What can I say about Palm Springs? It’s Palm Springs. Where the desert meets Hollywood with mid-century cool. Although it’s known for world-class mid-century modern architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, mid-century architecture and design translate beyond design but a state of mind. The architecture of Palm Springs is not limited to dwellings; the food scene reflects the same quality of thought and product.
You can’t help but love Palm Springs for the joyous way it embraces food and drink. There is an impressive array of bars and restaurants with inventive menus to choose from. Here are a handful of my best restaurants in Palm Springs from my first-time visit to this sun-fueled mecca. I don’t want to use another cliché like top-notch or world-class, but it is, with a California twist.
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The 8 Best Restaurants in Palm Springs, CA
The Best Downtown Palm Springs Restaurants
360 N. Palm Canyon Drive // +1-760-992-5311
Inka Peruvian Cuisine was a terrific find on an afternoon spent wandering about downtown. This is one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs that swept me away from the desert and into the Peruvian highlands to feast on creations of seafood, meats, and Peru’s native potato. The recipes are pure traditional Peruvian, no fusions on the menu here.
They have the freshest ceviche—Peru’s signature dish—and lots of different meat and rice plates. The Tiradito de la Casa was lovely, fine strips of raw fish topped with a piquant yellow pepper sauce that added a special burst.
In large white ceramic bowls, the soups are a meal unto themselves. The Parihuela soup was chunks of crab, seabass, shrimp, and more, seasoned with aji panca hot pepper, garlic, cilantro, and red wine, making a hearty tomato soup. Parihuela resembles an Italian Cioppino, but the flavor is distinctly delicious. This spicy delight pairs nicely with an ice-cold Cristal cerveza.
While Latin American countries are typically known for their meats, Inka offers several vegetarian options, like the Choclo con Queso, a local corn dish with queso fresco.
For a change of pace while in Palm Springs, saunter on over to Inka Peruvian Cuisine.
160 La Plaza // +1-760-699-7185
Grand Central is a stellar neighborhood bistro and bar set within the old Desmond’s Department Store building, lovingly renovated by their wonderful owners John and Rita and is another one of the Best Palm Spring Restaurants. The tradition of “meeting under the clock” is alive and thriving here in a spacious modern industrial-style dining room. There are a few reasons why it’s one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs.
Featuring modern California fresh cuisine, you can indulge in brunch, lunch, or dinner. The creative fare is seasonal modern American. if you’re looking for the best breakfast in Palm Springs you might have Rita’s Breakfast: stacked arugula, heirloom tomato, oyster mushroom, poached egg, and avocado. In other words, a plateful of yum.
For lunch or dinner, the watermelon gazpacho starts you off right with layered flavors of watermelon, tomato, and strawberry accented by pink peppercorns providing a warm kick. Follow with a goat cheese panko crust mixed green salad, completing a light start to the meal.
I opted for the Lamb Bolognese in a savory Mediterranean red sauce. The house-made pappardelle was springy to the bite. The whole combination was rich and toothsome. The Citrus Beurre Blanc Salmon with sauteed spinach or the Chicken Milanese in a lemon-caper sauce is another favorite. The wine list is lovely, featuring top California whites and reds for the perfect accompaniment.
Grand Central offers a $39.00 4-course Prix Fixe dinner menu featuring wine for $8.00 a glass. The food here is excellent as is the service and it’s a wonderful Palm Springs establishment. Reservations are recommended for dinner.
440 S. Palm Canyon Drive // +1-760-325-4556
If you’re looking for an iconic old-school Italian affair with a celebrity history, then Johnny Costa’s is your place. Family-owned since the 1970s, they’re a Palm Springs Life Readers’ “Best of the Best.”
Johnny Costa got his Hollywood start at Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri Restaurant where he first met Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals. The friendship continued as Johnny set up shop at Tony Riccio’s Club Trinidad in Palm Springs.
Sinatra moved West in the 1960s, began frequenting Palm Springs, and the two became close. In time, Johnny evolved into the performer’s personal chef at his desert home. Frank in turn became a cherished patron as Johnny opened his namesake eatery.
Today, the quality of the experience lives up to its storied history. The recipes hew true to Johnny’s own classic Italian recipes. The Antipasto for Two is a case in point—delectable, marinated veggies and Italian meats with Greek olives and provolone cheese.
