CVIndependent

Fri12062019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Local Restaurants Offer Splendid Summer Specials

The summer giveth to Coachella Valley foodies … and the summer taketh away.

As for the “taketh away” part: This is your annual reminder to call ahead before heading off to your favorite local bar or restaurant … because it may very well be closed. Some places take a couple of weeks off; others take off the whole damn season.

However, an increasing number of places are choosing to stay open throughout the summer, because they recognize that most locals and even a fair number of sun-loving visitors are, in fact, here. Some restaurants offer up amazing deals, too—which leads me to believe that the summer is the best time to be a foodie in the Coachella Valley.

Here are four of the summer deals out there that have caught my eye thus far:

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge (849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) is offering a $29 three-course meal Sundays through Thursdays. I’m partial to Willa Jean’s fried chicken, by the way.

Bernie’s (69830 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage) is offering a $29 three-course menu daily; options include a 7-ounce cut of prime rib, and Wagyu meatloaf.

The Purple Palm Restaurant (in the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) has its three-course “love to the locals” dinner for $39, Sundays through Thursdays. The almond wood-roasted strip steak sounds amazing!

Shame on the Moon (69950 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage) is giving diners three great deals: a three-course dinner (soup or salad, entrée and dessert) for $21; and two different four-course dinner menus (soup or salad, appetizer, entrée and dessert), for either $29 or $38, Sundays through Fridays. Wow!

Visit the restaurants’ Facebook pages and websites for more information—and let me know about other great specials not listed here; if we get enough, we’ll publish a roundup of these suggestions at CVIndependent.com!


Taste of Summer Returns to Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage restaurants are again teaming up to offer up delicious food at a discount—and benefit great causes while doing so.

Here’s how it works: People can buy $10 wristbands, and anyone with those wristbands will be able to enjoy $4 offers at participating restaurants during the promotion periods: July 7-16, Aug. 11-20 and Sept. 8-17. All of the wristband proceeds will go to an impressive list of charities.

Wristbands are available from the charities themselves; at the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce (71905 Highway 111, Suite H); or at the launch party, taking place from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 6, at Pirch, also located at 71905 Highway 111, in Suite H.

RSVP for that launch party, and get a list of participating restaurants and charities, at www.tasteofsummerranchomirage.com.


In Brief

Now open and earning rave reviews: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, at 706 S. Eugene Road, over in the industrial area near Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. The “plant-based kitchen that’s totally bitchin’” is a vegan restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (with expanded hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesday), helmed by Tanya Petrovna, the founder of Native Foods. Visit www.cheftanyapetrovna.com for more info. … After being closed for nine months due to the sudden death of the owner, Willie Boys finally reopened on June 2. The Morongo Valley barbecue joint and music venue, a popular destination for valley denizens, is located at 50048 Twentynine Palms Highway; get updates and information at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon. … The Arrive Hotels empire continues to grow: Chris Pardo and co. christened the Palm Springs Fan Club with a shindig on June 3. What exactly the space, adjacent to Arrive, at 1541 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs? “Palm Springs Fan Club is a cocktail lounge and event space,” according to the Facebook event page for that aforementioned shindig. “Designed with a nod to the iconic wind farms just outside Palm Springs city limits, Palm Springs Fan Club is a playful and unique location for pop-ups, receptions, meetings and weddings.” OK then! In other news, Pardo recently announced an Arrive hotel will be opening in Austin, Texas, in 2019. … Coming soon: Venezia Restaurant and Pizzeria, to the former Spaghetteria/Caffé Italia space at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. While a slightly faded sign on the building inaccurately says to expect an opening in “early 2017,” the restaurant’s Facebook page says the opening date is close enough that the restaurant is now hiring. Visit www.facebook.com/veneziapalmsprings for more info. … Just in time for the scorching temps: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, at 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is open for business. Get info at www.facebook.com/vinnysitalianiceandfrozencustard. … Popular La Quinta poke joint Pokehana, at 78742 Highway 111, is opening a second location in Palm Desert this summer—and we’re hearing rumors that yet another Pokehana could come to the valley by the end of the year. Watch www.pokehana.com for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: Chop House at Jackalope Ranch

I must confess: Before I walked into the new Chop House for a media preview dinner on Jan. 31, I thought the move by Lee Morcus and his Kaiser Restaurant Group to re-open the steakhouse inside of Jackalope Ranch was a gimmick.

