Whether you worked up an appetite hiking through canyons, playing a round of golf, touring mid-century modern masterpieces, or simply by doing nothing but relaxing poolside with an umbrella drink, one thing is for sure: there’s never been a better time to be hungry in Palm Springs. Long a stronghold of steakhouses, the Coachella Valley culinary scene has blossomed into a more well-rounded edible oasis offering everything from Asian fusion to wood-fired ‘za. These 16 great restaurants ensure no one leaves town on an empty stomach.
It might seem weird to head to a nondescript strip mall that's also home to a salon and an escrow company for what has a solid shot of being your favorite meal of a trip. Be assured, in California, it is not. Chef and owner Tai Spendley has made the Vietnamese food he cooked with his mom his own by changing menus for peak seasonality, adding local ingredients like dates, and reinventing classics (hello, banh mi burger!). Dishes like chicken-stuffed curry rice balls and crispy turmeric cod come as they are ready. Sharing is encouraged—but challenging, as you'll be tempted to gobble up every last peanut on charred Brussels or crispy shallot on the congee yourself. Simple but clever design (blond wood with red and gold pops) and décor (conical non la hats and jasmine tea canister napkin holders) add whimsy and lighten up the space. Usually crowded, it gets loud fast, so not ideal for get-to-know-you dates.
Housed in a 1926 Spanish colonial movie theater, this James Beard award winner has been a staple of the Uptown Design District for almost a decade. The New American cuisine, photogenic craft cocktails, and spectacular design—juxtaposing concrete chic with historic elements like tiled stairs and a quaint courtyard—makes Workshop Kitchen + Bar hard to resist. They take the farm-to-table philosophy quite seriously, securing most components from within an hour of Palm Springs, and that dedication is noticeable in items like the shaved vegetable salad with preserved apricot and chive flowers. It’s even more important when fruits and veggies are used to add punch to protein plates like pork chops with pickled stone fruit or duck fried rice with house kimchi. Speaking of waterfowl, never skip the duck-fat fries.
Millennial pink, botanical wallpaper, eclectic art, loud tile, and pops of plants—the winsome interior design of this all-day Indian Wells brasserie at the Sands Hotel reads like an Instagram trend checklist. Those visual elements, supposed to evoke the racquet clubs that played a prominent role in the '50s and '60s P.S. social calendar, work in concert with the picture-perfect cocktails, boozy popsicles, and hearty Californian, Moroccan, and Mediterranean fare (mezze platters, green chile chicken tacos, and a Tuscan veggie sandwich) to create the ultimate FOMO-generating machine. You'd hate it if it weren't so darn cute and yummy.
It’s understandable to be a little skeptical of raw fish in the middle of the desert. But the seaworthy creations of World Sushi Cup competitor Engin Onural sate even the most discriminating diners. The space reads Scandinavian sleek—plank ceilings, bronze lamps, and minimal accessorizing—while the culinary foundation is Japanese. Traditional nigiri, sashimi, and rolls are accounted for, but Onural’s highest praise is earned by his willingness to take a creative culinary license. That’s how you end up with sushi that contains mango, jalapeño, black truffle zest, coconut flakes, or micro greens alongside a hamachi crudo featuring fava beans, basil oil, and two types of aioli. Picky eaters can order a la carte, but the omakase option offers nine courses of surprise, technical skill, and peak freshness. Either way, wash it down with something strong from PS’s best-stocked whiskey bar. (More than two dozen selections are imported from Japan.)
This Uptown Italian joint was added to the female-founded hospitality empire that includes Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, Toucans tiki lounge, and the Alcazar boutique hotel in 2011. It’s been keeping the town well-fed with Nonna’s meatballs, charcuterie, butterscotch budino, and wood-fired pizzas ever since. Gluten-free and cauliflower crust options expand the pool of people who can partake, which is good news because pie—whether you play it safe with a Margherita or get sassy with a green goddess (serrano peppers, spinach, and Castelvetrano olives)—is the right play here. Further justify your carb splurge by ordering the special fundraiser pizza. Do it for the kids, or whichever local group has been chosen to benefit from sales that month. Then, toast your bleeding heart with a glass from the Italian-dominated wine list.
The mountains are calling, and you must go. Go eat, that is, at the only rooftop bar and restaurant in Palm Springs. Next door to the pool at the Kimpton Rowan hotel, the elevated (literally!) dining experience puts the San Jacintos on full view through a wall of windows, and their drama only heightens that of the dark wood and leather look. By day, the place is bright and airy, perfect for the new and improved weekend brunch with items like smoked brisket hash and deviled eggs with golden caviar, shaved truffles, and metallic dust. By night, the ceiling’s pendant array is dimmed, and the sultry soundtrack turned up. The artfully plated, globally inspired cuisine harnesses the power of native goods like wild juniper and prickly pear. If you aren’t hungry for crispy octopus or cedar-roasted carrots, slide up to the four-sided bar for potent potables with a side of panoramas.
If you don’t eat Mexican at least once on your Golden State getaway, were you really here? Avoid this foodie fail by ducking into the Saguaro Hotel’s taqueria, which conveniently is also a tequila-ria, where tortilla fillings run the gamut from vegan (potato with arbol chile sauce) to meat (pork carnitas with chicharron) and seafood (Baja-style beer-battered Mahi). Taco Tuesdays bring great deals on margaritas and food, but as suspected, that triggers bigger crowds and longer waits. Lucky for those in need of sangria and south-of-the-border snacks like ceviche and queso fundido, they also hold Taco Thursdays and daily happy hours.
