With multiple Coachellas under your belt, you probably have a list of favorite go-to spots around the Valley. Sure, you'll eat some meals at the festival, but when those garlic fries and "Chinese food" get to be too much, here now an updated list of under-the-radar local haunts that you've likely passed by ? some more obscure than many of the bands populating this year's lineup. And don't forget to consult our other guides on new desert eateries and where to drink. — Lizbeth ScordoRead More
A Handy Guide to the Desert's Hidden Dining Gems
1. El Campanario Restaurant
This diner-esque Mexican eatery serves giant plates of fajitas, tamales, enchiladas, seafood platters, and even south-of-the-border style filet mignon. Leave your carb concerns behind at breakfast. Nearly every dish comes with both potatoes and refried beans.
2. Shields Date Gardens
Delectable date shakes are a dime a dozen in the Coachella Valley, but if you’re going to indulge in just one, head to the family-run Shields’ Date Garden (not far from the Polo Grounds), where you can also peruse a head-spinning number of date varietals and catch a bizarre 15-minute film called “Romance and Sex Life of the Date.” No need to worry about showtimes, it plays on a loop.
3. Tacos Gonzalez
La Quinta, CA 92253
This storefront super-simple taqueria does good tacos – al pastor, chorizo, lengua, and tons of others at – cheap prices (most are $2 or under). And the spot’s variety of housemade salsas and freshly fried chips are a solid bonus.
4. Luscious Lorraine's Organic Juice & Food Bar
Members of the juice-obsessed set can get their fix at this shop, which sells the usual suspects like green drinks, protein smoothies, wheat grass shots, and a “flu fighter” mix of carrot, orange, lemon and ginger. Lorraine’s also offers both vegetarian and meatier organic sandwiches on sprouted multi-grain along with a homemade soup of the day. Bring your own bag for takeout -- Lorraine won't give you one.
5. 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro
If you need a reprieve from 300 percent markups on grocery store Merlots, stop into this San Diego wine bar offshoot, where you can pick out any bottle from the attached shop and down it in the restaurant for an extra $5. The 3rd Corner boasts a pretty big menu for a wine bar, focused on sharable dishes like flatbreads, cheese plates, and pates balanced out with a selection of all-over-the-place entrees including duck confit, grilled salmon over polenta, and penne with spicy sausage. If wine on a 90-degree day isn’t your thing, they also offer beer and cocktails.
The Saguaro Hotel’s buzzy tapas spot is far from hidden, but somehow its super-reasonable taverna menu has remained under the radar. Bar-goers can order up single servings of Jose Garces’ zingy montaditos topped with pork belly and shaved apples or anchovies and sherry reduction, as well as small plates of Spanish cheese, serrano-wrapped figs, and sea-salt tossed pardon peppers, with nothing over $5. Spanish wines and spiced sangrias are $6 a glass.
7. Palm Greens Café
This order-at-the-counter spot is focused on healthy, fresh fare, and while there are lots of hearty vegetarian options, including a spinach-nut burger, a falafel salad, and a seasonal market veggie plate, there are plenty of meatier options too, like the Cobb salad with turkey bacon or the salmon wrap.
8. John Henry's
Many locals don’t know about this tucked-away eatery with a welcoming patio and a frozen-in-time menu of old-school entrees (served with soup or salad!), like meatloaf, veal marsala, and crab cakes. Signage is scant, so look closely as you approach. (It’s right behind the Fresh and Easy … though who knows how much longer that marker will be there.)
9. Shanghai Red's Oyster Bar
The best fish taco for miles is hidden away in this dive bar wedged behind a snooze-worthy seafood restaurant. No-nonsense bartenders take orders while a couple of smooth-operator cooks deep fry the cod and assemble the tacos (careful, they go heavy on the white sauce), which go for $2.50 during happy hour after 8 p.m. weeknights and all day on the weekends. Middle-aged bands set up some nights to belt out some pretty nice Grateful Dead covers.
10. Woody's Burgers & Beer
The street-facing storefront portion of Woody’s looks like a slightly updated Friendly’s, but after dark head to the back room for some no-cover blues (in case you haven’t gotten your live music fill), burgers, and beers. And don’t miss the sweet potato fries, geniusly topped with a drizzle of maple syrup.