Veal figures prominently on this menu. The Veal Piccata—medallions in a sauteed butter, lemon, caper, and wine sauce—is a mélange of velvety richness. The Milanese Veal Osso Bucco is truly sumptuous, with a fall-off-the-bone succulent braised shank surrounding a massive bone full of marrow in red wine, tomato, and vegetable-based sauce.
For the less adventurous, there’s killer spaghetti and meatballs. The Steak Sinatra is cooked just like for Frank, well-trimmed New York Steak strips, wonderfully pan-seared, and sautéed with garlic, mushrooms, and bell peppers in a superb red wine sauce.
For dessert, try the house made Cannoli’s. And the Tiramisu. You will find the room to finish.
For a classic Italian feast in Palm Springs, Johnny Costa’s is your go-to and one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs in general.
Restaurants That Offer The Best Brunch in Palm Springs
622 N. Palm Canyon Drive // +1-760-327-7595
Cheeky’s is the best place for a healthy breakfast in Palm Springs, served fresh and rapid-fire! It’s located right on a busy stretch N. Palm Canyon Drive behind the fabulous Alcazar Hotel, a project of the same owner. Here’s why it’s one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs.
Their menu offers classics dressed up in a bit of fancy, like the Scramble with Smoked Salmon, leeks, and Boursin cheese with a toasted bagel. The service couldn’t be better, food came out in under 10 minutes made with the freshest ingredients. All dishes are designed to be easy and quick to make from scratch in their tiny kitchen.
I started with the Cheeky’s signature Spicy Bloody Mary. This hearty version features vegetable-infused vodka in their house-made mix and comes in a boot with a stack of fixings: onion slices, green beans, red pepper, a huge lemon wedge, and an optional thick slice of bacon.
The coffee comes in a white mug adorned with their fun red cheeky monkey logo.
If you’re an heirloom tomato fan, you’ll love their sandwich! Thick slices of flavorful heirlooms go fabulously with a thick-cut slice of bacon and nutty arugula, dressed in lemon aioli and topped with a fried egg on house-made sourdough bread. Did someone say bacon? Cheeky’s offers a legendary bacon flight with flavors like lemon zest and coconut sugar complementing the trusty applewood smoked.
Don’t miss their Straus Greek yogurt with paleo granola & berries, a generous bowlful of health. The menu rotates from week to week according to seasonal local fruits and produce but some are staples. A brussels sprouts scramble with onions and cherry tomatoes was another good one, and quite light.
Homemade cinnamon rolls are a winner anywhere, but at Cheeky’s they’re impressive. They come out warm and fresh and glistening! The cake is light, spongy, and dense, made with quality ingredients. The cinnamon and sugar are balanced and don’t overpower the roll. Definitely one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs.
Top Restaurants In Palm Springs And Nearby
1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive // +1-760-320-1501
I was on the hunt for a really good burger in Palm Springs and had a hunch I might find one at 1501 Uptown Gastropub. Deliver they did.
1501 sits on N. Palm Canyon Drive in a spacious, light-filled pub that was designed by award-winning architect Chris Pardo. Palm Springs restaurateurs Willie Rhine and Chad Gardner—of Eight4Nine and Viet Fusion and Roly China fame—teamed up on this delicious venture and it’s well worth a stop. They’re an Open Table’s 2022 Diner’s Choice.
I could have eaten my way through their terrific list of sandwiches, but I was on a burger mission, by God. The 1501 Burger came out on a gorgeous butter-grilled brioche bun that, unusually, held up well. I discovered a quick love of tomato onion jam which made for a heavenly meld with caved-aged cheddar and smoked bacon. This was a really, really good burger.
The menu is inventive and filled with seasonal ingredients. Some of the dishes are downright decadent, like Willie’s Shepherd Pie, made with slow-braised grass-fed filet mignon, sherry, mirepoix, caramelized mashed red potatoes, English peas, and that yummy cave-aged cheddar.
There’s a vegetarian version with mushrooms. They have a cool cocktail menu too.
Leave room for dessert, you may want a bite of that lovely Lavender Lemon Crème Brûlée, no?
