For decades, Palm Springs has seduced millions of visitors with its well preserved, mid-century modern architecture, sublime desert landscapes and celebrity-drenched history. The desert oasis is brimming with myriad attractions and traditional activities, though the recent, contemporary renaissance brought global attention to its lively festivals (like Coachella and Stagecoach), exciting pool parties and, thankfully, its underrated dining scene.
Plenty of star chefs have opened excellent restaurants in the past few years along with some old-school institutions (open since the 1920s) that continue to serve up unforgettable meals in landmark hot spots. We rounded up the hottest restaurants across the valley that are putting Palm Springs on the map as an incredible dining destination.
Mr. Lyons Steakhouse pays tribute to its original owner, David Lyons, who ran this Ratpack-teeming hideaway for many years from its opening in 1937. Completely redesigned with Mad Men-esque, Art Deco interiors (think green velvet-upholstered booths, black-and-white tiled floor), Mr. Lyons has become the preferred stomping ground for stylish diners who are dazzled by thoughtful design. The dimly lit, swanky restaurant is a blast from the past though there’s nothing retro about the farm-to-table cuisine and, more notably, the huge, juicy steaks that have given the steakhouse a solid reputation.
There’s plenty of big-portion vegetarian options to choose from here too, as well as highbrow, beef-specific starters (like roasted beer marrow bones and beef tartare). It’s the type of place you want to visit on a very empty stomach, unless you strictly saddle up in the lounge for its excellent martinis and classic cocktails.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Workshop Kitchen + Bar (pictured above) triggered a modern culinary movement when it opened in 2012, and it has since become Palm Springs’ trendiest restaurant. Many locals would argue it’s the desert’s most elevated dining experience. The intimate, buzzy restaurant flaunts edgy design with cathedral-like interiors (high ceiling trusses, open beams, concrete walls), which won it a James Beard Award for restaurant design, and the New American menu concept uses farm-fresh ingredients in hearty, delicious dishes (the rib eye, glazed black cod and vegetarian enchiladas are signature dishes). Diners get addicted to the duck fat and sea salt fries, and make sure you don’t leave without ordering one of several craft cocktails using fresh ingredients. The libations here are considered among the best in the area, including the Pisco Punch, a party bowl concocted with pisco, housemade pineapple shrub (a tangy fruit syrup), clove, local lemon and sparkling wine, that serves 4 to 12 people.
A true fixture on famed Palm Canyon Drive, Lulu’s California Bistro is busy breakfast, lunch and dinner with an outdoor patio scene that remains unrivaled. Now, its general manager is been spreading the love by opening Eight4Nine, one of the most anticipated restaurant debuts of the last year. Eight4Nine in the emerging Design District is a whimsical break from all the retro modern-inspired restaurants in the area. It feels theatrically modern with exposed pipe light fixtures, bleached white walls lined with vintage prints and Victorian high-back chairs with magenta cushions. The “West-coast Modern American” cuisine has Pacific Rim, Latin and Southwest influences (like Ratatouille Tart, Barbecued Blue Point Oysters and Mesquite-smoked Carne Asada), an artful combination that pleases all palates. The menu is just as imaginative as the interior design, and due to the solid popularity with locals and visitors alike, reservations are highly recommended.
So.Pa’s elegant, outdoor setting (complete with fountains, firepits and chandeliers) sets the stage for a magical, starry-skied evening, the perfect scenario for high-class dining in the desert. Executive chef Chris Anderson brings his culinary craft from outstanding Michelin-starred restaurants – including Alinea and Moto in Chicago – where his experience helped him cultivate his own signature style focusing on rediscovering American ingredients. At So.Pa, diners can expect dramatic and refined New American cuisine that has given gourmands plenty of reason to rejoice. Innovative dishes are exemplary, like poached Hudson Valley foie gras au torchon with homemade toasted brioche; house-cured, Maple Leaf farm duck breast prosciutto; squid ink pillow potatoes with fresh lobster; and Alaskan Steelhead salmon trout with kaffir lime spiced Beluga lentils, gelled egg and house-strained yogurt.
Tara Lazar is Palm Springs’ most impressive chef, having cult status in the local restaurant scene and celebrated for offering foodies exceptional dining experiences in the desert, like Cheeky’s, Birba and Alcazar. Her latest venture, Chi Chi at the contemporary hipster-laden Avalon Hotel, hits all the right notes with creative Latin-meets-California cuisine. The intimate, al fresco space surrounded by green palms is California casual (indoor seating is also available), where most diners seem to walk right up from the swimming pool in swim shorts and designer sunglasses. Plenty of plates are best for sharing tapas-style, though we recommend popular dishes like Coconut Oil Fried Chicken, Shrimp-Stuff Chiles and Plant-Based Collard Enchiladas.
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