal ingredients from the surrounding Coachella Valley. A few standouts include sea scallops with cauliflower; house cavatelli and mushroom ragu; and red wine short rib for two.
Feel like you’ve stepped back in time at The Pantry — Photo courtesy of The Pantry at Holiday House
With a menu that changes slightly each week and offers a taste of seasonal flavors, The Pantry has become a local go-to hot spot. Casual and lively, this eatery is located in Holiday House, a recently-renovated Mid-Century property that was originally designed in the early 1950s.
Delectable offerings include avocado chicken salad with heirloom tomatoes tossed in a light lemon-tarragon dressing, seasoned with pink Himalayan salt and cracked pepper. The Baja-style fish tacos are made with tilapia fried in a golden beer batter. The organic corn tortillas are layered with garlic aioli, cabbage, pico de gallo, pickled red onion and served with hot sauce and lime.
Their best-selling beverage is the spicy margarita with fresh orange and lime juices, agave syrup, Serrano bitters and blanco tequila.
The Barn Kitchen
Rustic and modern is what you’ll find at The Barn Kitchen — Photo courtesy of The Barn Kitchen Sparrows Lodge
Originally opened in 1952, Sparrows Lodge was a resort created for the Hollywood elite. Recently renovated, the property gives off a rustic and modern vibe, especially at onsite restaurant, The Barn Kitchen. It’s is an ideal spot to sip a hand-crafted Bloody Mary (made with soju rice wine and served with okra and olives).
Menu favorites include the seasonal fruit and burrata, a refreshing dish that features a splash of avocado oil and fresh mint. The generously-sized Barn Kitchen burger includes locally-sourced beef served with sliced onion, tomato and lettuce, topped with a local “bulkie roll” from Townie Bagels and slathered with their spicy “Milli sauce.”
The weekly chicken Wednesdays and steak Saturdays are well-attended, so it’s best to make reservations.
The Pink Cabana
Enjoy your meal in a fun environment at Pink Cabana — Photo courtesy of Sands Hotel and Spa
Opened in 2018, the Pink Cabana showcases a whimsical, casual style and an eclectic menu with French, Moroccan and Mediterranean influences prepared by award-winning Executive Chef Jason Niederkorn. Offerings include meze, with multiple varieties of olives, house-made yogurt naan brushed with ghee and dusted with za’atar spice blend, and gourmet hummus covered in zaalouk (a grilled eggplant condiment) and harissa paste (made with piquillo peppers).
The signature entrée is the Colorado lamb tagine. Using a proprietary volcano-style cut, it’s marinated with a harissa spice blend, then roasted and braised. Accompanied by orange-glazed rainbow carrots, this dish also includes saffron couscous, toasted almonds, dried cherries and mint tzatziki.
Situated close to the heart of downtown Palm Springs, Birba offers a taste of authentic Italian cuisine. This restaurant’s family-style specialties include a robust selection of homemade items with an Italian flair: pizzas, pastas and an abundance of salads.
The popular Birba pizza is topped with shaved prosciutto and chili oil with a dollop of honey, which offers a balance of sweet and savory. All pizzas here can be prepared with a cauliflower crust, as well. Another best-seller, Nonna’s meatballs combine pork and grass-fed beef, based on a classic family recipe.
The restaurant’s adjacent and inviting bar offers flavorful libations concocted with premium spirits and fresh juices, as well as a selection of local and international wines.
Mr. Lyons Steakhouse
Opened in 2015, Mr. Lyons features a sophisticated ambiance and boasts a steak-centric menu featuring three unique dining environments, including the romantic and inviting Grand Salon, the indoor-outdoor experience of The Conservatory, and the relaxed yet luxe vibe of the Lounge. It’s a great spot to slide into a sleek leather booth and sip a classic Sidecar cocktail.
Specialties include the 15-minute roasted bone marrow with local sweet dates and a mellow Tellicherry gastrique, served with grilled sourdough and an herb salad. A signature dish, the crispy Brussels sprouts are roasted, flash-fried and then tossed in a spiced balsamic vinegar reduction.
A house favorite, the beet bourguignon is a vegan twist on a classic carnivore dish and is served with farro, roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, roasted grapes.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Find unique dishes at Workshop — Photo courtesy of Audrey Ma
Located in the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs, Workshop Kitchen + Bar was previously an art gallery and a theater, and has recently received design accolades from the James Beard Foundation. This stunning space includes a dining room, bar and outdoor courtyard. It’s a pleasant escape to enjoy a Palm Springer cocktail made with vodka, a splash of fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine and Angostura bitters.
Menu standouts include the house-cured gravlax tartine, with grilled rye bread, horseradish cream, quail egg, dill and lemon, as well as the black cod with honey-lavender glaze, celery root purée, kabocha squash and assorted vegetables.
A fan favorite, the JBF blended burger is grilled over wood and topped with cremini mushrooms, truffle pecorino, onion confit, heirloom tomatoes and lettuce.
This casual, modern café usually has a line of hungry patrons waiting in line for its unique versions of classic breakfast foods and sandwiches. Those in the know insist that Cheeky’s is worth the wait.
You should try the World Famous Bacon Flight that serves up five strips in a variety of flavors such as popcorn, apples and cinnamon, sesame honey, and garlic and jalapeno. The chilaquiles are crunchy tortillas with homemade tangy chorizo, blended with cilantro and queso fresco. For vegetarians, a popular option is the roasted yam sandwich on whole grain bread that’s topped with feta, cilantro, red onion, tomato and mayo.
Situated in downtown Palm Springs in the La Serena Villas Resort, Azucar restaurant offers guests the option to sit in the light-filled and colorful dining room, poolside or on the resort’s rooftop deck.
With the name meaning “sugar” in Spanish, Azucar serves up distinctive delights such as mesquite-dusted swordfish with hominy and avocado puree and smoked pineapple jalapeno; jumbo scallops with polenta, corn hash and chorizo sauce; and the Jidori chicken breast sprinkled with coffee and spices and served with vegetables and pepita tomatillo sauce.
The bar’s expansive wine list showcases vintages from California, although there are also a few unexpected gems from Mexico and other countries.