Even in the midst of a pandemic, Palm Springs remains LA’s favorite weekend getaway. Just two hours away (barring traffic, of course), this desert oasis offers ample sun, a glacial social pace, and long afternoons getting hammered by the pool. While the usually chaotic downtown is a bit quieter these days, there are still plenty of restaurants open for safe, socially distant outdoor dining. If you feel like checking one out while you’re there, here’s a list of our 17 favorite.
Las Casuelas Terraza
Before the pandemic, Las Casuelas was unquestionably the place to be for dinner if you were in town with a big group. Obviously, things have changed a bit, but the popular Mexican restaurant in downtown has reopened for socially distant outdoor dining on one of their many patios. Just be sure to take it slow with their margaritas - they’ll catch up to you in a hurry. Call (760) 325-2794 for reservations.
Open at 8am on weekends and 3pm on weekdays, Trio is a popular restaurant in the Uptown Design District, and a great spot to hit up no matter what time of day it is. That said, their three-course prix-fixe menu (daily from 3pm-6pm) is our thing here, and at $25 per person, it’s also a steal. They’ve extended their giant wrap-around front patio to ensure safe socially distant meals. Call (760) 864-8746 for reservations.
Located inside the recently reopened Ace Hotel, King’s Highway has long been one of our favorite breakfast spots in Palm Springs with seasonally-changing menu that’s always full of the things you want to eat while nursing a hangover. Think breakfast bagel sandwiches, BLTs, and burgers. The interior is currently closed of course, but the entire menu is available poolside.
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 from 7:30am-8pm, Juniper Table has a very solid menu full of sandwiches, salads, and other very tasty breakfast-y things. Their outdoor patio is a great place to eat in the morning before it gets to be 1,000 degrees out.
If you hear someone shout “brunch!” in Palm Springs, it probably means they’re on their way to Cheeky’s. Open only until 2pm on the weekends, this cafe has become the go-to morning dining destination in PS, and has taken over the adjoining Birba patio to allow for safe outdoor dining. They don’t take reservations, but even during the pandemic, it’s best to arrive early to avoid the lines. The bacon flight is a must.
Most hotel restaurants in Palm Springs are currently closed, but Chi Chi inside the Avalon Hotel is an outlier. The leafy poolside cafe has socially distant tables, plenty of shade, and a Latin-leaning brunch menu that’ll help soak up all those margaritas from last night. Open daily from 7am-10pm.
Certain scenarios are expected of Palm Springs, like plenty of pool time and several rounds of golf, 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 like hot pastrami on rye and stuffed cabbage. Both the PS and Palm Desert locations have safe outdoor dining available.
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 big front patio where you can drink cheaply in a socially distant environment. With $5 alcoholic oyster shooters though, be sure you plan a safe ride home in advance.
Most people probably don’t head into the desert with the expectation of finding great sushi, but Sandfish continues to prove that theory wrong. This sushi spot and Japanese whiskey bar on the north side of town has fresh fish that goes toe-to-toe with some restaurants in LA, so if you’re looking for a lighter dinner and socially distant patio, keep Sandfish top of mind. The scallop and hamachi crudo are both musts. Call (760) 537-1022 for reservations.
If you’ve heard of one restaurant in Palm Springs, chances are it’s Workshop. This modern restaurant right in downtown is largely credited for bringing the whole farm-to-table (desert-to-table?) movement to PS. And even after all these years - and plenty of new competition - it’s still one of the best. Their large courtyard is open from 6-10pm during the week and until 11pm on the weekends, call (760) 459-3451 to make a reservation.
Solid Mexican food in Palm Springs is not always easy to come by, which is why you need to know about Felipe’s. Open daily from 10am-11pm, this family-run cafe is serving familiar Mexican classics better than anybody in town. The tiny spot is out by the airport, perfect for when you just want to sit quietly on a patio and not deal with the downtown crowds. The Hawaiian torta is a must.
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 pretty good one at that), but with an impressive cocktail list and a sprawling back patio that allows for plenty of room in between tables. Call (760) 866-1952 to make a reservation.
Open only since 2019, Tac/Quila is still fairly new to the downtown dining scene, but its Jalisco-style food deserves your attention. The menu is quite large, but whether you go for the shrimp ceviche, roasted poblano pepper, or one of the many different street tacos, know that you’re going to be eating - and drinking - well. The front patio has been recently expanded into the adjoining sidewalk.
Located in the Uptown Design District, you could easily mistake Eight4Nine for an art gallery, but it is, in fact, a restaurant. And a good one at that. The menu is wide-ranging, with everything from cheese plates to poke bowls to chicken Milanese, but just know you can’t really order wrong here. There’s a large outdoor patio with socially distant tables, place mat menus, and plenty of shade.
Elmer’s might not have the modern shine of other breakfast/brunch spots in Palm Springs, but when you’re in the mood for a straightforward breakfast without any bells and whistles, you can’t beat it. The old-school diner has a large menu filled with every breakfast staple you could want - skillets, pancakes, waffles, crepes, and our favorite eggs Benedict in town. They currently have two outdoor patios and a new shaded dining area on the grass.
You’re driving back to LA aggressively hungover, and you need some life-saving food. Pull over at the Cabazon outlets and make your way to Crazy Coyote, a tiny order-at-the-window taco shack. $6.50 might seem like a lot for a taco, but when they say “giant taco,” they really mean it. Our order is always one steak and one chicken, each doused in their spicy ghost pepper salsa. There’s a shaded patio out front, or you can just do what we do - eat it in our car with our head leaning against the steering wheel.
Lulu California Bistro
With a massive, prime spot in downtown, Lulu has been a Palm Springs staple for nearly a decade now, and though you can probably find better food elsewhere in the neighborhood, nobody can deny their patio is excellent. And these days, it’s even larger with six feet in between tables and tons of shade.