As Palm Springs becomes hotter by the moment, thanks to the rise of Coachella culture, the fact it's now an internationally renowned mid-century modern mecca, and some new part-time celeb residents (welcome, Leonardo!), it's slowly but surely shaking its long-standing reputation for dull and dated cuisine. And rightfully so, since more and more standout spots serving everything from Spanish tapas to farm-to-table cuisine to house made pastas are popping up. Here now, an updated guide to new restaurants in Palm Springs, perfect for holiday travelers and locals alike.Read More
12 Hot New Restaurants to Try Right Now in Palm Springs
If you're heading to Palm Springs for the holidays, here's your guide to new, notable restaurants.
Designer Kelly Wearstler's Hollywood Regency makeover of the Viceroy back in 2003 made it one of the top choices for the hip crowd. More than a decade later, recently hired executive chef Patrice Martineau (a Champagne, France, native who's worked under Daniel Boulud at Manhattan's Daniel) is elevating onsite restaurant Citron to fine-dining heights with a clear attention to detail using a blend of French and Asian techniques, turning out truly beautiful food. Carrot veloute is topped with glistening candied ginger; yuzu-kosho-crusted salmon is cured in salt and sugar for three hours to coax out flavors; and a plate of Peruvian Hamachi ceviche is dotted with dollops of dates and garnished with Technicolor flowers. Lunch features a fun play of bento boxes giving diners a chance to try mini versions of several of Martineau's creations.
2. Gyoro Gyoro
Despite the fact the closest ocean is 120 miles away, there's indeed good sushi to be had in the desert, though many of the valley's existing spots are lacking in atmosphere and heavy on fluorescent lighting. Gyoro Gyoro, run by a giant Tokyo-based restaurant operator, manages to get it all right with a glitzy indoor-outdoor eatery and dauntingly large menu that will please both sushi purists with its top-notch nigiri choices and those who love their spicy tuna rolls tempura-fried and drizzled with three kinds of sauces. There are also a few dozen Yakitori skewer choices ranging from Brussels sprouts to beef tongue.
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
Turns out one of the best new restaurants in the valley is actually in Desert Hot Springs (a town not exactly known for culinary gems). After a $9 million facelift, the 75-year-old Two Bunch Palms resort and spa has reopened with the sophisticated Essense in place of the worn Casino restaurant. French-born chef Cossi Houegban – who's had stints at West Hollywood's The London and The Four Seasons Beverly Hills – joined earlier this year, creating a menu that walks the line between healthy and indulgent. Depending on how much yoga you did that day, you can order your blue lake green beans tempura fried with a white truffle emulsion or steamed with garlic, then go for the salmon atop flaxseed quinoa or a Wagyu beef filet garnished with local corn aioli. The comfy dining room – full of natural wood and stone appointments and anchored by a whimsical petrified willow tree – also features perfect mountain views.
4. Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club
At night, Palm Springs' new day club turns into a modern Mexican cantina inside the adjacent sprawling restaurant with multiple bars, splashed with Day of the Dead-style artwork. Try one of the platters of tacos stuffed with adobo grilled steak, fried Mexican shrimp, or carnitas, or opt for more bikini-friendly fare like honey-citrus white fish ceviche or a cilantro-crusted salmon created by chef Ruben Galvez, who's traveled his native Mexico to hone his regional cuisine skills. Weekend brunch gets creative with an eggs benedict over jalapeno corn bread cakes served up with chorizo hash.
Iron Chef Jose Garces's once-cavernous restaurant at the Sagauro hotel has been transformed into a cozier, more intimate tapas bar since undergoing a four-month renovation and reopening earlier this month. The menu's now focused on more traditional tapas and pintxos – think sizzling shrimp sautéed in garlic and lemon; an array of Spanish cheeses; and marinated anchovies garnished with pickled veggies and pine nuts. The bar offerings have been revamped too with a wider variety of both Spanish and domestic wines by the glass and a craft cocktail program with an emphasis on Spain's favorite spirit, gin. Groups can order an entire bottle No. 209 served alongside high-end Fever-Tree tonic and an array of botanicals for infusing.
