Once the playground of legendary celebs such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and home to wealthy retirees playing endless rounds of golf, Palm Springs was never considered hip — until recently. This desert oasis located about two hours from the much trendier Los Angeles has become a new favorite spot for the hipster crowd.
Partly to blame is AMC’s crazily popular “Mad Men” series, which is set in the mid-60s. Sleek mid-century design has become cool again, and you’ll find plenty of homes and buildings here that could have come right out of a “Mad Men” set. And as with any in vogue locale frequented by young celebs and hipsters, the dining scene must keep up. If you’re headed to this stunningly beautiful desert town, here are the best restaurants for fine dining in Palm Springs.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Dining under the clear desert sky is divine at many Palm Springs restaurants, but at Workshop, you’ll want to head indoors. The interior here won a James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurant Design Award, as well as other design awards. Set in a former historic movie theater, this industrial-chic, modern space features 27-foot high ceilings, a communal table, black leather booths framed by towering concrete and steel walls and a private, glass-walled dining room.
The farm-to-table menu parallels the interior in quality and innovation. Featuring small plates, intriguing cocktails and larger plates, the menu changes seasonally. Standouts include:
- Carpaccio — choose from Wagyu served with parsnip puree, truffle salsa, shaved pecorino, young greens or octopus served with pickled cauliflower fleurettes, roasted red peppers, lemon, olive oil, piment d’espellete and micro cilantro.
- Duck Leg Confit served with house-made merguez sausage, young vegetables, de puy lentils, jus and bloomsdale spinach.
- A shareable 18 oz, bone-in ribeye grilled over wood fire served with roasted cipollini onions and composed bone marrow butter.
You’ll find glorious outdoor seating, fountains, a fire pit, striking glass mid-century chandeliers and a mix of communal and intimate tables arranged among trees at this all-day restaurant with a heavy Middle Eastern lean. Hidden inside the recently renovated L’Horizon Resort, SO.PA is 100 percent outdoors and serves breakfast, weekend brunch and dinner.
The menu changes with the seasons and offers innovative twists on the traditional California-Mediterranean dishes. Be sure to try:
- Pommes Paillasson, a crispy potato confit with brown butter and yuzu kosho hollandaise and white sturgeon caviar.
- Big Ol’ Steak, a 12-ounce Creekstone ribeye served with charred onion, cardamom creamed kale, red lentil purée and coriander oil.
- Mont Blanc, Jivara milk chocolate mousse, crème fraiche chantilly, flourless chocolate bites, caramel sauce, sea salt flakes and crisp meringue.
Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey
Credit: @Sandfish by Engin Onural
Not your standard Japanese sushi bar, you’ll find a discerning selection of hand-crafted sushi paired with fine whiskeys inside a sleek Scandinavian interior with Japanese elements. The walls are concrete, and ceiling and floors are covered in cool woods. You can grab a table or head to the lively bar where you can order directly from the sushi chefs.
Make sure to check out the extensive whiskey list! In addition to classic, hand and signature rolls, you’ll find tantalizing appetizers such as Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms and Spicy Tuna Tostadas. Standout dishes include:
- Sandfish Roll, a spicy tuna, crab meat and avocado roll topped with lightly fried potato threads, spicy aioli, teriyaki sauce, micro greens, green onions and black truffle zest.
- Braised & Grilled Spanish Octopus served with edamame hummus, bubu arare, tsukudani nori and micro greens.
- Hamachi Crudo served with thin cut cucumbers, takuan pickles, fava beans, mentaiko aioli, fresh dill, basil oil and sansho aioli.
Credit: @Le Vallauris Restaurant
This classic, elegant French restaurant inhabiting a 1927 Mediterranean revival home has been serving traditional European cuisine under the same ownership since 1974. Dine in the ficus-tree-lined courtyard under twinkling lights or in the cozy dining room awash in Flemish tapestries and Louis XV furniture.
The regularly changing menu offers classic proteins and sauces such as Braised Rabbit with Onion and Madeira Wine. Daily specials are handwritten and presented on boards by old-timer French-speaking waiters. Dishes to try:
- Sautéed White Fish served with whole-grained mustard mousseline, steamed saffron potato and spinach.
- Kolikof Imperial Triple Zero Caviar or Kolikof Russian Ossetra Caviar, which will set you back more than a Benjamin per ounce!
- Crispy Veal Sweetbread served with lemon and capers, pommes soufflees and steamed asparagus.
385 W Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
The Purple Palm
Credit: @Purple Palm Restaurant
Named after bootlegger and Purple Gang member Al Wertheimer who opened the hotel and a secret casino here in the 1930s, legend has it that the restaurant with a speakeasy in the basement served as a hangout for the gang during Prohibition. The colorful, patterned wallpapered room feels intimate, a respite from the omnipresent midcentury-modern aesthetic of the desert. You can also dine poolside with a view of Mount San Jacinto at this legendary eatery inside the Colony Palms Hotel.
Weekend brunch is the rave here, but you’ll find modern California cuisine with a few global twists. Standouts include:
- Brioche French Toast, a light, airy and slightly sweet rendition of the breakfast classic, soaked overnight in egg batter, then seared and garnished with crème anglaise, lemon curd, raspberries, house-made lemon ricotta and pecans.
- Braised Duroc Pork served with semolina polenta, baby golden beet, smoked leek and blood orange.
- Scallop & Garlic Chive Dumplings appetizer served with ginger herb emulsion.
The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge
Credit: @Sparrows Lodge
This place feels like a hidden oasis tucked away in a lovely boutique hotel filled with rustic-chic charm. Previously, you could only dine here if you were a registered hotel guest, but now there are a limited number of seats available for non-hotel guests. Be sure to call ahead and make a reservation for dinner as this popular gem books weeks in advance. The kitchen is open daily serving delicious sandwiches, small bites and salads. The big draw here are the one-seating, intimate family-style “Chicken Wednesdays” and “Steak Saturdays” suppers. You’ll make new friends at the communal table under the beautifully lit, vine-covered trellis and enjoy a rotating menu featuring local, seasonal ingredients. Dishes to try:
- Chicken Salad Sandwich, roasted chicken, avocado, tomato, spicy mustard served on rustic sourdough bread.
- Roasted GoneStraw Farms Chicken served with wild rice and cauliflower
- Barn Kitchen Marinated Rib Eye served with garlic smashed potatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers.
Palm Springs is a year-round destination and you’ll find art, food, fashion and music festivals every month of the year! Due to the extreme desert temperatures, the summer months tend to be quieter. Top annual events include the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Southwest Arts Festival, Modernism Week, Fashion Week El Paseo, Food & Wine Festival Palm Desert, Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week.