I am a big fan of the Chop House. If memory serves, the first meal I ever ate in the Coachella Valley was at the old Palm Desert Chop House (which is now a Kaiser Grille), and I had many special meals at the downtown Palm Springs Chop House before it closed last year. I was sad to see the Chop House go, and I feared Morcus and co. were simply taking a room inside the sprawling, 660-seat Jackalope Ranch; calling it “Chop House”; throwing some old Chop House items on the menu; and calling it a day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only did Morcus revamp and bring back the full Chop House menu; he completely renovated one of the spaces inside the Jackalope Ranch complex, and created a new, dedicated kitchen specifically for the Chop House. He’s treating the restaurants as separate entities: A special occasion here or there aside, diners can only get the Chop House menu in the Chop House area, and can only get the Jackalope Ranch menu in the other areas.

I liked what I saw and tasted. The ahi tuna tartare ($16) was amazingly fresh, and the heirloom tomato and buratta salad ($12) was excellent. Unfortunately, I had to leave early due to other commitments, so I didn’t get to sample any of the main courses, like the 36-ounce Tomahawk rib chop for two ($98, with two sides).

Morcus is clearly taking the new Chop House seriously. He spoke at great length about all of the work he and his team have put into the new space, and talked passionately about the quality of meat he serves—aged at least 28 days, and never pre-sliced.

He also hinted at future plans for the Jackalope Ranch complex: He mentioned the possibility of a separate microbrewery/restaurant concept taking over a third kitchen in the building, and noted that Indio could perhaps use a hotel on some of the adjacent vacant land.

The Chop House at Jackalope Ranch is located at 80400 Highway 111, in Indio. For more information, call 760-342-1999, or visit www.thejackaloperanch.com/chop-house.


In Brief

Do you have your tickets yet for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival? If not, now is the time: The foodie-dream weekend takes place Friday, March 24, through Sunday, March 26. Chefs’ demonstrations, wine dinners and other special events are on the schedule, along with the Grand Tasting main event. Grand Tasting tickets start at $100. Get them and more info at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … If you have not yet tried the new menu at the Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, do so. PR goddess Chris Martelo invited me to lunch there one recent weekday, and I was impressed by chef George Gonzalez’s food. The menu offers entrées from locales world-round, and my mouth now waters whenever I think of the fantastic gorgonzola, chicken and pear salad. Mere bar food, this ain’t. Visit palmspringsvillagepub.com for more info. … The downtown Palm Springs Pho Vu is no more. The restaurant, at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has changed ownership and is now called Fuzion Five Vietnamese and Lao Cuisine. We’ll share more details after we check the place out; in the meantime, visit www.facebook.com/fuzionfive. … Congratulations to La Quinta Brewing Co., which nabbed two medals in the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore.: a gold for the Heatwave Amber Ale, and a silver for the Tan Line Brown Ale. … Congratulations are also in order for two beloved local restaurants which are among Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2017: Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar came in at No. 78, while Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli is No. 5. Amazing! … Happy Sushi Ro Ba Ta, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has seen a change in focus in recent years—and now, it has a different name, too. Kaikou highlights ramen and poke in addition to sushi offerings; more info at www.facebook.com/KaikouRamenPokeSushi. ... Speaking of sushi: You can now get more of it in Desert Hot Springs, thanks to the debut of Best Sushi and Grill. It’s located at 13525 Palm Drive, No. 3. Visit www.bestsushigrill.com for a menu and more info. … At long last, the relocated Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club is open, at 69830 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. More info at bernies.club. … After closing rather suddenly back in September due to the death of the owner, Morongo Valley’s Willie Boys appears to be on the path toward reopening: The restaurant’s Facebook page says the restaurant is hiring for all positions. More info at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

BEVMO! Opens in Downtown Palm Springs—but I'm Still Going to Total Wine for the Better Prices

Fans of booze and spirits who reside in the western portion of the Coachella Valley got good news in November, when BevMo! opened at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, in part of the building that formerly housed The Alley.

This is the second valley location for BevMo! The other is located at 79715 Highway 111, in La Quinta.

I reside in Palm Springs, within walking distance of the new BevMo!, and I was looking forward to no longer having to drive to the Total Wine and More at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert when I needed to stock my personal bar.

Then I tried to get a bottle of my go-to bourbon at the Palm Springs BevMo!—and found it was about three bucks more expensive than it is at the lovely Palm Desert Total Wine.

Hmm. That made me wonder: Which of these two mega-booze chains have better prices? Might it still be financially prudent for those of us in Palm Springs and La Quinta (and beyond) to head to Total Wine?

