Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs
Music fans know it for Coachella, but there’s a lot more happening in the Greater Palm Springs, California, area than the annual music festival. With hospitality and agriculture driving the local economy, the food scene is evolving, and quickly.
For Jaime Kowal, originally in Palm Springs while on vacation from Vancouver, it was this emerging creative culture that largely enticed her to stick around. Kowal co-founded Ernest Coffee in addition to one of Palm Springs’ newest bars, Bootlegger Tiki, which serves up speakeasy-style, handcrafted cocktails and classics like the Zombie, using creator Ernest Gantt’s purported original 1934 recipe.
Hooked into the area’s burgeoning food scene, here are Kowal’s top picks.
Il Corso on El Paseo is hailed by locals as the best Italian spot in the Coachella Valley. Co-owner and chef Mario Marfia, his dad and most of the staff are native Italians, like characters straight out of La Dolce Vita. With stunning interior design by architect Chris Pardo, no detail is spared.
For brunch, Cheeky’s is the spot. Decadent items like fried jidori chicken—a type of mixed breed bird, sometimes called the “Kobe beef of chicken”—and cheddar waffles with maple honey butter sit alongside more California-style fare like paleo granola with Greek yogurt and fresh berries. At the helm is Tara Lazar, arguably the most famous chef in Palm Springs. Lazar recently opened two more restaurants, Mr. Lyons, a steakhouse, and Chi Chi, highlighting the flavors of Central and South America, inside the chic Avalon Palm Springs. “These are go-to establishments,” Kowal says.
SO.PA opened in the fall of 2015 and is located inside the new L’Horizon Hotel. It serves light and fresh salads, handmade pasta, fish and meat, using organic ingredients whenever possible. Michelin-starred chef Giacomo Pettinari helms the kitchen. “It has a stunning patio perfect for a romantic dinner,” Kowal says. “They’ve set the bar extraordinarily high.” The space is cozy with fire pits, while trendy Lindsey Adelman chandeliers and a 26-foot walnut community table ups its elegance. “I’ll keep one eye on the past, one eye on the future,” he says, noting his commitment to regional flavors elevated with modern techniques.
Venue Sushi is consistently rated the best of the best in the Coachella Valley. Owner Engin Onural (pictured) is a certified sushi chef who trained under renowned chef Andy Matsuda and is influenced by his Mediterranean and Turkish roots. Expect seasonal inspirations like sunchoke soup and favorites like the spicy tuna tostada with feta and pomegranates, pitahaya poke and other dishes that draw on Onural’s diverse background.
Another local favorite, L’Atelier Café, carries a common story in the Coachella Valley. Raphael and Charlotte Farsy came to Palm Springs on their honeymoon in 2012 where they were taken with the vibe and decided to stay. Raphael, a former pastry chef in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, offers up authentic French breakfast and lunch.
Las Casuelas is not trendy, but it sure hits the spot. Serving classic Mexican fare in a casual-yet-festive atmosphere, the original cafe has been around since the 1940s, welcoming the likes of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Don’t skip the guacamole.
EIGHT4NINE is the newest restaurant to open in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District. Taking the neighborhood’s name to heart, the eatery serves up a locally sourced menu amidst a funky, loft-like vibe of white walls, hot pink Louis XIV chairs and gallery-worthy art. “It’s high energy, busy and bustling with a passionate team, and already famous for their Willa Jean’s Fried Chicken,” says Kowal. The former home of the Palm Springs Post Office, the minimalist but swanky atmosphere allows the not-so-minimalist culinary creations to shine.
- 1Il Corso
- 4Venue Sushi
- 5L’Atelier Café
- 6Las Casuelas