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Workshop, Palm Springs
Workshop, Palm Springs
David A. Lee

20 Palm Springs Restaurants to Explore During Coachella, 2016 Edition

Where to eat in town while at the annual music festival

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Workshop, Palm Springs
| David A. Lee

Ah the Coachella conundrum: Stay on the festival grounds all day and night the whole entire weekend to make sure you don't miss anything. (A magical N.W.A. reunion, perhaps?) Or take a break from staring at the stage through a sea of all those same black felt hats and go get sit-down dinner somewhere. Hopefully, you'll be able to swing both during your desert jaunt (and try some of the fare cooked up by Coachella's lineup of onsite chefs while you're at it). From brand-new hip hotel restaurants to tried-and-true taco shops, here's a rundown of the restaurants worth leaving the festival grounds for.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Rooster And The Pig

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It's nearly impossible to find a person in Palm Springs who doesn't love this little eatery tucked in the back corner of a strip mall, and that's evident via the nightly crowds who line up for inspired Vietnamese-American fare created by chef/owner Tai Spendley. The menu changes often but Spendley signatures include his regularly requested rice-flour crepe roll with shrimp and Asian sausage and his simple Jasmine tea leaf salad. The restaurant also emphasizes craft beer, offering up a variety of microbrews on tap and several imports in cans and bottles. Spendley plans to open a bar later in the year, so stay tuned for more details.

Reservoir

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There's been plenty of buzz leading up to the recent opening of the stylish boutique hotel The Arrive, so it's no surprise that there's an energy about its airy onsite restaurant, where groups linger over cocktails and casual dishes on the patio from day into night. The menu is heavy on mix-and-match creative taco plates from charred cauliflower to Korean BBQ-style with kimchi. In addition to entrees and a burger, there's a good selection of seafood crudo and ceviches and some stellar salads. Try their spin on the chopped, made with cabbage, Japanese eggplant, and local dates,

Mr. Lyons

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For martinis and nibbles in a sexy, swanky space that feels as Palm Springs retro as it gets, you can't beat the lounge at Mr. Lyons. The menu is varied with classics including steak frites and a wedge salad alongside bar-foodish bites like prime rib chili fries and crispy Brussels sprouts. For a more formal dining experience, go for a steak and a couple of sides (try the local corn with jalapenos or the asparagus oregonata) in the salon. The almost-finished speakeasy Seymour's should be opening soon.

Sarah Dickenson

Spring is the perfect time to soak in the stunning scenery at L'Horizon's sophisticated outdoor restaurant serving nuanced dishes like blistered scallop carpaccio plated with fermented cream and pickled blackberries or a poussin confit done with a red wine gastrique. Chef Christopher Anderson — whose resume includes Alinea and moto — is taking over as executive chef and rolling out some menu changes over the next month. And if you want a pre-dinner drink, try the new communal hour from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the week, where you can have a seat at the dramatic 26-foot walnut table and grab a discounted cocktail. Coachella-goers, take note: The place is booked for a private event all of weekend one.

Dre Naylor Photography

Tyler's Burgers

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Here's the deal. There's probably going to be a long wait, the food takes a while (that's what all those magazines are for), they only accept cash, and you'll need a map if you need to use the restroom, but when it comes to the best burger in Palm Springs, this is it. (And it's so picture perfect, you'll be taking your iPhone out even if you've sworn off food photos at the table.) The place also serves up really memorable fries, potato salad, cole slaw, and one serious tuna sandwich flecked with chopped hard-boiled egg. (Ask for a half, it'll be plenty.) The former Greyhound bus depot venue is a fun one, set on the edge of a plaza in the middle of town with a diner-style counter inside and two separate outdoor patios, perfect for people watching.

Birba is always bustling for a reason. There's a sleek, open-air bar, a gorgeous outdoor patio dotted with uplit trees, excellent farm-to-table fare, and pizza that rivals any favorite back in LA. Keep it tame with a margherita or go wilder with a butternut squash-jalapeno white pie or the long-running braised greens pizza dotted with Serrano chiles and smoked mozzarella. The homemade pastas are worth a try, too and there's live music every Thursday night now.