I decided to do a little experiment. I checked the prices at each place of eight spirits and two wines that I happen to have at home: Maker’s Mark bourbon (750 milliliters); Evan Williams bourbon (750 ml); Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin (1.75 liters); Tanqueray gin (750 ml); Herradura reposado tequila (750 ml); Don Julio blanco tequila (750 ml); Fireball (don’t ask why I have it; 750 ml); Ketel One (750 ml); Bogle Vineyards merlot; and Toasted Head cabernet sauvignon.

The verdict? I’m still going to be making the drive to Palm Desert.

The tally (before taxes) for the nine items both BevMo! and Total Wine had—BevMo! does not stock the Toasted Head cabernet, according to the website—came to $179.39 at Total Wine, while it came to $204.91 at BevMo! That’s a substantial difference of $25.52, or more than 14 percent.

Total Wine’s prices are basically lower across the board: Eight of the nine items were between $1 and $5 cheaper at Total Wine. There was one tie: The Herradura reposado was $38.99 at both places.

Check the prices on your own favorite liquors at www.totalwine.com and www.bevmo.com.


Cello's Bistro Closed; Cello's Pantry, Catering Remain Open

Cello’s Bistro, a cute restaurant with yummy food at 35943 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, is no more.

The owners announced the news in an email on Nov. 8.

“After seven seasons, we have decided to close the restaurant,” the email said. “This was not an easy decision, but every year when we are off during the summer, we ask ourselves the same question: ‘Do we want to open the restaurant this season?’ Unfortunately, the answer this year was no. We want to thank all of our lovely and gracious guests who were so supportive to us over the years.”

The owners will now focus on Cello’s bustling catering business, as well as serving grab-and-go meals at Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Customers can get breakfast at Cello’s Pantry on the weekends, too.

For more information, call 760-328-4200, or visit www.cellospantry.com.


In Brief

Gelson’s Market, at 36101 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, is offering several free wine-tastings this coming weekend! Stop in between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, to try Catena malbec and Fat Bastard chardonnay, and/or Saturday, Dec. 3, between 2 and 5 p.m. for three different Donati wines. Again, tastings are free—and everyone who attends will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 gift card. Call 760-770-0010 for more information. … Mark your calendars: Draughtsman, the “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” from the team behind the Arrive hotel, will mark its for-real grand opening on Monday, Dec. 5. The venue is located at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; get more details draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The long-delayed and much-anticipated reopening of Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club at 69830 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage is close enough that management held a job fair just before Thanksgiving. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening around Christmas. Ironically, it was on Christmas day in 2014 when a fire doomed Bernie’s at its old location at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Watch for updates at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans. … More good news: Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria and Restaurant, at 12856 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs, finally reopened in November. Some folks (myself included) feared Rocky’s was gone for good after a “summer closure” drifted well into the fall—especially since the building that houses Rocky’s was at one point gutted. Peruse the menu at www.rockyspizzadhs.com. … Rubio’s, a chain known for its fish tacos and other “coastal” fare, will open another valley location on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 73399 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. … Coming soon to the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs: Blaze Pizza. The first valley location of the chain can be found in Palm Desert, just down from that new Rubio’s. … I was startled to see the building that houses beloved Palm Springs Italian restaurant Johnny Costa’s, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, listed for lease on a commercial real estate website. Turns out Johnny Costa’s is slated to move sometime in the new year to 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, the same building the aforementioned new BevMo! calls home. … Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, is celebrating its 21st birthday with a new menu. Find details at www.palmspringsvillagepub.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

A round of applause, please, for all of the small-business owners out there.

The unfortunate struggles of small-business owners are at the center of at least two of our recent stories. The piece that serves as the cover story in our March print edition discloses some terrible news: At the end of March, Schmidy’s Tavern—a Palm Desert bar and restaurant that has been a haven for local musicians and craft-beer lovers—will close, barring some sort of miracle. Owner Dennis Ford told Brian Blueskye the main reason for the closure is the fact that Schmidy’s landlord, Realty Trust Group, wants to raise the rent 112 percent.

“I can’t sell enough beer to justify a 112 percent rent increase,” Ford said, explaining that when be bought Schmidy’s, the lease he inherited was a relic of the Great Recession—and now that the economy is better, his landlords think they can jack up the rent.

Improving economies giveth, and improving economies taketh away.

Government red tape can also cause small businesses problems. For such an example, turn to our newest Restaurant News Bites column, which explains the move of Bernie’s Supper Club—which burned down on Christmas Day 2014—from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage.

For the better part of a year, the owners of Bernie’s tried to get construction going on a new building in the same location as the original Bernie’s, on East Palm Canyon drive just south of downtown. However, due in part to problems with city government, the owners finally gave up—and headed southeast to Rancho Mirage, moving to an existing building on Highway 111. Keep your fingers crossed for a late-spring opening.

