English (US)
Visit California logo

Eat Like a Local in Palm Springs

These six spots cover a vast culinary landscape—everything from sushi to Southwestern to cherries jubilee

Removed from Likes

4 Saints

Timing is everything at 4 Saints: Arrive well before the sun goes down to snag a table for magic hour. The rooftop restaurant, which sits poolside on the seventh floor of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, is the desert’s highest, with panoramic views of the San Jacinto Mountains. A convivial bartender behind the four-sided marble-and-wood bar may recommend a boutique aromatized or fortified wine to start, the low alcohol content allowing you to enjoy a string of standout cocktails over the course of a night. (Try the Highway 111, a local take on the Old Fashioned that uses bourbon infused with Coachella Valley dates.) The seasonal selection of globally influenced small plates by chef Stephen Wambach makes it easy to linger in the lantern-lit dining room or under the stars on the patio. Sharing is encouraged, if only so you can try as many dishes as possible, such as foie gras and berries with brioche, and sea urchin served with almond, grapefruit, and parsnip.

King's Highway

If there’s one night to slide into a booth at this casual diner inside the hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club, make it a Monday. That’s when the place is transformed by the unmissable presence of 90-year-old ex-showgirl Shirley Claire, who sings and brings a healthy dose of razzle-dazzle as she hosts Fabulous Bingo. In fact, most nights of the week have a theme—see Tuesday karaoke at the adjacent Amigo Room bar, half-off wine bottles on Wednesday, and Taco Jueves—so making reservations is a good idea, but not a must. If you wind up waiting for a table, grab an Orange You Glad To See Me—made with gin, orange, Chareau, and lime—and pop into the photo booth. With its stone wall, leather booths, and globe pendant lights, the diner (a former Denny’s) embraces the spirit of the sixties, while the menu offers a distinctly Californian twist on Southwestern and Mexican fare. Must-orders: For breakfast (served until 2 p.m.), opt for the desert classic Date Shake and Huevos Rancheros, made with California- and Coachella Valley–sourced ingredients. For dinner, try the Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos or Desert Highway Burgers, and request the pickled jalapeños for added kick.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar

Regulars at Workshop Kitchen + Bar know not to get too attached to any one dish. Innovative chef/owner Michael Beckman—who trained in Lyon and worked in Berlin—might be serving honey-lavender glazed black cod one night; a sausage, rapini, and fennel pizza another; and his signature burger (with pastrami and wagyu oxtail) the next. Diners in the know ask for the off-the-menu whole striped sea bass, grilled in the wood-fired oven with seasonally shifting ingredients. The adventurous menu is a big draw, to be sure, but so is the magical setting: The 90-year-old Spanish-inspired building—once an art gallery and movie theater—features 27-foot-high ceilings, which the trendsetting architecture firm SOMA updated with poured concrete for an industrial cathedral aesthetic. (The work won it a James Beard Design Award.) If you’re there for Sunday brunch or an early dinner, ask for booth #7, which is flooded with natural light, or a table in the whitewashed courtyard. Cocktails such as the Mountaineer—made with little-known Génépy des Alpes liqueur, pineapple and lime juice, and bitters—are just as revelatory early in the evening as they are on late weekend nights, when the place is bustling.

Melvyn's

Since the 1970s, Melvyn’s has hosted a string of famous guests—most notably Frank Sinatra, who held court from corner booth #53 whenever he was in town. The Rat Pack spirit endures here. Old standards play nightly (except Mondays) at the piano bar, while tuxedo-clad waiters serve up Manhattans and martinis. A 2017 face lift spruced up the chandelier-strewn dining room and returned the bar to its former pale pink–tufted glory. Melvyn’s was and still is one of few places in Palm Springs with a dress code—it once famously turned away Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw for showing up in motorcycle ensembles—although diners are now allowed to dress more casually if they’re eating under the striped awning of the patio. Call ahead to reserve a table (yes, Sinatra’s booth is still available) and then give in to nostalgia. For lunch, try the Monte Cristo sandwich; after dark, follow jumbo prawn cocktails and oysters Rockefeller with tableside-prepared steak Diane and cherries jubilee. Insider’s tip: Ask maître d’ Brian Ellis, hired when Melvyn’s first opened, about the night the FBI stopped by.

Counter Reformation

There’s something about a place being “secret” that makes it exponentially more exciting. Counter Reformation, the European-style wine bar hidden from sight inside the Parker hotel, lives up to that notion. Open from Thursday to Monday, 3 to 10 p.m., the pocket-sized shrine to great wine has no tables and takes no reservations (though leaning at the low-lit 14-seat bar is encouraged). But there is food, and fantastic food at that. Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, Counter Reformation’s tapas menu is short and original, including caviar served with crème fraîche and a quail egg, plus a layered summer tomato salad with melon. The wines are carefully curated from California, France, and Italy, with a few wild cards from places like Portugal and Oregon, and are all priced the same. While the spot has the feel of an insider’s club, it’s without pretense, with the experts behind the bar providing enthusiastic guidance. For dessert, order the foie gras macarons with sea salt, with a sip of champagne. If you overdo it, don’t worry: You can ask for forgiveness in the restaurant’s authentic confessional booth, shipped in from Italy.

Sandfish by Engin Onural

While sake may be standard at other sushi restaurants, this game-changing spot pays homage to Japan’s other great boozy tradition: whiskey. In the lively modern space—all blond wood, concrete, and industrial lighting—chef/owner Engin Onural serves a creative lineup of sushi, including the Sandfish (a spicy tuna and crab-meat roll topped with fried potato slivers) and zucchini flowers filled with tuna and cream cheese. Things get really interesting at the bar. Using all craft ingredients—house-made syrups, fresh juices, artisanal spirits, and local brews—the bartenders create inspired whiskey-centric cocktails. Try the elegantly layered Old Fashioned (made with Nikka Pure Malt, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula cognac, bitters, and Demerara sugar), and a play on a Spanish gin and tonic called Foraged, which features Death’s Door white whiskey infused with wild juniper berries Austin forages himself, plus fresh grapefruit, Szechuan peppercorns, rose petals, and yuzu.

In Partnership with Afar.

Removed from Likes

Traveler Photos

Tag #VISITCALIFORNIA on Instagram to have your trip featured on our page.