David Broach/David Richey

The Barn Kitchen

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After launching a family-style three-course steak dinner on Saturday nights at the end of last year, chef Gabriel Woo is now cooking a roast chicken dinner on Wednesday evenings at this rustic-modern boutique hotel. Both kick off with a seasonal salad (the chicken dinner recently included a spring-produce-heavy version with artichokes and pickled carrots), include a few locally-sourced sides, and end with a housemade dessert (coconut cake if you're lucky). You have to make a reservation, and the dinners – which take place outside this time of year – are usually capped at around 25 guests. In the afternoons, you can just walk in for one of the loveliest lunches in town, with a menu of seasonal salads, sandwiches, and small plates (try the pickeld veggies) along with a newly added burger.

Jaime Kowal

King's Highway

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The spacious eatery inside the Ace — with its rock walls, globe light fixtures, and long counter — feels like the perfect retro roadside diner you'd want to find in Palm Springs (it was actually a Denny's in a former life), but with a menu that's a lot more interesting than regular diner fare. Chef Gregorio Calderin is working with the guys behind Brooklyn bistro Five Leaves to revamp the menu regularly, focusing on showcasing seasonal, local ingredients and housemade specialties including a killer hand-cut whole-wheat tagliatelle with grilled shitakes, asparagus and a black garlic butter; the smoked grilled Monterey squid paired with a lentil salad and watermelon radishes; and the buttermilk-fried chicken with habanero peppers. Oh, and for those who've been desperately missing the beloved breakfast chilaquiles, the people have spoken: They're back on the menu.

Gioia Italian Bistro

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An uncle-and-nephew duo from Naples have taken over the old Michael's Pizzeria space at retail complex The River and are doing the existing wood-burning pizza oven proud with thin crust Neapolitan pies created from the dough, sauce, and mozzarella that 21-year-old Luca Ricca and his crew whip up daily using 100-year-old family recipes. Pull up a seat in front of the open kitchen and watch the cooks toss dough fast and furiously, plate homemade sausage and meatballs, and hand-bread super-crispy calamari that's probably some of the best in the Valley.

Pho 533

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Chad Gardner, owner of the popular local catering outfit Dash and Handful, bought this storefront spot on the south end of town last year and gave the space a full facelift with concrete floors and mod chrome-and-orange chairs. The menu is now focused on what Gardner's dubbed Viet-fusion cuisine, sticking with an array of pho choices (including a full-on vegetarian version) along with entrees like tiger shrimp vermicelli noodle bowl and shaking beef over mizzuna and watercress. Gardner will soon be adding a spring roll bar in the main dining room, and is expanding into the space next door where he'll have more seating and a cocktail bar, slated to be completed by summer.

eight4nine

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You're unlikely to get bored at this Uptown Design District eatery — opened last year by Willie Rhine, general manager of the successful Lulu, and photographer John Paschal — where the menu is as expansive as the space. You can stay in the whimsical lounge, anchored by a backlit white onyx bar where cheeky black-and-white headshots of Brad Pitt and Mike Tyson stare down at guests sipping cocktails and sharing plates of everything from carne asada flatbread to a charcuterie plate. Or you can have a proper sit-down dinner in the dining room or on the sprawling patio, where the menu can get decadent. Go for the velvety gruyere-and-lobster pot pie. You're on vacation.

John Paschal/Eight4Nine

Tacos Gonzalez

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Ask someone who lives in the Coachella Valley where to find a really good taco and they'll most likely send you to this no-frills strip mall spot in Indio (just four miles from the festival grounds, FYI). The food is as simple as the space with tacos consisting of meat (chicken, carne asada, and al pastor seem to be favorites), a corn tortilla, onion, and cilantro. And nearly all of them (other than the tripe and tongue versions) come in under the $2 mark. Add to that a good variety of flavorful homemade salsas, authentic rice and beans, and a breakfast menu that goes till 2pm, and you'll probably just want to head there right now.

Eureka is that rare casual restaurant concept that does just about everything it sets out to do really well. It's got a huge craft beer list, an impressive selection of small-batch whiskeys (including some that have been custom barreled), impressive gourmet burgers (don't miss the bison version topped with bacon-infused jalapeño jam), and an enticing list of upscale comfort dishes that run the gamut from osso bucco riblets to a beet salad garnished with pop rocks. Inside, the modern-rustic space features a large bar and booths, while there's an enclosed heated patio outside with a sprinkling of large picnic-style tables for larger groups.

