Some people go to Coachella for the music. All amped up to hear Mumford & Sons, Interpol, and the National, they travel from near and far to sweat it out in the desert in the name of music. Then there are some that tag along to get a taste of the local food and culture in the Palm Springs/Indio area. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/gleggers)
From fine dining establishments to authentic diners that saw the desert’s heyday, Palm Springs’ restaurants are a motley crew.
Breakfast is a toss-up between Koffi’s Coffee, Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs hotel (below, courtesy Parker Palm Springs Hotel), and Cheeky’s. Koffi is a small chain in Palm Springs that serves fantastic coffee and a delicious almond croissant. Norma’s is more of a sit-down experience, with palm trees stretched in front of you and "Chocolate Decadence" french toast on the menu. Then, Cheeky’s is a small café serving all local, seasonal food and drink. In the rare case you forget that you’re in California, try their anti-oxidant rich acai berry and pomegranate smoothies.
Midday at Coachella can mean trying to find a tent — any tent — that will let you hide out in the merciful shade. Or it can mean lunch (in an air conditioned brick-and-mortar restaurant). El Mirasol, Jake’s Ready to Eat, Tyler’s Burgers, Sherman’s Deli, and the Purple Palms all offer worthy midday eats.
At El Mirasol, take advantage of Palm Springs’ proximity to Mexico by grubbing on chicken in mole, carnitas, and shrimp in pipian. The lunch menu at Jake’s is a long list of health-conscious and delicious sandwiches and salads. Try the roasted turkey BLTA, the chicken and watermelon salad, or the fish tacos.
Tyler’s Burgers is exactly what it sounds like — a burger stand of the classic variety serving great burgers and fries. Similarly, Sherman’s Deli is an old-fashioned diner with triple-stacked pastrami, a ½ pound patty melt, and hot BBQ beef brisket.
For the nouveau bohemians in search of a more leisurely, luxury lunch, look no further than the Purple Palms at the Colony Palms Hotel. Recently reopened post-renovation, the hotel is a historic Palm Springs cultural landmark and Purple Palms serves Californian and Mediterranean cuisine like hummus, a seafood roll, and an oven-dried tomato flatbread.
Drinks during Coachella can seem ubiquitous, but to really experience happy hour in the desert, head to the Ace Hotel. Whether you hang out poolside with a drink in hand or in a booth at The Amigo Room, the cocktails are out of this world. (Try the Blood Orange Caipirinha and the Cool Hand Luke.) For a happy hour that is packed at all times of the year, head to Café Azul. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Ratherfancy)
Finally when the sun goes down and cooler temperatures coat the horizon, it’s best to forage for dinner at the 70s-cool Tropicale, the Viceroy hotel’s Citron, the classic Zin American Bistro, or Augusta.
The Tropicale remembers the time when Palm Springs was still Hollywood’s secret hangout and dishes like trout with toasted pecan butter, Hawaiian pizza, and a lump crab Louis wedge salad are all part of the throwback feel. Finish off the meal with a bananas foster bread pudding.
The Viceroy Hotel is known for doing everything as luxe as possible and Citron, the restaurant in their Palm Springs property, is no different. The dining room is light and bright, serving rainbow trout, habanero-glazed lamb ribs, and white corn tortilla soup in style. Likewise, Augusta is fine dining Palm Springs style with indoor and outdoor seating and dishes like braised short ribs, Scottish salmon, and pasta al vongole. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/stijn)
Then there is Zin American Bistro, which feels like your favorite neighborhood restaurant with a sense of humor. Start with oysters, move to the XXX “Adult” macaroni and cheese (hint: truffles), and try the moules frites or the free-range rabbit.
All in all, coming to the desert for the music and leaving with a handful of memorable meals under your belt seems like a win-win. It’s just lucky for festival goers that anytime the lineup doesn’t tickle their fancy, there is a restaurant serving delicious food that probably will.