It’s a proven fact that the more people spend at local businesses, the better it is for the local economy. Multiple studies and analyses have proven that far more money stays in town when said money is spent at a locally owned business instead of a chain or big-box store. While exact numbers vary from study to story, around 68 cents per dollar spent at an independent business stays locally—whereas only 48 cents stays in town when spent at a chain.

The message in all of this: Support and savor local businesses. You never know when a money-hungry landlord or an electrical fire will take away your favorite business—and you’re making the whole local economy better when you spend your hard-earned dollars at an independent business as opposed to a chain.

Thanks, as always, for reading. By the way, the March 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent is now on newsstands valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

Bernie's Supper Club Gives Up on Palm Springs and Heads for Rancho Mirage

When we last checked in with the good folks at Bernie’s Supper Club, back in July of last year, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before reconstruction began at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—the site where the restaurant more or less burned to the ground on Christmas Day of 2014. The Palm Springs Planning Commission had approved plans, and it seemed like full steam ahead.

“The owners hope the brand-new building will be completed by this December,” we wrote.

Well, that did not happen—and it turns out that a Palm Springs rebirth of Bernie’s is not happening at all.

Co-owners Geoff McIntosh and Rand Howell announced in February via Facebook that they had closed escrow on the building at 69830 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, that was once a Marie Callender’s and was most recently Dhat Island.

What happened to the Palm Springs plans? McIntosh did not return a message left for him before our press deadline, but comments left on the Bernie’s Facebook page indicate that Palm Springs red tape eventually strangled the plans to death—whereas the city of Rancho Mirage was more than happy to welcome the restaurant into an existing building.

According to the Facebook page, McIntosh and Howell hope to have the much-larger Bernie’s open sometime in May. That seems overly optimistic to us here at Independent World Headquarters, but we hope we’re wrong.

Follow the progress at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans.


Save the Date: Palm Desert Food and Wine Fest Slated for April 8-10

Foodies, listen up and mark your calendars: The annual Palm Desert Food and Wine festival will take place Friday, April 8, through Sunday, April 10.

This year’s events include the James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon on Friday, featuring food from renowned chefs including former Iron Chef Cat Cora, as well as drink from Wine Australia ($125 to $150). The usual grand tastings ($100; $135 for VIP) with treats from more than 40 restaurants—as well as all sorts of wine and champagne—will take place on and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

This year’s festival location is new: The goings-on have moved just a smidge down El Paseo, to the parking facility for the Gardens on El Paseo, located at 73545 El Paseo.

Get tickets, info and other forms of foodie enlightenment at palmdesertfoodandwine.com.


In Brief

A note to all of you Fatburger fans, like me, who were crushed when the Ramon Road location in Palm Springs closed several years ago: The Palm Desert Fatburger is finally open! Find it at 72261 Highway 111, right next to wing-joint Buffalo’s Café (a new concept from the owners of Fatburger). If you have problems finding it, you’re not alone: When last I drove by, I saw no signage on Highway 111 whatsoever. The restaurants can be found on the back side of the complex; enter the parking lot off of Fred Waring Drive across from the Desert Crossing shopping center. … If you have not heard already, we bring you sad news from Cathedral City: The much-loved El Gallito, located at 68820 Grove St., is closing this spring after almost four decades in business. Call 760-328-7794 for details. … We’ve mentioned the possible, maybe, hopefully impending opening of WTF and Buzz Bar, in the old Dink’s space at 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive, a couple of times in recent months. Well, forget what we’ve said: It ain’t happening. A for-lease sign is back in front of the building. What went wrong? While we have heard various rumors, all we know for sure is the deal that would have placed WTF in the space fell through, and that money was involved. Sigh. … The Pet Rescue Center’s 18th Annual Western Barbecue Birthday Party will take place at J&J Ranch, 58300 Almonte Drive, in La Quinta, from 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday, March 13. Enjoy food, wine, music, a silent auction—you know, the usual stuff at a benefit for a great cause. Tickets are $90; call 760-398-7722, or visit coachellapetrescuecenter.org. … Can you believe Lulu California Bistro, at 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has never hosted a wine dinner in its almost five years of existence? Fact. That will change on Wednesday, March 9, when the iconic restaurant joins forces with Cakebread Cellars for a six-course, wine-paired feast. It’ll cost you $99.99; reservations are a must, so call Lulu at 760-327-5858 posthaste!

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When the Summer Closure Becomes a Permanent Closure

I may have been one of Margaritas’ final customers.