Joey Palm Springs

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This bright cafe and bistro on Palm Springs' main drag has quite the pedigree: Vince Calcagno — former co-owner of San Francisco's fabled Zuni Café — opened it along with his partner Joe Lucero, who runs the kitchen. The breakfast and lunch menus are printed daily and might include curried chicken salad on cranberry bread, a farro salad with smoked trout, or eggs baked in soft polenta. There's also an espresso bar with beans from NorCal's artisan Equator Coffee and Teas, and a selection of beer and wines with a focus on French producers. Dinner service will kick off in the fall.

Workshop Kitchen And Bar

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When LA chef Michael Beckmen partnered with restaurateur Joseph Mourani to open a trendy spot with "industrial chic" décor and a farm-to-table focus on local ingredients and craft cocktails back in 2012, it was big news for a city once full of aging steakhouses and ill-made Old Fashioneds. The menu focuses a lot on locally-sourced small plates (there's a lovely shaved Brussels sprout salad, for example), while entrees skew heartier with a pastrami-and-cheddar-topped burger, the smoky braised pig cheeks, and a wood-fired ribeye for two with bone-marrow butter.

David A. Lee

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar & Grill

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The Funkey family (who also own the original Smoke Tree BBQ, Italian eatery Giuseppe's, and cocktail hot spot Bar, all in Palm Springs) have expanded to the East Valley with another outpost of their BBQ joint. They've kept the menu more or less the same, with a focus on house-smoked meat plates (think pulled pork, beef ribs, and a half chicken with Southern-style sides like creamed corn, cornmeal crusted okra, and sweet potato fries), and some new additions including blistered shishito peppers and smoked wings. The craft beer menu is a good one with some lesser-known picks including Almanac Sour from San Jose and Mission Hard Root Beer from San Diego.

dish Creative Cuisine

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Sit down for a dinner at Dish and you'll get course after course of inventive cuisine along with a nightly parade of out-of-the-box amuse-bouches and palate cleansers. But for something more casual, the lounge is worth a visit with its solid cocktails and bar fare including avocado tartare, fried olives, and super-thin flatbreads topped with braised leeks or housemade sausage. There's also a lineup of wallet-friendly weekly specials including a flatbread-and-a-beer combo on Thursdays and a two-for-one burger deal on Tuesdays.

courtesy of dish Creative Cuisine

El Jefe

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The Saguaro Hotel and chef Jose Garces may have ended their relationship, but the lobby-adjacent wood-paneled tequila spot is still serving crowds of hip guests and locals. Though tacos are what the place is best known for (visit on Taco Tuesday for a bargain if you can), the menu is bigger these days with a couple of gourmet burgers (one with pickled onions, blue cheese, and preserved quince), and some grilled plates like the cauliflower steak and a simple flat-iron with caramelized onion. For drinks try the jalapeno-celery margarita shaken with a housemade celery syrup or the Mezcal Mule.

Frankinbun

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The kitschy space is exactly where you'd expect to find a place called FrinkinBun but the food is no joke. Owner Tristan Gittens gets the dogs and sausages (including a jalapeno hot link, Portugese smoked version, and Bavarian-style) from local producers, serves them on a French baguette made by nearby bakery L'Artisan, and offers his own accoutrements including live sauerkraut, grilled peppers and onions, and chili. The homemade organic spicy ketchup and date chutney are his take on recipes his Indian dad passed down. There's also a menu of craft beers and a freezer cart full of Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches, which will be 2-for-1 during Coachella, when the place plans to stay open till midnight to quell those post-festival hot dog cravings. And while you're waiting for your frank, study the groovy wallpaper created by Gittens' wife, designer Candice Held.

