Palm Springs was incorporated April 20, 1938 and is celebrating its 85th birthday through the month of April. While the desert city and its culinary scene have grown exponentially since then, there are still plenty of restaurants in the greater Palm Springs area that offer that old school elegance and service. If you’re burned out on the oversaturation of the Tulum decor fad, here’s where to go when you have a yen for escargot, sinful souffles, white tablecloths, tableside Steak Diane and a little supper club action.
Located in the heart of Palm Springs at the base of the mountains, the 1940’s former Cary Grant guesthouse has been converted into Copley’s Restaurant. The chic and rustic cottage is famous for its romantic patio setting and charming little bar. Husband and wife team Andrew and Juliana Copley have created a stunning atmosphere and fresh menu with items that include a smoked duck and charred asparagus salad with organic quinoa, crushed avocado, red radish, green apple, micro arugula, pomegranate seeds and roasted pine nuts in a maple and bacon vinaigrette, as well as braised prime beef short ribs with lobster potatoes.
Castelli’s in Palm Desert is old school Italian and a former Frank Sinatra hangout, celebrating more than 35 years of prime beef, chops, veal, lamb, pasta and seafood dishes. Famous for its fettuccine Alfredo and prime 22 oz. bone in charbroiled ribeye with melted Gorgonzola cheese over braised Radicchio, the martinis are generous and chilled to perfection. For those with a hearty appetite, try the Godfather’s Dinner, the best of three worlds: tenderloin beef spiedini, shrimp scampi and veal alla Piccatina.
Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage is one of the first restaurants that landed on the original restaurant row in the desert and is still a favorite with the locals. It was opened in 1978 by Wally Botello, the founder of the Velvet Turtle chain. The restaurant is now owned and operated by Wally’s son Michael and granddaughter Maddy, who greets guests at the door. Here’s where you go for escargot, Salmon Creek pork tenderloin and a wide selection of dessert souffles.
Our only inclusion without tablecloths, the original Las Casuelas hole in the wall in downtown Palm Springs has been family owned and operated since 1958 and is the oldest, continuously-operating restaurant in Palm Springs. While the brand that was established by Florencio “Del” Delgado has since expanded to Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, the tiny unassuming landmark still oozes old school vibes of a simpler time. Signature favorites include Maria’s especial spinach enchilada, as well as a variety of tostadas and burritos.
Established in 1974, Le Vallauris at the foot of San Jacinto Mountains has been one of the highest rated restaurants in the Coachella Valley since its inception and a favorite with the upscale Old Las Palmas crowd. Celebrating almost 50 years, the romantic French restaurant is located in a historic property originally built as a private residence in 1927. Feast on a selection of caviar, duck foie gras, house smoked salmon and various lobster dishes.
The historic Melvyn’s At The Ingleside Inn is the place for a nostalgic flaming tableside Steak Diane, Beef Wellington, steak tartare, deviled eggs and classic cocktails. The fully restored 1895 carved oak and mahogany bar in the Casablanca Lounge is legendary, with live music nightly.
Known as Palms Springs’ best kept secret off the beaten path and tucked behind the trees, John Henry’s Cafe is a favorite with locals. The twinkling outdoor dining space is friendly and cozy, featuring some of the best lamb chops in the valley. The rack is perfectly pink and roasted with a Dijon breadcrumb crust. It’s a menu full of variety, including a delightful chop chop salad with blue cheese, sauteed veal’s liver with bacon and onions, sweet and sour stuffed cabbage, osso bucco with polenta and roast pork loin. Desserts like the key lime cheesecake with whipped cream and homestyle chocolate cake are gigantic and best split among the table.
For the true Rat Pack feel, The Purple Room tucked in the back of the Trinidad Hotel is the desert’s go-to supper club. It opened in 1960 and was a favorite hangout and performance venue for Frank Sinatra and scores of other celebrities of the era.It nearly closed for good during the pandemic, but thanks to a GoFundMe account is back in business with jazz entertainers, the Judy Show – a drag parody of ‘60s entertainers – and an updated surf-and-turf menu that includes sausage and brisket meatballs, as well as vegan ravioli. For the full effect, try to secure the Dean Martin alcove and don’t be surprised if you bump into Tommy Tune or Lucie Arnaz at Drag Queen Story Time Gone Wild.
More Music: T’s on the Green is a supper club hidden inside the Date Palm Country Club that features outstanding local acts including the Shelley Yoelin Jazz Quartet and pianist Bill Marx, son of the legendary Marx brother musician Harpo (hit him up for some old time Palm Springs stories). Lean back into a booth and nosh on a date and blue cheese flatbread, linguine bolognese, linguine shrimp or fish and chips.
The City of Palm Springs 85th Anniversary Celebration will be held on Saturday, April 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., in Downtown Palm Springs and the Downtown Park.
Grand Marshal Nancy Sinatra will lead a vintage car parade with various cars from the past 85 years, a Guinness Book of World Records attempt. Entertainment begins at noon with DJs and live entertainment that includes an Elton John tribute band in the downtown park beginning at 7 p.m. Dress your pet like your favorite Hollywood celebrity for the dog costume contest.
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