A Guide to Palm Springs Dining

The best places to eat in the desert

Morgan's in the Desert

Sometimes it’s good to get away from the hustle and bustle of LA and escape to a retreat to relax and rejuvinate. A faraway, exotic place like Tahiti fits the bill, but what if there isn’t time or money for a distant journey? Located just 100 miles east of smog-filled downtown lies an assortment of secluded lodgings and intimate restaurants in the desert oasis of Palm Springs.

The 45-acre Spanish-inspired La Quinta Resort offers a perfect place for those who want plenty of on-site dining options. Opened in 1926, it became famous as a paparazzi-proof hideout for Hollywood legends Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn and Frank Capra. Set against the spectacular setting of the Santa Rosa Mountains, the resort offers high-ceilinged, whitewashed, single-story casitas decorated with Mexican pottery, wrought-iron mirror frames and colorful textiles and featuring fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs big enough for two and private patios.

At La Quinta guests can get away from it all while having it all. The retreat houses seven restaurants, 41 pools, 23 tennis courts, a small shopping center and a huge spa. Although massive in size, each guest building has access to one of several dozen pools enhancing the feeling of privacy.

The resort’s flagship hacienda-style restaurant, Morgan’s in the Desert, is named after Walter H. Morgan, a California businessman who founded the property in 1926.  Morgan’s houses the original arched wood ceiling and huge fireplace.  The space is divided into a large U-shaped bar offering live music and small plates, an outdoor patio area and a large main dining room.

Morgan’s offers a variety of vintage cocktails including a Rosemary Salty Dog (gin, grapefruit juice and fresh rosemary) and The Crimson Reaper (Death’s Door gin, cherry liqueur and lemon juice) as well as small plates including Ahi tuna tartare, oysters and a roasted beet salad.  Main courses are focused on local ingredients and include porcini crusted filet with grilled mushrooms, pan roasted duck breast with cherries and shallots and coriander crusted Alaskan halibut with golden chanterelles and beluga lentils.

The Adobe Grill is the resort’s Mexican restaurant featuring a large outdoor patio, guacamole made tableside, an indoor double sided fireplace and award winning tamales and margaritas. Below the Grill is Twenty6, the resorts art-deco inspired American bistro. Guests can indulge in Bacon’d Bloddy Marys for breakfast and green eggs and ham pizza with house-made sauces including ketchup and steak sauce. Other eateries at the resort include Ernie’s Bar and Grill at PGA West.

Whether it’s a dry-aged rib-eye or a tender filet mignon, The Falls Prime Steakhouse offers a variety of steak choices to satisfy any carnivore’s craving. Both charming and hip, the downtown hot spot provides a modern twist on the classic steakhouse. Located on the second floor, the Falls has the most extensive “smoking” martini menu in the desert, with 35 specialty martinis including the Flirtini (vodka, champagne and peach juice).

Named after a small town in the south of France where Picasso made pottery, Le Vallauris is located in an intimate, historic ranch-style house minutes away from Palm Canyon Drive. The cozy interior consists of several small adjoining rooms featuring Louis XV furniture and Flemish tapestries. The outdoor patio boasts a canopy of lush ficus trees, fragrant flowers and tables adorned with white linens, orchids and flickering candles. The menu is equally extravagant, offering escargot, roast rack of lamb, foie gras and other classic French delicacies.

Retro-loving diners will adore Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs.  This swanky 5-star diner offers comfort food daily as well as dinner, but breakfast is the best time to visit.  Diners can choose from fruit stuffed waffles, chocolate decadence French toast, five egg Benedicts and a Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata (costing $1,000).

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The relatively new Workshop Kitchen and Bar offers seasonal fare in downtown Palm Springs.  The huge modern dining area is one big rectangular room with 20 foot ceilings, open beams, ceramic tables  and private leather booths.  A main communal table runs down the center with a long bar is located at the far end of the room.  Stand out menu items include octopus carpaccio, duck confit cannelloni, jidori chicken diavolo, hone and garlic baby back ribs and braised lamb shoulder.