Known for star-studded history and Mid-century Modern architecture, the sun-fueled mecca of Palm Springs boasts plenty of restaurant hot spots for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Many serve cocktails and hip cuisine on picturesque outdoor patios (with reservations recommended for evenings and weekends.) I have chosen 13 of my favorite restaurants hosting a variety of creative cuisine in no particular order.
Note: I was hosted by the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, including El Mirasol, Grand Central, PS Underground, and Peaks restaurants; all opinions are my own.
1. El Mirasol At Los Arboles Hotel And El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana
Since 1985, El Mirasol at Los Arboles has served artfully prepared regional Mexican cuisine and house specialties like chicken breast sauteed with toasted purple tomatillo with dry Cora and Puya chiles sauce. Or try the Pollo en Pipián, a sauce from pre-Columbian times with ground roasted pumpkin seeds and dry chiles. The Pollo en Mole Poblano is Mexico’s national dish, with mole sauce made from chiles, cocoa, and pumpkin seeds, the best I’ve tasted. Savor shrimp in garlic tomatillo, fiery and smoky Dońa Diabla, or picado sauces for spicy, flavorful memories you’ll come back to time and time again. You’ll love the classic plates and the tangy margaritas made with fresh lime juice.
Pro Tip: Save room for flan made two ways, with amaretto or de café.
2. Grand Central
Your neighborhood bistro and bar opening in May 2018, Grand Central debuted in the former Desmond’s Department Store after John and Rita’s extensive renovations. It’s fun to meet “under the clock,” a tradition in many cities and train stations, to relax and enjoy creative cuisine and drinks. Whether partaking in breakfast, brunch, or lunch, you’ll enjoy the banana-stuffed French toast with cream cheese, seasonal fruit drizzled in chocolate, and whipped cream. Or indulge in the avocado toast with arugula, poached panko-crusted eggs, and avocado dressing on grilled sourdough with breakfast potatoes. My lunchtime goat cheese salad with salmon was excellent, especially the garlic-panko-crusted goat cheese. Reservations for dinner are recommended, especially for the prix fixe menu.
Pro Tip: Save room for the tiramisu or the pistachio cheesecake with vanilla gelato.
3. Peaks Restaurant At Palm Springs Tramway
Ride the world’s largest rotating tramway to the top of San Jacinto Mountain to have lunch and enjoy panoramic views of the Coachella Valley at Peaks Restaurant. It was recently ranked number 8 on Architectural Digest’s list of the World’s Best Cliffside Restaurants. Chef John Fritch introduced us to market-fresh seafood pasta, fresh greens, vegetables, dry-aged meats, and poultry from the Coachella Valley, plus fresh bread from local bakeries. My hummus with pita bread and veggies and charred shrimp with napa cabbage was impeccable. Others at my table savored the half-pound bacon avocado blue cheeseburger, the shrimp pasta Parisian, and the tropical chicken sandwich with mango chutney and diced fruit.
Pro Tip: Save room for the espresso Godiva martini and the apple brown butter tart.
4. Melvyn’s At Ingleside Inn
The place to see and be seen since 1975, Melvyn’s Restaurant & The Casablanca Lounge offer a memorable dinner and cocktail experience. Savor Executive Chef Alex Fregoso’s appetizers, like the seafood tower or butcher’s block and classic entrees, including Beef Wellington and Steak Diane, prepared tableside. The wine list is pages long, and you’re sure to find a favorite here, including my favorite, Argentine malbec. On weekends, enjoy the bottomless champagne brunch with sparkling wine or mimosas.
Pro Tip: Add the jumbo prawns or half-poached lobster when you order the steak.
5. Mr. Lyons And Seymour’s
Since 1945, Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, formerly known as Lyons English Grill, has served the traditional menu plus a few tweaks on the new food offerings. The design feels like a modern affirmation to the old customers, but with recent changes, like the kaleidoscope-like glass ceiling in the main dining room. A separate bar menu focuses on weekday meals. The area continues to change, welcoming the conservatory and a speakeasy called Seymour’s, named after the owner’s father. Savor slow-roasted prime rib and Beef Wellington, plus a wagyu strip loin or the John Dory Meuniere with lemon caper brown butter.
Pro Tip: Save room for Mr. Lyons’ fresh mint sundae or Halekulani coconut cake.
6. Copley’s On Palm Canyon
Located in the historic Cary Grant estate, Copley’s cuisine by chef Andrew Manion offers fresh produce and innovatively prepared meats. See the creative Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve menus for specially prepared cuisine. Famous for starters, the firecracker sauced pork and lemongrass potstickers are award winners. You can’t pass up the Copley’s Caesar salad with creative additions like shredded radicchio, pineapple croutons, and smoked bacon. My favorite entrée is the shrimp with three-cheese grits served with roasted sweet corn, asparagus tips, and lobster sauce. Delicious!