6. Simon Kitchen + Bar
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Vegas-based chef Kerry Simon took over the restaurant at the year-old Hard Rock Hotel in September, reopening it as Simon Kitchen + Bar, a lobby-adjacent space filled with giant circular booths, leather-upholstered bar stools, and a wall-size photo of Simon peering out at diners. The refreshingly reasonable menu is a sophisticated blend of comfort and soul food with oxtail and black rice risotto, chicken thighs paired with a citrus chimichurri, and fried green tomatoes served with a lump crab-flecked vinaigrette. Though the $5 happy hour menu sounds great, the fact that it's only available for 55 minutes a day makes it kind of a fake-out.
7. Appetito Deli
Executive chef Chad Shaner and owner Patrick Service (whose grandparents founded Palm Springs' longstanding Mexican restaurant Las Caseulas) met while working for Danny Meyer in New York, where Shaner served as sous chef at Union Square Grill. They partnered to open this Italian spot a stone's throw from hipster haven the Ace hotel earlier this year and hired fabled local designer Christopher Kennedy to create the modern room with concrete floors, subway-tile walls, and a super-cool collection of lamps strung from the ceiling. The casual menu features eggplant parm sliders, sausage-and-pepper pizzette, and boasts some of the town's only handmade pastas. (Don't miss the ricotta gnocchi with kale-walnut pesto.)
8. Smoke Tree BBQ Bar + Grill
Palm Springs, CA 92264
The third venture for the family who also owns the nearby Italian spot Giuseppe's and cocktail hot spot Bar launched with a grill-your-own concept earlier this year before rejiggering the concept into more of a barbeque joint. Though those grills are still in place and there are a handful of offerings diners can cook themselves if the mood strikes, it's the in-house mesquite-smoked dishes that's now the draw at the made-to-look-rustic restaurant. The meaty menu features pulled pork, baby back ribs, and brisket along with a vast array of Southern-inspired, belt-loosening sides (hello, potato salad and creamed corn!) and a standout cocktail menu with plenty of mezcal to keep with the smoke theme.
9. Bernie's Lounge and Supper Club
The institution Davey's Hideaway (once famous for its prime rib, wedge salads, fishbowl-size martinis and those red leather booths that got a second chance over at Tonga Hut) shut its doors in 2012, but has since been reincarnated by a couple of new owners who've named the place after Davey's old maitre 'd. Though the space feels more or less the same, the menu has moved out of the '60s (not that that's necessarily a good thing in a mid-century-obsessed city) and into trendier territory with things like little gem lettuce, Hokkaido scallops, and heirloom carrots. Though there's still prime rib and early-bird specials to be had, too. Don't miss nightly crooning by Patterson, N.J.-imported Bill Gulino.
10. Greek Islands Restaurant
What started out as a storefront selling gyros and salads gained such a local following that the owners upgraded to a true restaurant space late last year and now offer a menu full of family recipes like moussaka baked in a clay pot, grilled housemade sausage, and lemon swordfish kebabs. Most of the seating is on the expansive patio where live musicians entertain diners a couple nights a week. But don't worry, there are plenty of heaters to go around.
11. State Fare Bar & Kitchen
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
The new Ritz-Carlton's restaurant gets the farm-to-table treatment with a rotating menu showcasing ingredients sourced from the Coachella Valley (though the crowd favorite prime burger, topped with Fiscalini Hopscotch cheddar and onion-bacon jam and served on a pretzel roll doesn't seem to be going anywhere.) The Edge, a glass-walled, cliffside steakhouse that houses its own dry-aging room, is set to open at the hotel later this month.
12. Tonga Hut
Palm Springs, CA 92262
The folks behind the original North Hollywood location have filled this upper-level spot with retro art, tiki pieces carved by locals, and framed menus from once-classic bars that have now gone to tiki heaven. The dinner menu skews retro with shrimp toast, crab Rangoon, and, of course, the never-not-fun pupu platter. The drink menu, meanwhile, toggles between Polynesian kitschy (Mai Tai, Blue Hawaiian) and popular-again classic cocktails (Sazerac, Aviation).