We decided to go the restaurant, located at Avenida Caballeros and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, for dinner on Sunday, June 28. We couldn’t decide what we wanted, and since Margaritas offered a decidedly unusual mix of Mexican fare and sushi, with a little Italian thrown in to boot, it was a logical choice.

When our server told us the restaurant was closing that day for the summer, with a planned reopening on Oct. 1, I thought: Oh, no. Here we go again.

It’s a Coachella Valley tradition: A popular restaurant suddenly announces it is closing for the summer, never to open its doors again. Last summer alone, this happened at three of my fave restaurants—Figue in La Quinta, and Jiao and Hamburger Mary’s in Palm Springs.

This is not to say that all restaurants that close for the summer are doomed. In fact, some of the area’s most popular, established joints make summer closures a habit. But when a “summer closure” seemingly comes out of the blue, as it did at Margaritas, one can’t help but wonder.

Well, guess what? There are now signs outside of Margaritas saying the building is for sale. (A message left on the Maragaritas Facebook page for clarification had not been returned as of our press deadline.)

Another victim of the permanent summer closure: Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge. At least we saw this one coming: The popular joint, which specialized in Southern fare, closed “for the summer” rather suddenly on Sunday, May 17 (leaving several events which had been planned at the restaurant in the figurative lurch). The co-owner, Pat Daltroff, told us at the time that it was possible the restaurant might not re-open at the current location, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, if needed repairs to the building became too expensive and onerous.

Sure enough, Daltroff announced on July 15 via Facebook that Twin Palms was finished in its current incarnation. He said he was hard at work finding a new spot and wants to reopen as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we’re not exactly sure what’s going on at Plate | Glass, located at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. A July 9 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page said the restaurant was taking a summer break, and would be back in October.

However, the plot thickened when a member of the popular P.S. Rant and Rave Facebook group peeked inside a week or so later, and discovered the restaurant—which focused on craft cocktails, small plates and desserts—had been cleared out.

While various members of the Facebook group were declaring Plate | Glass to be dead and gone, I checked in with the folks at O’Bayley Communications, who have been handling PR for Plate | Glass, to see what was up.

The not-so-helpful response I received: “We’ll have an announcement about the re-opening of Plate | Glass sometime in August.”

Slightly more helpful were some comments Plate | Glass co-owner Larry Abel made on the P.S. Rant and Rave Facebook post, in which he insisted the restaurant would indeed reopen in October.

What does all this mean? We’re guessing there’s going to be some sort of concept change, which will be announced in August.

So … stay tuned. Meanwhile, let us know if you suspect any other restaurants may be in the midst of a permanent “summer closure.”

In Brief

Michael’s Pizzeria, located at 71800 Highway 111, at The River in Rancho Mirage, is no more. Michael’s other two locations, both in Long Beach, remain open. … Also no more: Rose and Buster’s, the Yucca Valley wine bar, closed in late June. However, the place’s Facebook page hints at a possible reopening. … Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli is now open at 2781 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The place does not look like much from the outside, but we’ve been hearing great things about the sandwiches inside. More info at www.facebook.com/larrysdeli … The Palm Springs Planning Commission has given a thumbs-up to plans for the new Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, located at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The restaurant burned to the ground, more or less, on Christmas day last year, and the owners hope the brand-new building will be completed by this December. See the plans and get more information at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans. ... No opening date has been announced for Eight4Nine, the much-anticipated restaurant owned by Willie Rhine (of Lulu California Bistro) and John Paschal, located at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. However, art is being installed inside, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page, so expect an announcement soon.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Closed: 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

The busy season is over—and that means this is the time of year when some restaurants on the edge financially will decide to close up shop rather than brave another Coachella Valley summer.

One of the first casualties of the (unofficial) summer of 2015: the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, which was located at 73101 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. It closed on Sunday, April 19.

In a news release, owner Ed Moore blamed the seasonality of business in the Coachella Valley for his decision to close the Palm Desert 3rd Corner, which opened in June 2010.

“Unlike our other two very successful restaurants in Ocean Beach and Encinitas, our Palm Desert location is a highly seasonal location which does very well in the winter and early spring, but struggles, like many restaurants in the Coachella Valley, during the summer and fall,” Moore said. “The seasonality of the market coupled with the fact that our restaurant lease is expiring has prompted us to close down our Palm Desert location.”

The aforementioned Ocean Beach and Encinitas locations of 3rd Corner remain open. For more information, visit www.the3rdcorner.com.

New: Rooster and the Pig

Rooster and the Pig, a “Vietnamese American Beer Bar” located in the old Café Scandia space at 356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now open.

