Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Palm Springs Style
Our expert’s picks for the best restaurants in Palm Springs.
The restaurant scene in Palm Springs is nice and low key. Reservations aren’t especially hard to get and the welcome is warm wherever you go. Here are a few of my favorite Palm Springs restaurants, from sunup to sundown.
How Do You Like Your Breakfast?
This extremely popular spot is buzzing at the break of day when the regulars start streaming in, many with their pampered pups. Koffi has an efficient staff, which moves the crowd along in an officious, yet friendly manner and all are welcome: gay and straight, young and old. There’s a selection of pastries and muffins that are decent, but not as good as they should be, given the type of place this is. But the coffee is superb. The lattes and cappuccinos are made the way they should be.
There’s indoor seating that fills up fast, and a generous and lovely backyard where you can settle in with a newspaper, pals and pets. Cute little sparrows flit around, hoping for a stray crumb. There’s a new branch of Koffi on the other side of town, but for true morning flavor, this is the place.
515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, tel. 760-416-2244. kofficoffee.com
Bit O’Country: Comfy
Whenever we visit Palm Springs, my husband is up before dawn, making calls to his New York office. After he’s got things going and rousts our boys out of bed, they head over to this old-fashioned joint where the welcome is warm and the plates are overflowing. You’ll find Bit O’Country next to a vacant lot, and on the outside of the building is a mural of some sort of cornucopia scene (which doesn’t look like it belongs in Palm Springs, but makes the place easy to find).
Regulars form a steady stream here, too, but while Koffi attracts designer dogs and their gym-ready owners, Bit O’Country is more of a fleece and flannel shirt kind of place. Whether it’s the counter or a booth, the patrons look like they have stories to tell. The oatmeal is as good as oatmeal gets, and the huevos rancheros are a hit every time. My favorite? The biscuits and butter, although most order them with gravy.
418 S. Indian Canyon Drive, tel. 760-325-5154.
What’s for Lunch?
Kaiser Grille: Something for Everyone
Although this place opened in 1998, it has that kind of established feel, with a large interior and lots of outdoor tables that fill up fast when the weather’s fine. (In fact, the first time we had lunch here, my mother mistakenly told me it had been a fixture in Palm Springs since the 1960s!) Kaiser Grille has an accommodating staff and a menu with something to please every taste. I usually don’t favor places that offer too wide a selection, but they do it well. From burgers to nice big salads and soups, it’s in the thick of things and a great spot to watch the world go by.
205 S. Palm Canyon Drive, tel. 760-323-1003. kaisergrille.com
Fisherman’s Market & Grill: Fresh Fish in a Funky Atmosphere
Even though this rustic eatery is hours from the coast, Fisherman’s Market & Grill feels like it’s on the beach. With a few locations in nearby towns, the owners pride themselves on bringing the freshest fish into the area daily. Walk up and order what you like from the blackboard menu, grab a beer from the extensive list, and you can almost smell the sea. We love the fish tacos, and there are lots of varieties available: salmon, langostino, swordfish and more.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating and lots of other choices: grilled fish, soups, salads, fish and chips. Nestled between the two main streets, it’s a little hard to find since it sits in the middle of parking areas. But keep looking until you find it. The prices are reasonable and the fish is as fresh as you’ll find in the middle of the desert.
235 South Indian Canyon Drive. tel. 760-327-1766. fishermans.com
Johannes: Small Space Big on Charm
This luminous, modernist spot is my favorite restaurant in Palm Springs. I won’t pretend to be objective, because given a choice for a pricey meal, I always choose Johannes. It’s small, but not cramped. (You’ve got to love a place that could fit many more tables into the lovely front room, but chooses not to.) There’s room to relax, beautiful paintings and service that’s professional, but not pretentious.
The chef is Austrian, and there are always a few menu choices that reflect his heritage. Wiener Schnitzel is a menu fixture, but the rest is artisanal and inventive. Meats are often from grass-fed animals from small producers. The ingredients are well sourced and often organic. Johannes is one of those restaurants where I want just about everything on the menu. I’d like to mention a few stand-out selections here, but I honestly can’t narrow it down. All in all, it’s a delicious dilemma, especially when you’re there!
196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, tel. 760-778-0017. johannesrestaurants.com
Spencer’s: Frank Sinatra Would Have Fit Right In
I don’t know if Frank Sinatra ever ate here while he lived in nearby Rancho Mirage, but he certainly would have felt right at home. With its sleek bar, shiny wood and rough stone walls, Spencer’s has a sexy, Rat Pack kind of appeal. While it’s pleasant for lunch (the three-course prix fixe lunch for $19.50 is a great bargain and the piano player excels), it takes on a sheen at night, especially when dining outside where trees are lit, outdoor fires glow and stars shine through the leaves.
From the moment the valet whisks your car off, Spencer’s gives you that stylish, old time feel. It’s best for the basics and those are done very well. Great steaks, good fish, delicious desserts and atmosphere to spare.
701 W. Baristo Road, tel. 760-327-3446. spencersrestaurant.com