Palm Springs

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For being so close to one of the country’s largest agricultural valleys, Palm Springs has had a surprisingly terrible dining reputation. The food ranges from just plain old bad to overwrought fine cuisine (like gussied up lobster and filet mignon dishes laden with butter and cream sauces, the last thing you want to munch on in 100-plus-degree desert temps). But signs of a fresh, local, and more casual approach to dining have offered a glimmer of hope, while regional classics like date-shakes, spa salads, and local Mexican cuisine remain safer bets.

Top Restaurants in Palm Springs

Johannes

Long considered the “fanciest” restaurant in town, and somewhat a staple of the empty nest weekender set, Johannes specializes in fussy Austrian nouvelle cuisine like grilled stuffed quail with blueberry sauce, wiener schnitzel with cranberries, lemon and cukes in a sour cream dressing, and beef tenderloin with chive spaetzle. Though the interiors are a bit old school, the creative martini menu, including dirty truffletinis, coconutinis and the diplomat (made with fig essence vodka) is made from a selection of 42+ vodkas and will help you forgive and forget the interior design scheme.

196 South Indian Canyon Dr., CA, 760-778-0017, http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/
Tags: expensive | austrian

Mister Parker's

Hidden in a curtained-off room at the Parker hotel, Mister Parker’s is “a deconstructed formal hangout for fops, flâneurs, and assorted cronies,” according to its website. The Adler-designed space is the male counterpart to the more ladylike interiors found throughout the rest of the resort. Fancy French dishes include filet de Saint Pierre, côte de bœuf, escargot de Bourgeone, but nothing outshines the interiors – a cheeky but elegant bachelor pad strewn with vintage paintings and mid-century chandeliers, capped off with mirror-paneled ceilings.

4200 East Palm Canyon Dr., CA, 888-450-9488, www.misterparkers.com
Tags: expensive | editor pick | smart splurge | french

Native Foods

Vegetarians take note: this small California chain is 100% vegan and offers a variety of native foods and classic dishes with local native twists, like the steamed yam salad served atop greens, steamed veggies, tofu, and caramelized onions, and the Tijuana Tacos made with soymeat and cheese.

1775 E. Palm Canyon Dr., CA, 760-416-0070, www.nativefoods.com
Tags: budget | vegetarian

Norma's

A lot of Palm Springs' food tastes like it crawled through the desert for weeks to get to you, but the cheerful patio brunch at Norma’s (think fresh egg-white frittatas with shrimp and spinach, artichoked benedicts, peanut-butter-and-chocolate waffle ’wiches) is served on the patio in relaxing weekend style, and has become a serious place to see and be gawked at amid the stylish Hollywood set.

Parker Hotel, 4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., CA, 760-770-5000, www.theparkerpalmsprings.com
Tags: moderate | great value | patio

Purple Palm

The Purple Palm, a charming and unfussy new poolside restaurant at the recently reopened Colony Palms Hotel, attempts to turn the bad-desert-food tradition around. Chef James Corwell imported a bunch of culinary school pals to help the cause, and they’ve nailed down a formula, turning out light fare (ideal for the sunburnt, detoxing set) like housemade falafel with big juicy shrimp (a standout), watermelon and king crab salad, open-faced Nicoise sandwiches, and strawberry sorbet with rhubarb consommé, all served poolside with an amazing view of the San Jacinto Mountains in the background.

572 N. Indian Canyon Dr., CA, 760-969-1800, www.colonypalmshotel.com
Tags: expensive | new american

Sherman's Deli and Bakery

Hot pastrami sandwiches, bologna and egg breakfast platters, turkey melts with cottage fries, and cold beet borscht may not be your typical desert cuisine, but Sherman’s Deli, which is more of a “Kosher-style” diner with a terrace, is so tasty and popular that we had to include it. Be sure to sample at least one item from the giant glass pastry case in the entrance: the éclair is worth the caloric splurge.

401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, CA, 760-325-1199, www.shermansdeli.com
Tags: budget | bakery | deli

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