Every decent city in America has its nearby escape. New York has the Hamptons and Jersey Shore, and Chicago has, well, Wisconsin. And Los Angeles? We get Palm Springs - only the best escape destination in the entire country. When a town takes sitting by the pool and getting hammered as seriously as Palm Springs does, there’s little to complain about.
But between all those poolside mojitos and dancing at Coachella, there are some seriously good spots to eat at as well. From the classic old haunts where Marilyn Monroe got her freak on, to the new, modern spots popping up all over downtown, Palm Springs is a culinary destination to be reckoned with. Here’s our guide on exactly how to navigate it.
If you’re looking for a restaurant with great outdoor dining, check our Where To Eat Outside In Palm Springs.
Breakfast / Brunch
It’s not often you eat brunch in an abandoned Denny’s and want your friends to see it on Instagram. Yet sure enough, inside of America’s urban millennial safe house (The Ace Hotel), King’s Highway is the all-day cafe where everyone who just can’t with the pool fills up before heading out to the pool again. Don’t let the wide-brim hat crowd fool you though - with a menu full of waffles, pastries, and grits, King’s Highway has sneakily become one of the best breakfasts in town. Currently open for outdoor dining only.
Located on the ground floor of the Rowan Kimpton Hotel, Juniper Table looks and feels like any other run-of-the-mill lobby restaurant. But the food here is much better than that. Open every day at 7:30am, Juniper Table has a very solid menu full of sandwiches, salads, and other breakfast-y things like bagels, parfaits, and a $44 lobster omelette in the event you checked your bank account and saw you didn’t spend as much on drinks last night as you thought. Their outdoor patio is a great place to eat in the morning before it gets to be 1,000 degrees out.
Norma’s has our favorite brunch patio in Palm Springs. Technically serving as the all-day cafe at Parker Palm Springs, Norma’s is the kind of scene you came to Palm Springs to experience - especially at 12:30pm on a Saturday. Women draped in Vivienne Westwood and drinking chardonnay before lunch, stressed-out bridal parties guzzling mimosas, and you and your friends going to town on fish tacos and Bloody Marys before hitting the pool for the next 72 hours.
Wilma and Frieda’s is located in the celebrity-laden enclave in Palm Desert and serves the exact kind of comfort food you need after a long day of mai tais. Don’t be distracted by its location next to a Saks Fifth Avenue in a fancy mall - the food is much better and more affordable than you’d expect. They serve stuff like short rib eggs benedict and a blackberry custard French toast, and it all generally falls under the $20 mark. Bonus: There’s a second location right in downtown Palm Springs now.
If you hear someone shout “brunch!” in Palm Springs, it probably means they’re on their way to Cheeky’s. Open only until 2pm each day, this cafe has become the absolute go-to morning dining destination in Palm Springs. We’re warning you now: the line gets ridiculous. But for those who tough it out, a fantastic rotating menu of hangover-curing breakfast foods awaits. Two words: bacon flight.
When the Viceroy Palm Springs became the Avalon Hotel, not only did we get a great new place to stay, but also an ideal new poolside restaurant to go along with it. It’s a calm, pleasant setting (a brunch rarity around these parts), and the wide-ranging menu features everything from mezze platters to oysters.
In the heart of Palm Springs sits the Colony Palms Hotel. And at the heart of the Colony Palms sits Purple Palm - their all-day poolside restaurant straight out of your patterned wallpaper dreams. With a breakfast menu that has everything from tacos to chicken sausage hash on it, this is an ideal spot for those mornings when you can’t decide what your stomach can handle right now. The bright space is calm and quiet, even for a pool restaurant.
The Real Italian Deli is one of those places everybody wishes they had around the corner from their apartment. The small, order-at-the-counter spot is in a large strip mall a few miles outside of downtown Palm Springs, but they make some of our favorite sandwiches in town. You’re going to want the parma sandwich, which is prosciutto and mozzarella, on a house-made torpedo roll (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside) with a side of their mac salad. Also note, there’s a grocery component here too if you’re in the mood to cook up an Italian feast later tonight at the vacation rental.
Driving home hungover from Palm Springs is a rite-of-passage, and the only way to get through it is a pitstop at Crazy Coyote, an order-at-the-window taco shack right outside the Cabazon outlets. $7.50 might seem like a lot for a taco, but when they say “giant taco,” they really mean it - two will keep you full until dinner. Our order is always one steak and one chicken, each doused in their spicy ghost salsa. Their burritos are excellent too.
Certain scenarios are expected of Palm Springs, like plenty of pool time, a lot of golf, and local residents at stoplights asking you if you know their grandson. But a NYC-style kosher deli in the heart of downtown took us by surprise. Sherman’s is a Palm Springs institution, serving immensely respectable versions of all the old classics. It might be 114 degrees out, but sometimes a hot pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup is simply what needs to happen.
You come to Ruben and Ozzy’s because the midday sun is taking zero prisoners and you need a beer and some oysters. This is a glorified dive bar with a great front patio where you can drink affordably and build your afternoon buzz with $5 alcoholic oyster shooters.