TKB Bakery & Deli

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This gigantic deli in an Indio industrial park has gotten quite the local media boon two years in a row now, when the place was ranked 4th and then 5th in Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat in the US. The owners — a fun trio of outgoing siblings with a penchant for joking and bantering with customers and each other — chalk their success up to their housemade everything, from condiments to fresh-baked rolls (try the jalapeno focaccia) to their Mexican meatloaf (their mom's recipe). And the fact the place is a stone's throw from the kinda' busy I-10 helps too. As for fan favorites, the most popular sandwich in the place is the red chili chicken chipotle with pepperjack, and locals love the smoked tri-trip served only on BBQ Wednesdays.

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Rooster And The Pig

It's nearly impossible to find a person in Palm Springs who doesn't love this little eatery tucked in the back corner of a strip mall, and that's evident via the nightly crowds who line up for inspired Vietnamese-American fare created by chef/owner Tai Spendley. The menu changes often but Spendley signatures include his regularly requested rice-flour crepe roll with shrimp and Asian sausage and his simple Jasmine tea leaf salad. The restaurant also emphasizes craft beer, offering up a variety of microbrews on tap and several imports in cans and bottles. Spendley plans to open a bar later in the year, so stay tuned for more details.

Reservoir

There's been plenty of buzz leading up to the recent opening of the stylish boutique hotel The Arrive, so it's no surprise that there's an energy about its airy onsite restaurant, where groups linger over cocktails and casual dishes on the patio from day into night. The menu is heavy on mix-and-match creative taco plates from charred cauliflower to Korean BBQ-style with kimchi. In addition to entrees and a burger, there's a good selection of seafood crudo and ceviches and some stellar salads. Try their spin on the chopped, made with cabbage, Japanese eggplant, and local dates,

Mr. Lyons

Sarah Dickenson

For martinis and nibbles in a sexy, swanky space that feels as Palm Springs retro as it gets, you can't beat the lounge at Mr. Lyons. The menu is varied with classics including steak frites and a wedge salad alongside bar-foodish bites like prime rib chili fries and crispy Brussels sprouts. For a more formal dining experience, go for a steak and a couple of sides (try the local corn with jalapenos or the asparagus oregonata) in the salon. The almost-finished speakeasy Seymour's should be opening soon.

Sarah Dickenson

SO.PA

Dre Naylor Photography

Spring is the perfect time to soak in the stunning scenery at L'Horizon's sophisticated outdoor restaurant serving nuanced dishes like blistered scallop carpaccio plated with fermented cream and pickled blackberries or a poussin confit done with a red wine gastrique. Chef Christopher Anderson — whose resume includes Alinea and moto — is taking over as executive chef and rolling out some menu changes over the next month. And if you want a pre-dinner drink, try the new communal hour from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the week, where you can have a seat at the dramatic 26-foot walnut table and grab a discounted cocktail. Coachella-goers, take note: The place is booked for a private event all of weekend one.

Dre Naylor Photography

Tyler's Burgers

Here's the deal. There's probably going to be a long wait, the food takes a while (that's what all those magazines are for), they only accept cash, and you'll need a map if you need to use the restroom, but when it comes to the best burger in Palm Springs, this is it. (And it's so picture perfect, you'll be taking your iPhone out even if you've sworn off food photos at the table.) The place also serves up really memorable fries, potato salad, cole slaw, and one serious tuna sandwich flecked with chopped hard-boiled egg. (Ask for a half, it'll be plenty.) The former Greyhound bus depot venue is a fun one, set on the edge of a plaza in the middle of town with a diner-style counter inside and two separate outdoor patios, perfect for people watching.

Birba

David Broach/David Richey

Birba is always bustling for a reason. There's a sleek, open-air bar, a gorgeous outdoor patio dotted with uplit trees, excellent farm-to-table fare, and pizza that rivals any favorite back in LA. Keep it tame with a margherita or go wilder with a butternut squash-jalapeno white pie or the long-running braised greens pizza dotted with Serrano chiles and smoked mozzarella. The homemade pastas are worth a try, too and there's live music every Thursday night now.

