Located just fourteen miles from Palm Springs at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, Palm Desert in the Coachella Valley is one of our favorite California desert cities. The landscape is exotic, sunsets are spectacular, golf is one of the favorite outdoor activities, and the cuisine is incredible.
That’s not really a surprise when one considers all the years the Hollywood elite would escape the business and paparazzi of Los Angeles, and head to the more remote California desert. Film stars, along with U.S. politicians and world leaders, loved the anonymity this region provided. But they were accustomed to top-notch cuisine and stellar service, which definitely set the bar high for the Palm Desert restaurants that would become popular here.
Add in the eclectic restaurateurs and creative chefs the area attracted, and you have the perfect recipe for delectable dining experiences. Here are some of our favorites among the best places to eat in Palm Desert, CA.
Visiting other destinations in California? Check out our foodie guides to the following cities:
- Where to eat in Tustin, CA
- The 8 Best Restaurants in Ft. Bragg
- Must-Try Restaurants in Oceanside, CA
- The 21 Best Restaurants in Costa Mesa
- 7 Must-Try Restaurants in Cambria, CA
- Where to Eat in Dana Point, CA
- 11 Must-Try Vallejo Restaurants
- 10 Best Laguna Beach Restaurants
Editor's Note: Thank you to both the author and the restaurants for providing or allowing use of photos for this piece.
The 8 Best Palm Desert Restaurants
72595 El Paseo // +1 (760)-340-1000
This amazing French restaurant with a rustic French farmhouse theme literally has it all —romantic ambiance, excellent cuisine, top-notch service, and an impressive wine selection. So much so, that the restaurant is the first in the Coachella Valley to achieve a “Best of Award of Excellence” distinction from Wine Spectator.
Open-air dining on the terrace, with its stone fireplace and views of an adjoining park and waterfalls, is magnificent.
We followed our server’s recommendation at dinner and ordered the Classic Lyon Style Seafood Quenelles served in a savory lobster sauce and baked with Gruyere.
Lobster Ravioli is another fabulous choice with its accompanying truffle and chive sauce.
Other entrees feature additional seafood quail, roasted rack of lamb, and skillet-roasted pork chop.
Save room for one of Cuistot’s devilishly divine desserts. We chose to share the Peach Cobbler, oven-baked in a pastry dome served piping hot with vanilla bean ice cream. Wow…great stuff. For a touch of Europen flair, make sure to try this Palm Desert restaurant.
72-820 El Paseo // +1 (760) 346-6393
“Where friends meet friends” is the mantra of this delightful eatery that I believe is one of Palm Desert’s hidden gems. The Tuscan-inspired bistro, with beautiful views of the San Jacinto Mountains, serves up rustic Italian cuisine from family recipes with a modern California flare.
Open for lunch and dinner, we visited at lunchtime and were impressed with the quality and quantity of food for the price.
My Roasted Beet Salad included a bounty of red and gold beets, feta cheese, mandarin orange wedges, apples, asparagus, almond slivers, and was topped with a lovely balsamic reduction. The combination worked incredibly well together. And it’s truly enough for sharing.
My partner exclaimed his Reuben on Rye to be literally the best he’s had. Loaded with grilled pastrami and sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, and 1000 Island dressing on grilled marble rye, I have to say I agree. I asked for a taste and ended up eating half of it.
This might just be the best lunch restaurant in Palm Desert.
73951 El Paseo // (760) 779-9200
One of our biggest surprises of dining in Palm Desert restaurants is the abundance of seafood choices with such freshness, creativity, and top quality. Mitch’s on El Paseo is definitely one of these.
The menu here is so amazing that at lunch we decided to go with a few starters to enjoy a variety of seafood tastings.
Grilled Spicy BBQ Shrimp is one of the top favorites here. Tiger grilled shrimp is served in a zippy Chipotle wine crème sauce on a bed of Asian slaw.
Another delight was the Creamy Shrimp and Lobster, very lightly tempura-fried with a tasty miso lime aioli.
The trifecta win was Hibachi Hokkaido Scallops—northern Japanese grilled scallops over a lemon crème sauce, Chuka Salad and Habanera Tobiko.
Dining here on the picturesque outdoor patio with a bottle of Chardonnay to accompany our entrees was memorably impressive. We’re certain dinner with candlelight and overhead lighting would be exceptional as well.
For variety and quality, this is a wonderful place for seafood in Palm Desert.
44489 Town Center Way // +1 (760) 848-7684
This delightful Café may be located in a shopping center, but it’s seriously one incredible place to dine in Palm Desert. Open for lunch and dinner, the bistro is owned by Fabienne, a French chef who grew up in Paris, and her husband, Luis.
My partner was all about the Provence slow-roasted free-range chicken—definitely a show stopper here as the rotisserie oven was imported from France. As Fabienne says “it really does make a difference.” Accompanied by a potato purée, glazed carrots, and au jus, the entrée was amazingly tender and tantalizing.