Counter Reformation is one of our favorite restaurants in Palm Springs, and the perfect spot for a date or if you’re in town on a romantic getaway. Hidden away in the massive Parker Palm Springs, you head to this tiny bar to drink great wine and leave talking about the food. Perfectly-sautéed hen of the woods, spiced duck breast, and faux gras macarons - Counter Reformation is only a few years old, but has firmly cemented its status as one of the best romantic dinner spots in Palm Springs.
Located in a strip mall north of the airport, Paul Bar/Food isn’t the most convenient dinner spot in town - particularly if you’re staying off Palm Canyon. But if you’re up for a drive, your reward will be one of the coolest dinner experiences in PS right now. And we say cool, we mean 1940s-Rat-Pack-era, slinking-across-the-bar-with-a-martini type cool. The dimly-lit space is tiny - it’s essentially one long bar and a few booths against the wall - giving the whole place an intimate, romantic vibe. Come here for some marinara-covered meatballs and a crisp wedge salad don’t be fazed if the bartender tells you about some crazy celebrity that just came in, and know you will likely stumble out a few hours later, having completely forgotten you’re in the middle of the desert.
If you’re looking for a lighter dinner spot before a night out on the town, this sushi/whiskey bar can compete with most of the best sushi spots in Los Angeles. If you’re coming in with a big group, go for one of the tables outside, but if it’s just a few of you (or ideally, just you) head to the bar. There you can talk to the chefs and order exactly what they recommend that day.
Las Casuelas Terraza
If you’ve driven down Palm Canyon even once, chances are you noticed Las Casuelas Terraza. This massive Mexican restaurant takes up almost an entire city block and always feels like every person in town is eating there. Is it the best Mexican food in the world? No. But if you’re with a big group of friends or family and looking for a fun spot to drink margaritas and eat giant plates of meat this is where to do it.
Located in the courtyard of the former Cary Grant estate, the almost-entirely-outdoor space (with ridiculous mountain views) is that idyllic Palm Springs setting you trekked out past the windmills and into the desert to experience. Also, they have one of our favorite steaks in town. If you’re looking for that quintessential Palm Springs date night, this is it.
Farm-to-table (desert-to-table?) menus have become the norm in Palm Springs, but Workshop’s still stands out far above the rest. You probably didn’t think you’d come to Palm Springs and eat kohlrabi soup or doro wat chicken, but here you are and it’s delicious. The restaurant is also located inside an all-concrete, chapel-like space that puts even some of LA’s great restaurant interiors to shame. Definitely make a reservation far in advance - it books up quickly.
This tremendous Vietnamese restaurant is only available for takeout right now, making it the perfect option when nobody at the house wants to cook or go out to eat. From the spicy okra to tea leaf salad to the turmeric cod, Rooster And The Pig’s menu is stacked with excellent, shareable dishes that are unlike anything else you can find this far into the desert.
A big part of vacationing in Palm Springs is simply hanging around your rental house enjoying life in the desert. So, skip the hassle of getting ready and going out downtown, and just order-in from Bill’s. This casual pizza shop makes giant, 18-inch pies that are ideal for feeding a house of people who spent too much time in the sun today. We love the feta and artichoke-topped “Elton John” or “Carol’s White Pizza,” which comes with ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella.
This Austrian-fusion restaurant is a 15-year-old Palm Springs institution. The atmosphere inside this homey spot is quiet and casual, with fantastic service, good wine, and a schnitzel that had us at hello. If you’re looking to avoid that overcrowded tourist scene, you should go here.
As much fun as it is to look at all the furniture stores you can’t afford, the north end of Palm Canyon can get a little sleepy when the sun goes down. But Truss and Twine is changing that. The all-concrete bar certainly has the industrial look on lock, and if you’re looking for some snacks and a well-made cocktail before a night on the town, this is your spot. There’s a daily Happy Hour from 4 - 6pm where you’ll find prosciutto-wrapped pretzels we dream about weekly.
Solid Mexican food in Palm Springs is not always easy to come by, which is why you need to know about Felipe’s. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this family-run cafe is serving familiar Mexican classics better than anybody in town. The tiny spot is out by the airport, perfect if you’re flying in for Coachella or aren’t in the mood to deal with the downtown crowds. The Hawaiian torta with hamd pineapple is a must.
Right next door to Cheeky’s (with the same address) is Birba. Home to our favorite pizza in Palm Springs, Birba is also the perfect casual big group jumping-off point before a night out on Palm Canyon. With bar, lounge, and table seating, Birba is a flexible that will frankly fit any type of occasion. Expect a lively (but not annoying) courtyard atmosphere and a lot of delicious white pizza.
Not so much a throwback as it is a perfectly-preserved relic, Melvyn’s was a favorite of Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack. Stay on the staff’s good side, and they’ll treat you to some carefully-practiced banter as they prepare their famous Steak Diane table side. Put away your iPhone and enjoy a classic dinner from a different era.
With an old-school Miami supper club feel, The Tropicale is a grown-up, kitschy oasis and perhaps your best opportunity to finally pull off that flowered button-down you got in Nassau. This is a fine dining experience (and a great one at that), but with an impressive cocktail list and an even better back patio, the recipe is right for things to get weird. Take note - The Tropicale is down to party.