We didn’t get a chance to check out the place in person before our press deadline, but the menu posted on the restaurant’s website offers some intriguing Vietnamese-themed fare, including tumeric chicken, mushrooms and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) over forbidden rice; a banh mi burger; and sweet-and-sour vegetable soup with pineapple, tomato, cilantro and sprouts. These yummy treats come courtesy of chef Tai Spendley, whose influences are listed on the website as “French technique, Asian heritage and bi-coastal gallivanting.”

The website also includes this tidbit: “The Rooster, of course, wants to be in charge, and that suits the hard working, No. 2-preferring Pig just fine. The practical-minded Rooster has clear and detailed vision, and the Pig gleefully helps carry out the Rooster’s plans.”

We don’t know what that means, but we find it utterly fascinating.

Learn more by calling 760-832-6691, or visit www.roosterandthepig.com.

In Brief

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week is here—or at least it is as of Friday, May 29. The annual celebration of all things food and drink in the Coachella Valley runs through Sunday, June 7; during that time, participating restaurants will be offering three-course prix-fixe menus for either $26 or $38. Watch www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com for a list of participating restaurants, menus and more. … Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. The granddaddy of local craft brewers celebrated its 13th anniversary in April. … The folks at Bart Lounge, the bar and art gallery located at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. F-124, in Cathedral City, tell us the much-anticipated joint will be opening its doors on Friday, May 1. A big name will be present, in a way, for the bar’s opening month: The art of film great Tim Burton is on display. Get details at www.facebook.com/bartlounge. ... In other bar news: The space that once housed Clinic and, briefly, Hester, at 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now home to Tryst. It shares ownership and management with Score, a bar just around the corner on Arenas Road. Get more details at www.facebook.com/pages/Tryst-Bar-and-Lounge/867474949983973. ... Congrats to Johannes Restaurant, located at 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—for my money, one of the top restaurants in Palm Springs. Mimi Sheraton, a former restaurant critic for The New York Times, included Johannes Bacher’s schnitzel in her book 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. … Update: The demolition of the building that was home to Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, finally took place in April. The building was destroyed by a Christmas Day 2014 fire; keep your fingers crossed for a late-fall opening of Bernie’s 2.0 in a brand-new building at the same location. … The Steakhouse at the Spa Resort Casino, located at 401 E. Amado Road in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Kieran Fleming. He’s a veteran of Hyatt properties in San Diego and Indian Wells, and spent five years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Out of the Ashes: Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club Begins Rebuilding Process

At Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, it was supposed to be a Christmas day to celebrate. The year-old restaurant, located at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, had dinner reservations for 170 people on the books.

However, on the morning of Dec. 25, while a couple of employees began preparing in the kitchen for the busy night, something went terribly wrong: An electrical fire began in the ceiling over the dining room.

Within a couple hours, the restaurant had burned to the ground. Bernie’s owners Rand Howell and Geoff McIntosh, while in shock, scrambled to find new reservations for their customers, and new jobs for their employees.

The only saving grace: The two employees made it out of the building unharmed.

“Initially, it was very devastating,” McIntosh said.

One month later, the feelings of devastation have largely faded, McIntosh said, and the owners are now working on the rebuilding process. There’s also another silver lining in the dark cloud.

“Everybody who wanted a job was able to find one within two to three weeks,” McIntosh said, praising his fellow local restaurateurs who stepped in to help his staffers.

At first, McIntosh and Howell looked into reopening Bernie’s in an existing building at another location. However, those plans fell through.

“We just couldn’t put it together,” he said.

McIntosh and Howell are now planning on rebuilding Bernie’s in the same location, which they own, he said. There’s another, smaller building on their property that they may demolish to build a new Bernie’s that’s bigger and better than ever.

“We had outgrown our space by the second month we were open,” McIntosh laughed.

McIntosh said the current plan is to expand both the lounge and dining areas just a bit. The biggest changes, though, will involve improving the traffic flow by widening aisles and fixing the fact that in the old building, there was only one, hard-to-access door in and out of the kitchen—which led to constant traffic jams.

When can customers expect the new Bernie’s to rise from the ashes? McIntosh said that optimistic estimates say the new building’s doors could open within seven or eight months, but he thinks a year is more realistic.

“All the layers of government approval we’ll need will take two to three months, probably, by themselves,” he said.

McIntosh praised the restaurant’s insurance company, Farmers Insurance, for moving quickly thus far. In fact, the business-interruption insurance is paying key management employees to stay on while the restaurant is rebuilt, McIntosh said.

Keep your fingers crossed for the good people at Bernie’s. Follow the rebuilding progress, and get updates on former Bernie’s employees, at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans.

