Acquired Taste: Live Octopus With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Trevor Wallace
Best Mexican & margarita fix: El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana
140 East Palm Canyon Dr, or at the Los Arboles Hotel at 266 Via Altamira
The outdoor patio and potent margaritas are the draw at this family-owned place, which boasts two locations in Palm Springs. Tortillas are handmade daily, and the chip baskets are served fresh and in steady progression to keep up with the Cadillac margaritas. From carne asada to pollo, all the usual Mexican-American suspects are solid and freshly prepared. Make sure to mix things up by trying the pipian sauce.
Best authentic Asian fusion: Rooster & the Pig
356 S Indian Canyon Dr
The wait on line is worth it at this Vietnamese fusion joint just on the other side of the Downtown gay bar strip. Rooster & the Pig serves up a mix of authentic ingredients and more Americanized leanings. The casual atmosphere and small, shared-plate format invites you to linger and take things as they come. The summer rolls, jasmine tea leaf salad, and lemongrass pork & vermicelli bowl will have you crowing.
Best sushi: Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise
105 S Palm Canyon Dr
This Tokyo-based sushi restaurant is a solid bet for fresh fish in the desert. With a large outdoor patio in the heart of Downtown, Gyoro Gyoro lets you play a rousing game of “tourist bingo” as an added bonus for those fancying fish. Try the Palm Springs Roll, featuring local dates studded on a bed of arugula, and drizzled with a sweet & spicy sauce.
Best trendy haunt: King's Highway
701 E Palm Canyon Dr
The team behind Brooklyn favorite Five Leaves has partnered with the equally hipster-beloved Ace Hotel & Swim Club, redeveloping its roadside diner into a modern gustatory destination. Between the avocado toast, quinoa breakfast bowls, mahi mahi tacos, and avocado-topped BLT, there’s really only one question to ask about this place: are you buying a swim club membership after your meal?
Best BBQ: Smoke Tree BBQ Bar & Grill
1775 E. Palm Canyon Dr at Smoke Tree Village
Tucked in the back of a shopping center south of town are ribs, beef, chicken, sausage, and pork, all slow-smoked and served up with all the sides you can handle. Even better, a caddy of sauces sits on the table for individual use, so no one has to come to fisticuffs over a duel between Carolina- or Kansas City-style. Try the brisket tips to start, and leave room for banana pudding to finish.
Best pizza: Bill's Pizza
119 S Indian Canyon Dr
By the slice or by the pie, this casual pizza joint serves up cheesy goodness in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. With over 20 different pizza variations on the menu, including pesto and buffalo chicken, there’s bound to be at least three options that tickle your fancy. The Elton John pie is the stuff of local legend, with garlic-infused olive oil, artichoke hearts, and four cheeses (plus feta). Whichever you pick, just make sure to hit the ATM beforehand, as this place is dough-only.
Best vibe: Tropicale Restaurant & Coral Seas Lounge
330 E Amado Rd
Indoor and outdoor bars stools, outdoor patio tables, and indoor high banquettes are all in demand at this popular spot for locals and visitors alike. The atmosphere is reliably lively as a result, and while the menu is fairly eclectic, fried chicken is the speciality here: for weekend brunch, chicken & bacon waffles and bottomless mimosas will have you set for the day.
Best bakery: Peninsula Pastries
611 S Palm Canyon Dr, Ste 1
Tucked into a small shopping center just outside of lower Downtown, this legit French bakery will tempt you out of your air conditioning for an early morning pastry run. The proof is in the warm-from-the-oven croissants, tarts, tongues, and almondy, chocolatey, fruity splendor. Butter's never tasted better.
Best brunch that's worth the wait: Cheeky's
622 N Palm Canyon Dr
It’s unlikely you'll beat the line that forms on weekends at this popular brunch stop -- but that's all part of the experience, really. Small but mighty, the constantly changing menu is full of fresh and flavorful breakfast and lunch options like buttermilk & fresh corn pancakes, Indian masala frittata, and sourdough blueberry french toast. Order the bacon flight for a sure cure to the late-night flu.
Best group dining: TRIO
707 N. Palm Canyon Dr
The mid-century décor at this popular spot is classic Palm Springs, and martinis flow freely for happy hour or any time of day. Order the Spatini to make sure you get a solid dose of relaxation with your intoxication, and don’t forget an order of the house-made chips with ranch dip.
Best date spot: Spencer's Restaurant
701 W. Baristo Rd
This neighborhood gem serves up classic American fare in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood, against the stunning backdrop of the San Jacinto mountains. The tree-canopied patio is strung with balls of lights to set the mood and make dinner a softly lit, charming affair. Not that you’re necessarily having an affair... although this is Palm Springs, after all.
Best pre-dinner donuts: dish Creative Cuisine
1107 N. Palm Canyon Dr
If amuse bouche and culinary surprise are the aim, head to the north end of town and you’ll be amply rewarded. Book the private dining area in the wine room, and watch the action in the kitchen: savory doughnuts start the meal, followed by dishes like seared, sushi-grade ahi tuna, coq au vin, and house-made pasta. Mini push-pops might be a surprise amuse course, and artisan cocktails await.
Best Tiki bar bites: Tonga Hut
254 N. Palm Canyon Dr
The upstairs bar in the middle of the main Downtown drag is a picture-perfect perch for looking down on the street below. Mai Tais are the main event for happy hour, and Polynesian-inspired bites will keep you afloat in a sea of rum. The Tiki tacos are served in crispy wonton shells, so breakage should be expected, and dainty, first-date nibbling is definitely not the aim. Pro tip: ask about the secret room, because of course there's a secret room.
Best lunch spot: Jake's
664 N Palm Canyon Dr
A bastion for brunch and lunch, with a private outdoor courtyard and a dessert case famous for layered cakes, the location in the Uptown Design District is a hot spot for mid-century design divas. You can't go wrong with the sandwiches or salads, and be sure to unhinge your jaw for a slice of the multilevel coconut cake -- unless of course you opt to share, but why would you?
Best ice-cold treats: Great Shakes
160 S Palm Canyon Dr, Ste A
When a desert cooldown is the priority, a stop at this singularly focused ice cream shop takes chilling to turbo speed. What could be even more indulgent and brilliant than drinking ice cream? Drinking ice cream from a straw with a mini doughnut fit snugly around it. Try the iconic date shake straight-up or with walnuts for a truly local experience.
Best old-school steakhouse: Melvyn's
200 W Ramon Rd
If you're just looking for top-quality steaks, the recently renovated Mr. Lyons is your best bet. If, however, a classic Palm Springs experience is what you’re after, head to Rat Pack fave Melvyn's. This old-school spot does tableside preps on dishes like Steak Diane, and the attached bar -- essentially a piano pickup bar for septuagenarians -- is one of the all-time best people-watching experiences you can have, anywhere.
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