17080 North Indian Canyon Drive // +1-760-251-4485
One of the best restaurants in Palm Springs, lies a few miles out of town at a dusty crossroads facing a farm of towering wind turbines. The Windmill Market serves up a killer date shake that you won’t want to miss. It’s a cup full of vanilla ice cream packed with one of the fine agricultural bounties of the Coachella Valley—Medjool dates from a local farmer.
This off-the-beaten-path gem has down-to-earth prices. Their deli sandwiches are generous, I can attest the pastrami is delicious! Or I recommend one of their old-school daily specials like beef stroganoff, meatloaf, or tasty tacos. Plus, you can eat in a cute backyard patio replete with the resident cat.
1620 S. Indian Trail // +1-760-327-3214
Del Rey is set in the stylish Villa Royale, an adults-only boutique that’s part of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels collection. Vintage is the vibe and Old California/Hacienda is the architecture at this eclectic spot for drinks and Spanish Tapas. A high-end tequila shot is the check-in ritual.
Del Rey’s bar area is tucked behind a picture-perfect pool area, flanked with thick wooden booths along the walls. Adjacent, in a secluded outdoor patio area, the restaurant sits, warmed by heat lamps and a roaring fireplace, protected by stucco walls. The ambiance is dark and intimate.
My group and I sampled a tableful of exquisite tapas plates, generously portioned. The charcuterie board held artfully spread Spanish meats and cheeses, while the fragrant Gambas al Ajillo (Sautéed Garlic Shrimp) sauce made for tasty dipping. Want some more reasons why it’s one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs?
The Bruselas were a unique take on the ubiquitous Brussels Sprout, savory and sweet with a blend of chorizo, dates, romesco, Manchego, and honey vinaigrette. The Coliflor, or cauliflower, rang acidic and sweet, a mix of crunchy almonds, grapes, and sherry vinegar under a caper raisin glaze.
The Chuleta de Cordero was a highlight: two handsomely placed lamb chops marinated in rosemary & lemon accompanied by reconstructed gazpacho salad in a tomato vinaigrette.
Patatas Bravas, naturally, sat well with the lamb, sautéed fingerling potatoes with roasted garlic aioli, brava sauce, and pimento.
To satisfy the romance in you, you’ll want to make a reservation at Del Rey.
1 Tram Way // +1-760-325-4537
And now, if you want a different approach to taste the best food in Palm Springs, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway 2.5 steep miles up Chino Canyon, the gondola slowly rotating 360 degrees as you rise from the desert floor. Peaks Restaurant is a beauty, sat 4,000 feet straight up from the desert floor on the edge of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
The interior is stunning and recently ranked Number 8 on Architectural Digest’s list of the World’s Best Cliffside Restaurants. Its vintage look blends into the natural surroundings as rock outcroppings and gnarled trees mix with a palette of rock, wood, and glass. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring panoramic views of the skies and of Coachella Valley. Renowned Head Chef John Fritch is at the top of his game here. The menu is elevated American cuisine.
I explored a luscious carpaccio—thin rounds of beef garnished with shaved fennel, capers, wedges of fresh parmesan, and a drizzle of truffle oil with a kick of ancho chili mustard, freshly cracked pepper, and lemon. A cool & crunchy Peaks Wedge Salad was an ideal sidekick, fresh iceberg lettuce cutting the fat.
The Pepper Pork Burger is pure decadence. A full 1/2 pound of Ground Beef topped with Pepper Jack Cheese, Shredded Pork Short Rib, Fried Onions, and Applewood Smoked Bacon.
On the dinner menu, there are the clean flavors of a Free-Range Brick Chicken with Sautéed Spinach and Rosemary Herbed Fingerling Potatoes. Or a sumptuous herb-encrusted Colorado Rack of Lamb Herb with Roasted Heirloom Potatoes, Swiss Chard, in a Rosemary Demi-Glace.
Reservations are highly recommended and I highly recommend this joint as one of the best restaurants in Palm Springs.
Which of these best restaurants in Palm Springs will you try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Tonya Hennessey is a freelance writer and non-profit professional who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, and grew up in the Minneapolis, Minnesota metro area. Early travels awakened her astonishment at the world’s varied cultures, landscapes, and, of course, food. She’s now marrying a passion for travel with love of the written word. Food tops the list of Tonya’s writing interests, with cultural and sustainable travel right behind. Learn more about her work on Instagram and her website.