In Brief

Bontá Restaurant and Bar is now open and serving modern European and Latin fare at 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, in the spot formerly occupied by Picanha Churrascaria. More info at bontarestaurant.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill opened in January at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, near World Gym in Palm Springs. The restaurant’s website promises “one of a kind, authentic Mexican cuisine” that is “made with the freshest ingredients possible.” Visit that website, mylococharlies.com, for more info. … King’s Highway, the diner at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, launched all-new, expanded menus in mid-January. The restaurant is following in the footsteps of the Ace Hotel L.A., which recently revamped its restaurant with the help of the folks behind Five Leaves in Brooklyn, N.Y.—meaning Five Leaves influences can be found on the Palm Springs menus, too. Highlights include the avocado toast for breakfast, and the Five Leaves burger (including grilled pineapple, pickled beets and a sunny-side-up egg) for lunch and dinner. … Want to get out of the house to enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22? Trio Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is hosting its annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party, to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program. Get tickets, starting at $125, at aidsassistance.org. If you’re closer to Indian Wells, consider the Red Carpet Oscar Party at Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive. Tickets are $85, and the event benefits Variety—The Children's Charity of the Desert. Call 760-345-9770 to reserve. … Congrats to Shanghai Reds, the popular back-area bar and restaurant at Palm Springs’ Fisherman’s Market and Grill, located at 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, for completing an expansion of the patio. There’s now more seating and a better music stage. ... If you haven’t heard already: The Asian-cuisine scene of the Coachella Valley is now worse off due to the apparent closing of Jiao, the Foundation 10-owned restaurant that was located at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

A Bad Month for The River: Acqua Pazza, Tulip Hill Winery Close Their Doors

To say December was a terrible month for food and drink at The River—the Rancho Mirage shopping center, located at 71800 Highway 111, described as “the premier destination for food, fashion and fun” on its website—is a bit of an understatement.

First came the closure of Acqua Pazza, one of The River’s anchor restaurants, on Sunday, Dec. 14. Then two weeks later, on Dec. 28, Tulip Hill—the only winery that made the Coachella Valley its home base—was slated to close its doors.

It’s been rumored for months that Jerry and Barbara Keller, the owners of Acqua Pazza, were looking to sell the decade-old restaurant to focus solely on their popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs. According to that same rumor mill, a sale of the restaurant fell through at the last minute, leading to the restaurant’s shuttering as the lease expired at The River, a shopping center which business owners say has been suffering from a decline in traffic in recent years.

“It’s been a great 10 years, but all good things come to an end,” said a notice posted on the Acqua Pazza website. “It is with sad feelings that we thank all our wonderful friends, customers and especially our magnificent staff who made Acqua Pazza such a lovely place to dine. We will miss everyone. We will now be able to put all our efforts into Lulu—already one of the valley’s most successful restaurants. Lulu’s continuing growth, including a substantial catering business, is an exciting full-time job for all of us!”

Over at Tulip Hill Winery, owner Kristi Brown placed blame for the closure squarely on the decline of The River. Tulip Hill had called The River home since December 2002.

“For the past several years, Tulip Hill has struggled in overcoming the declining traffic at The River in Rancho Mirage, as businesses have closed, and the tenant retail spaces have remained empty without being replaced by new businesses,” she said in a letter posted on the Tulip Hill website. “Tulip Hill has continued operating despite these head winds, but today, I am writing to let you know that … Tulip Hill Winery will be permanently closing the doors of our retail tasting room and gift shop at The River at Rancho Mirage.”

Of course, not all is bleak at The River; the shopping center remains the home of some of the valley’s most popular chain joints, including P.F. Chang’s, Yard House, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and the mysteriously perpetually busy Cheesecake Factory. Some local joints worth noting remain at The River as well, most notably the popular-as-ever Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse. Still, it’s heartbreaking to see two much-loved local businesses close their doors—especially during the holiday season.

So long, Acqua Pazza and Tulip Hill. You’ll be missed.