David Broach/David Richey

The Barn Kitchen

Jaime Kowal

After launching a family-style three-course steak dinner on Saturday nights at the end of last year, chef Gabriel Woo is now cooking a roast chicken dinner on Wednesday evenings at this rustic-modern boutique hotel. Both kick off with a seasonal salad (the chicken dinner recently included a spring-produce-heavy version with artichokes and pickled carrots), include a few locally-sourced sides, and end with a housemade dessert (coconut cake if you're lucky). You have to make a reservation, and the dinners – which take place outside this time of year – are usually capped at around 25 guests. In the afternoons, you can just walk in for one of the loveliest lunches in town, with a menu of seasonal salads, sandwiches, and small plates (try the pickeld veggies) along with a newly added burger.

Jaime Kowal

King's Highway

The spacious eatery inside the Ace — with its rock walls, globe light fixtures, and long counter — feels like the perfect retro roadside diner you'd want to find in Palm Springs (it was actually a Denny's in a former life), but with a menu that's a lot more interesting than regular diner fare. Chef Gregorio Calderin is working with the guys behind Brooklyn bistro Five Leaves to revamp the menu regularly, focusing on showcasing seasonal, local ingredients and housemade specialties including a killer hand-cut whole-wheat tagliatelle with grilled shitakes, asparagus and a black garlic butter; the smoked grilled Monterey squid paired with a lentil salad and watermelon radishes; and the buttermilk-fried chicken with habanero peppers. Oh, and for those who've been desperately missing the beloved breakfast chilaquiles, the people have spoken: They're back on the menu.

Gioia Italian Bistro

An uncle-and-nephew duo from Naples have taken over the old Michael's Pizzeria space at retail complex The River and are doing the existing wood-burning pizza oven proud with thin crust Neapolitan pies created from the dough, sauce, and mozzarella that 21-year-old Luca Ricca and his crew whip up daily using 100-year-old family recipes. Pull up a seat in front of the open kitchen and watch the cooks toss dough fast and furiously, plate homemade sausage and meatballs, and hand-bread super-crispy calamari that's probably some of the best in the Valley.

Pho 533

Chad Gardner, owner of the popular local catering outfit Dash and Handful, bought this storefront spot on the south end of town last year and gave the space a full facelift with concrete floors and mod chrome-and-orange chairs. The menu is now focused on what Gardner's dubbed Viet-fusion cuisine, sticking with an array of pho choices (including a full-on vegetarian version) along with entrees like tiger shrimp vermicelli noodle bowl and shaking beef over mizzuna and watercress. Gardner will soon be adding a spring roll bar in the main dining room, and is expanding into the space next door where he'll have more seating and a cocktail bar, slated to be completed by summer.

eight4nine

John Paschal/Eight4Nine

You're unlikely to get bored at this Uptown Design District eatery — opened last year by Willie Rhine, general manager of the successful Lulu, and photographer John Paschal — where the menu is as expansive as the space. You can stay in the whimsical lounge, anchored by a backlit white onyx bar where cheeky black-and-white headshots of Brad Pitt and Mike Tyson stare down at guests sipping cocktails and sharing plates of everything from carne asada flatbread to a charcuterie plate. Or you can have a proper sit-down dinner in the dining room or on the sprawling patio, where the menu can get decadent. Go for the velvety gruyere-and-lobster pot pie. You're on vacation.

John Paschal/Eight4Nine

Tacos Gonzalez

Ask someone who lives in the Coachella Valley where to find a really good taco and they'll most likely send you to this no-frills strip mall spot in Indio (just four miles from the festival grounds, FYI). The food is as simple as the space with tacos consisting of meat (chicken, carne asada, and al pastor seem to be favorites), a corn tortilla, onion, and cilantro. And nearly all of them (other than the tripe and tongue versions) come in under the $2 mark. Add to that a good variety of flavorful homemade salsas, authentic rice and beans, and a breakfast menu that goes till 2pm, and you'll probably just want to head there right now.

Eureka

Eureka is that rare casual restaurant concept that does just about everything it sets out to do really well. It's got a huge craft beer list, an impressive selection of small-batch whiskeys (including some that have been custom barreled), impressive gourmet burgers (don't miss the bison version topped with bacon-infused jalapeño jam), and an enticing list of upscale comfort dishes that run the gamut from osso bucco riblets to a beet salad garnished with pop rocks. Inside, the modern-rustic space features a large bar and booths, while there's an enclosed heated patio outside with a sprinkling of large picnic-style tables for larger groups.