This patriarch in the Palm Springs fine-dining scene pleases gourmands with Gallic-inspired greatest hits, including veal filets in Cognac jus, smoked salmon salad, and chicken liver pate and one of the most romantic tree-dotted and twinkling patios this side of the City of Light. Yes, it’s hella old school with white tablecloths, flowery plating, and a gazebo that’s catnip for betrothed with big budgets, but that’s also kind of the appeal. Most folks aren’t going in weekly for braised beef cheeks in Cabernet sauce or cherry clafoutis with vanilla chantilly. Still, when you get that job or need to celebrate a big birthday, the classy special occasion-befitting Sunday brunch is there for you.
The vibrant dishes at this popular La Quinta breakfast/lunch location ooze heritage and heart—likely because Katherine Gonzalez was taught to cook the family favorites by her mama as a child. After using those family secrets to sell salsas and tamales at farmers markets, she eventually opened the cafe, expanding her menu to other Mexican-American mainstays like huevos rancheros, pulled pork tortas with chile au jus, grilled vegetable enchiladas, and chilaquiles. Brunch standards like avocado toast and gluten-free pancakes are also in the rotation, most given a little Latina flair like dashing chile salt on the watermelon salad or topping the burger with roasted green chiles and charred jalapeños. Head to the bakery case for scratch-made cakes, cookies, and pastries.
Hidden in an industrial section of northern Palm Springs, the tiny hole in the wall is easily missed on the first pass but worth hunting for when in the mood for the southern food hit parade. Think oxtails, fall-off-the-bone baby-backs shellacked in sweet sauce, black-eyed peas, collard greens, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie, and fried catfish. To say this father-son-run establishment is no-frills is an understatement but one cornbread square, and you’ll forget about the institutional dishware and laminated menus. And after you see the heaping portions at extremely reasonable prices, you’ll be planning a return visit.
After learning to make seitan and tempeh in college, chef Tanya Petrovna went on to found the first national vegan chain, Native Foods, in the ‘90s. In 2017, after a break saving elephants in Nepal and starting Palm Springs' feral cat program, the meat-free matriarch returned to the desert’s culinary scene with her takeout-only quick-service eatery. Many elements like kale giardiniera, tofu "facon," chickpea "tuNO," and the meat substitutes that started it all are made in house and used to create plant-based mimics of popular sammies (BLTA, Cubano), salads (Moroccan cauliflower), bowls, soups, and burgers. Refresh from the heat with an agua fresca. A great place to pick up picnic provisions or stock the fridge at your Airbnb.
With a woo-woo stained glass window casting ethereal light over flagstone walls, it’s hard to believe this hipster haven at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club was a Denny’s in a past life. Although they still serve many entrees with roots in the all-day diner playbook (think burgers and fries and two-egg breakfasts), they’ve elevated the end products into things like a farm-egg salad sandwich with arugula and cornichons, broccoli with ricotta and Tajin peanuts, or a shrimp taco dressed up with pickled shallots and poblano crema. The Amigo Room, the attached bar, whips up frozen cocktails, which pair perfectly with the long-running Monday night bingo.
As the area's undisputed breakfast champion, Cheeky's and its self-described arsenal of "creative meditations" on classic A.M. comfort foods are ready to rumble with the hangriest of stomachs. Contenders come by the dozens, lured by outdoor seating and service with a smile and knocked out by famous five-flavor sweet and savory bacon flight, fresh-pressed juices, spicy veggie-filled bloody Marys served in adorable glass boots, blueberry buttermilk corn pancakes, and poached egg salmon hash. All of those mentioned above are great, but their secret weapon has always been Pastry Phil, and the four dozen cinnamon rolls he bakes every day from scratch. Put in your roll order as soon as you sit down as selling out is a common occurrence.
Add mystery to mealtime at this Friday-Saturday dinner-only secret restaurant at the sprawling JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort. It starts with the unconventional entrance through the kitchen of the property’s Rockwood Grill. The avant-garde five-course menu is developed on the day of service, inspired by the time of year and temperature of the day (hence the name). Only eaters game for anything should apply: You won’t know what is being served until you watch it being prepared in the open kitchen, it’s expensive, tables are communal, and dishes tend to be meat-forward like a beef tongue with bone marrow and crackling enoki or sous-vide duck breast in pumpkin seed mole. Chefs mingle between courses and explain how they arrived at the plates in front of you. Reservations are required.
Some days you need carbs, lots, and lots of carbs, and for those days, we recommend a trip to the closest outpost of this 20-year veteran bakery. Found in Palm Springs, La Quinta, and Rancho Mirage, Aspen Mills bakes more than 20 different types of bread, including New York rye, pumpkin raisin, jalapeño cheddar, and challah. All start with high-quality stone-ground wheat flour and never contain dairy, processed sugars, eggs, or artificial flavors. Enjoy them by the loaf, roll, or boule or, better yet, as a side to a nutritious salad or as the bookends of delicious sandwiches like the vegetarian Coachella on nine-grain or the roast beef on dark squaw. They also stuff a case full of muffins, cookies, pies, croissants, and brownies for round two of the anti-Keto cheat day.
Farther afield but oh-so-worth the 40-minute drive, especially if you're craving fried chicken drizzled in spicy honey, is a Yucca Valley roadside diner that eschews greasy spoon standards for a menu of dishes powered by California produce, like a smoked tamarind-date BBQ brisket sandwich or a salad of wild rice, apple, currants, pickled shallots, sprouted lentils, avocado, and sunflower seeds. A handful of years ago, a couple ended their Joshua Tree honeymoon with the keys to the long-vacant, out-of-the-way spot and have since put it on the must-visit map. The atmosphere is hip but not too cool—rehabbed in boho black and white with an introspective Kris Chau mural—and it, along with the food, benefits from the smart and inviting energy that radiates off the mostly female/gender-nonconforming staff. Arrive early as they often run out of seats and popular items. Check out Teocali, a shop in an Airstream in the parking lot, while you wait.