In Brief

Our sincere sympathies go out to the folks at Bernie's Lounge and Supper Club. The restaurant, at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was gutted by a fire on Christmas morning. Fingers crossed for a quick rebuild. ... A new sushi joint has come to Cathedral City. Hamachi Sushi recently opened its doors at 31855 Date Palm Drive, in the shopping center anchored by Cardenas and CVS. A sign on the door—posted right above a liquor-application notice—promises “the best fusion sushi, teriyaki and tempura. Muy pronto esperalo.” … The Real Italian Deli, which has delighted customers in Palm Desert for a year or so now, has opened a second location in Palm Springs, at the intersection of Sunrise and Tahquitz Canyon ways … Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a fast-casual barbecue chain that serves up pretty darned good ’que, will be opening at the intersection of Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs sometime this month. The folks at Dickey’s have been whetting locals’ appetites for several months now by making appearances at events, including the Desert AIDS Walk back in mid-October. Follow www.facebook.com/DickeysPalmSprings for updates and more information. ... Chill, the upscale bar going into the old Rainbow Bar and Grill space at 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, should also be opening any day now. Watch www.facebook.com/chillpalmsprings for news. … Yet another opening to talk about: Dish Creative Cuisine will soon be opening at its new location at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive. However, a new restaurant has already set up shop in Dish’s former home, at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City: Mike’s American Bistro. Learn more at www.facebook.com/mikesamericanbistro.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Crave Dessert Restaurant Re-Opening in New Digs

Crave, which its owners tout as Palm Springs’ first dessert restaurant, is reopening in a bigger space at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18.

The restaurant—which opened in 2011 at 390 N. Palm Canyon Drive—has a new home at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 200. The new spot is on the second story and features two patios. Customers will now be able to enjoy tasty dessert treats, coffee, beer and wine while overlooking the goings-on at the Amado Road intersection.

Crave does not only have new digs; it also has some new owners: Original owner Davy Aker has been joined by Raymond McCallister and Larry Abel, co-owners of businesses including Abel McCallister Designs and the Party Lab.

Crave will be open Wednesday through Sunday. Watch www.craveps.com for more info.

Fantasy Springs Launches Cupcake Challenge

Cupcakes for a good cause—has there ever been a sweeter clause?

Forgive the bad poetry (or whatever the heck that was); we’re excited about the second annual Fantasy Cupcake Challenge, taking place from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio.

Here’s how it works: Pros and non-pros alike can enter (by Sunday, Oct. 20) for prizes up to $750. Entrants then bake up a whole bunch of cupcakes (including four full-size entries and at least 300 tastes) and bring them in. The general public is invited to enjoy those tastes—tickets are $30, or $10 for kids age 3 to 11—and vote for their favorites while perusing a silent auction and enjoying live music.

Best of all: Proceeds go to Well in the Desert. In that spirit, anyone bringing three canned/nonperishable goods to the box office on the day of the event gets $5 off admission.

Yum. And yay!

Get more details at www.fantasyspringsresort.com/cupcakes.

Purple Room Update: Opening Planned for Oct. 24

More details have emerged about the revival of the Purple Room at Club Trinidad.

As we’ve previously reported, TRIO owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen have taken over management of the space at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, which has had a controversial year. Well, we now have an opening date: Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m.

The supper club and lounge will offer live music booked by Gary and Joan Gand, of the Gand Band, and will feature food service until midnight Tuesday through Thursday, as well as Sunday—with service going until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

“Our Continental menu will have a mix of everything,” Van Laanen said in a news release. “From deviled eggs and Sloppy Joe sliders to fresh seafood and steaks, we’ll have delicious options for every palate.”

Get more details at purpleroompalmsprings.com.

In Brief

The Miramonte Resort and Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, is launching a series of wine events for the season. “Le Serate di Vino” events will feature wines complemented with the food of executive chef Robert Nyerick; the first event, on Friday, Oct. 25, will be the Oyster Bay progressive wine dinner, with five New Zealand wines paired with hors d’oeuvres, three savory courses and dessert, all for $75. Call 760-341-7200 for reservations or more info. … Dragon Sushi, in the 68300 block of East Palm Canyon in Cathedral City, is now open. As reported in this space before, it’s the sister restaurant of the much-loved Dragon Sushi in Indio. … Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta, 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, held a Make My Pizza Challenge contest last month. Almost 200 folks entered, and the finalists were vetted on Sept. 19. The winning pizza: Christopher Giusto’s eggplant Parmesan pizza, featuring red sauce, breaded eggplant medallions, roast garlic, basil and ricotta cheese (pictured above). That’s not the only news from the Funkey family, which owns Giuseppe’s (as well as Bar in downtown Palm Springs): Next to Giuseppe’s is their soon-to-open Smoke Tree Supper Club. Watch for further details. … Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, featuring food by chef Jason Moffitt, will be opening soon at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. … Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign went live with this pitch: “My name is Kelly McFall. With the help of my brother Kreg and my mother Jan, we are opening a restaurant in the El Paseo shopping district of Palm Desert." It went on: "Wilma and Frieda’s Cafe will be a full service breakfast and lunch farmhouse cafe with an urban twist.” The needed $50,000 was raised, and now the café, at 73575 El Paseo Drive, is open; details at www.wilmafrieda.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News