Being a huge fan of Vol-au-Vent, I found this puff pastry made with chicken, mushrooms, and green beans melt-in-your mouth magnificent, and I’ll definitely order it again on a future visit. The icing on the foodie cake was sharing the Mousse au Chocolat, made with Belgian chocolate, crème Chantilly, and the best part, is there’s no added sugar.
Forget the shopping center location. Don’t bypass this Palm Desert restaurant.
73505 El Paseo Ste F260 8 // +1 (760) 674-8666
Another amazing Palm Desert seafood restaurant here also happens to have stunning views overlooking the El Paseo shopping district of Palm Desert and the San Jacinto Mountains. Landlubbers won’t feel left out, however, as there are other great entrees in its innovative menu to choose from.
Tuesdays at Pacifica feature ½ off Bottle Wine Nights, and we were thrilled to see daily Happy Hour return—one of our favorites in the desert. The bar also features quite a fascinating collection of creative drink concoctions.
Some of our go-to happy hour dishes are Pacifica’s Ceviche with lime, cilantro, tomato, onion, and avocado, and Baked Scallops on the ½ Shell with amaretto, spinach, bacon, shallots, and Parmesan.
Main entrees feature a range of excellent fish plates, steaks, beef short ribs, chicken, and pastas.
Seafood or steak, for fine dining in Palm Desert, try Pacifica.
75200 Classic Club Blvd // +1 (760) 601-3600
The name alone intrigued us. Located at Palm Desert’s Classic Club, this restaurant features unbelievably stunning views of the verdant golf links, lake with stone bridges, waterfalls, and the mountains as a backdrop. This restaurant is always packed, and for good reason.
Open for lunch and dinner, the good news is that you don’t have to be golfing at the club to enjoy the restaurant’s incredible food, creative libations, and beautiful surroundings.
Menu items feature soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads, along with an appetizer bar menu, and a host of main entrees.
You’ll look far and wide to find more seafood than on Bellatrix’s Seafood Louie, with shrimp, crab meat, egg, tomatoes, and artichokes over romaine with 1000 Island dressing.
Fans of the classic Monte Cristo will love this sandwich, piled high with black forest ham, smoked turkey and Swiss, egg dipped and served with strawberry preserves, powdered sugar, and fresh fruit.
It’s so lovely here, it will be hard to leave your table. Order a few amazing house-made Sangrias and feel free to sit a spell. If you are looking for a classic American food restaurant in Palm Desert, don’t overlook Bellatrix.
73705 El Paseo // +1 (760)-568-9898
Our adage is always “listen to the locals.” We’d originally had an Italian restaurant in mind that a friend suggested. But it was a serious foodie couple who live in the Palm Desert area who said that Ristorante Mamma Gina was their favorite. One dinner here and we understood why.
The original restaurant had been a Florence landmark of northern Italian cuisine since 1956. Thirty years later, the family brought their authentic and traditional Florentine cuisine to Palm Desert, much to the delight of locals and visitors ever since.
After living in Italy for three years, I judge an Italian restaurant by some of my favorite Italian dishes. One of these is Spaghetti alla Carbonara, pasta with egg yolk, pancetta, butter, and cream. Our server promised it was spectacular…and it was.
Another favorite is the Gnocchi al Gorgonzola—homemade potato dumplings in a rich gorgonzola cream sauce. Two incredible entrees, enough to lure us back for future offerings at this great Italian restaurant in Palm Desert.
73575 El Paseo Dr, Ste 2310 // +1 (760) 773-2807
Yes, it’s comfort food with a distinctive California twist, but, it’s really awesome. Voted “Best Breakfast” for the last three years by Palm Springs Life, we have to share our absolute delight at dining at this eclectic charming farmhouse café that serves up breakfast and brunch.
The restaurant was named after the owners’ two grandmothers, Wilma and Freida, who provided childhood inspiration for homecooked meals with a lot of heart, love, and flavor.
I have to give huge kudos to one of my favorites here, the Blueberry Custard French Toast with Vanilla Drizzle. It’s one of the best I’ve had, and trust me, no extra syrup is needed.
Biscuits and gravy here are touted the best ever, and they are amazing. The gravy has both sausage and pecan wood-flavored bacon topped with two eggs.
Honestly, I have to say this is comfort food at its finest, and we can’t wait to get back to try more for breakfast in Palm Desert.
Which of these Palm Desert CA restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Author Bio: Noreen Kompanik is a Registered Nurse and San Diego-based travel writer and photographer. Over 400 of her published articles have appeared in 38 different digital and print publications. She especially loves writing about family travel, luxury travel, food, wine, coffee, history and travel writing and shares these articles on her travel website What's In Your Suitcase.