Pro Tip: Save room for the chocolate souffle cake or lemon lavender-scented pound cake.
7. PS Underground Dinner Show
Offering one-of-a-kind culinary episodes, reserve your seat at the table for a feast of the senses at PS Underground. Their lineup includes entertaining shows aplenty. Bacon, a Sunday brunch escapade with all things bacon, features bacon Bloody Mary’s, bacon brunch, and bacon desserts. Spy, with dinner shaken, not stirred, serves a four-course dinner, free-flowing beer, and wine and specialty cocktails. Plus, enjoy Holiday Havoc, Sounds of the Season, and Sparkle, where the magic of the holidays engulfs you with light appetizers, holiday cocktails, and a four-course globally inspired dinner. Reservations are a must for each inspiring production. You are encouraged to dress to compliment the theme of the show.
Cheeky’s, offering a quirky breakfast and brunch, serves a fresh and inventive menu where everything is made from scratch and changes weekly, depending on the seasonal fresh local ingredients available. Served in a mason jar, get a boozy lemonade or Bloody Mary to go. For breakfast, order the huevos rancheros with Peruano beans, guacamole, and sour cream, or chilaquiles with homemade chorizo, tomatillo, queso fresco, cilantro, and onion. Try the yummy Chinese chicken salad, a grass-fed burger with pesto fries, or the chilled cucumber with dill and yogurt soup of the day for lunch. Get coffees like the espresso, Americano, latte, or cappuccino.
Pro Tip: Save room for coffee cake or a cookie.
9. Birba PS
Famous for serving up handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza, plus gluten-free cauliflower pizza and original salads, Birba PS pulls it all together in an outdoor setting. It’s a perfect warm spot in the desert evening under the star-scattered sky. At the sleek open-air bar, indulge in the Heated Snake, made with agave tequila, lime, lemon, triple sec, and habanero simple syrup; or Naked on a Plane, served with mezcal Aperol, lemon, yellow chartreuse, and soda. The menu changes every couple of months to keep it interesting.
Pro Tip: Save room for tiramisu, or the Torta do Birba made with chocolate pave prosecco sabayon and Marcona almonds.
10. Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge
At home in the creative Uptown Design District of Palm Springs, enjoy lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch in the 9,000-square-foot interior and patio dining areas at Eight4Nine. Savor the edamame avocado hummus toast or the grilled Castroville artichoke for lunch starters, or try the rock shrimp roll or the Eight4Nine ground tenderloin burger. For mains, the ahi tuna poke bowl or poblano chile relleno are the best. For dinner mains, partake in the beef tenderloin or the mesquite-smoked carne asada served with refried pintos, pico de gallo, and sweet corn pudding. The selected cocktails are an adventure, like the prickly pear or the Eight4Nine.
Pro Tip: Save room for the lime pie or chi spice crème Brulee.
Farm’s traditional Provencal-style restaurant offers locally sourced produce, eggs, and artisanal meats in a garden patio setting, with a floral landscape transporting you to the south of France. Savor crepes of smoked salmon and spinach or chicken and mushrooms, omelets made with veggies, andouille sausage, spinach, or crispy duck confit and goat cheese. Enjoy salads, sandwiches, and eggs benedict, or baked brie. Dinner is a prix fixe menu with appetizers, sorbet, Cornish hen or wild-caught black cod, and dessert of carrot cake, turtle cheesecake, or chocolate hazelnut strawberry crepe.
12. Rooster And The Pig
Industrial-chic Vietnamese fare, Rooster and the Pig serves beginners like fish-sauce wings or shrimp with mango, mint, mizuna, and rice noodles. Relish fresh plates including a shredded chicken plate with cabbage, carrots, and onions — or Vietnamese beef jerky served with green papaya, basil, mint, and peanuts. Enjoy sharing plates of whole tiger prawns, crispy beef, sauteed eggplant, or sesame ginger tofu. Order sake, wines, beers, cocktails, or highballs like Hitachino Japanese craft whiskey and soda for drinks.
Pro Tip: This restaurant is cashless, accepting credit and debit cards only.
13. So-Pa (Currently Open To L’Horizon Hotel Guests Only)
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are only available for registered L’Horizon Hotel guests 21 and older. They offer both an intimate alfresco dining experience and a family-style dining experience at the 26-foot live edge walnut communal table. Enjoy eggs cooked your way, thick-cut bacon, avocado toast, or pancakes with seasonal berry compote and maple syrup for breakfast. The all-day menu boasts salads, prime ground chuck burger, or turkey club. After 2 p.m., order crispy octopus, seared pan sea bass, or hearty heirloom tomato vegetable tart.
Pro Tip: Check all the restaurants’ websites for Holiday Dinners available.