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Mon12102018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bongo Johnny’s Moving Into Former Café Europa Space; Antigua Opens in Former Gyoro-Gyoro Spot

When it comes to some restaurant spaces in downtown Palm Springs, the only constant is change.

Witness the second-floor space at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, across from the Hyatt. In recent years, it’s housed both Crave and Plate | Glass; about two years ago, restaurateur Mike Stoltz moved his popular Café Europa in there during the daytime, and introduced a bar/small-plates concept, jusTapas, for the nighttime.

The move turned out to be a mistake, it seems: Café Europa/jusTapas recently closed its doors. However, the space will not be vacant for long: Bongo Johnny’s, the Arenas Road mainstay which has been closed since a fire destroyed its kitchen back in March, is moving in, and could be open by January. Owner Robb Wirt had originally planned to remain in the space at 214 E. Arenas Road, but abandoned those plans, he says, due to a lack of responsiveness from his landlord.

Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, Antigua Kitchen and Bar has opened at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in the spot most recently occupied by Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise. It’s a new venture by the owners of L’Olivo Palm Springs—an Italian restaurant that’s called 333 N. Palm Canyon Drive home for years—offering “quality American dishes, with locally sourced ingredients and a casual desert dining vibe.” A recent visit revealed tasty food, a décor largely unchanged from Gyoro-Gyoro, and a bar only serving beer, wine and low-alcohol cocktails, since a full liquor license had not yet been obtained.

Oh, and adjacent to Antigua—in the space occupied for years by Starbucks before it moved into new, fancier digs across the street—El Patron Taqueria and Bar is supposed to be coming soon.

Got all that?

All of these changes and moves, naturally, lead to some questions about whether these restaurants can succeed where others have failed. I have no idea what will happen with El Patron—although I am discouraged by the fact that a sign has been up for weeks encouraging people to follow the restaurant’s progress on Instagram and Facebook pages that don’t seem to yet exist—but I am cautiously optimistic about the chances for Antigua and Bongo Johnny’s.

As for Antigua: Gyoro-Gyoro, despite a fantastic location, seemed to be poorly managed throughout its run—including an embarrassing and lengthy closure by the health department. Given the location, and the fact that the owners have a proven track record with L’Olivo, Antigua seems primed for success.

As for Bongo Johnny’s … I do have some concerns. The restaurant had a good, long run on Arenas, but it really flourished when Wirt deftly expanded the hours until 3 a.m. on weekends—taking advantage of its location in the midst of bars and clubs—and started offering delivery. Will he be able to duplicate that success in a location that’s blocks away from all those clubs? I am concerned … but optimistic.

Stay tuned.


In Brief

The Shop Café, the family-owned restaurant located at the Aqua Soleil Hotel at 14500 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs, has closed. Management announced the closure on the restaurant’s social media on Nov. 19, but said the family would continue to offer catering services. … New to Palm Desert: Trattoria Mezzomondo, at 73850 Highway 111. Owner Elio Cavallari formerly owned Mezzomondo in Studio City; he closed it, moved to Palm Desert and opened the new place. Get details at mezzomondopd.com. … New to Palm Springs: Taka Shin Japanese Cuisine, at 641 N. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not yet been able to visit this authentic sushi joint ourselves, but our friend Miho Suma, the incredible owner of Shabu Shabu Zen, raves about the place—a worthy endorsement indeed. Call 760-600-5806 for more details. … New to Cathedral City: The Desert Queen, a café serving Southern fare at 35400 Date Palm Drive. All three meals are offered at this cute little place, and we can’t wait to try the homemade meatloaf, as well as the fried chicken … with cornbread! More info at thedesertqueen1.com. … New to La Quinta: The Roblero Pit, serving up “Santa Maria-style” barbecue, Napa Valley dishes and other fare at 79410 Highway 111. View the menu and get details at www.robleropit.com. … And now for something completely different: The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort, at 74855 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert, has opened T&T Innovation Kitchen. From a news release: “Dishes change daily, inspired by both time and temperature, encouraging the team to get creative with everything from their produce choices to their preparation process. Furthermore, there’s an unconventional entrance through the restaurant that takes guests through the massive resort kitchen and in through the back of the restaurant—a nod to the anticipation and mystery of speakeasy restaurants.” T&T offers five-course dinners every Friday and Saturday; learn more at www.facebook.com/timeandtemp.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Café Europa Moving to Former Plate | Glass Space, Adding a Tapas Concept

The gorgeous second-story spot at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs has gained a reputation as being jinxed, because the list of recent restaurants that have unsuccessfully made a go of it there is rather lengthy.

Plate | Glass. Crave. The Kickstand. All are gone.

However, this dubious record does not scare Michael Stoltz, the owner of Café Europa: Stoltz has temporarily closed his popular breakfast and lunch joint, which was at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, to move down the street into that gorgeous second-story spot. The target reopening date is Oct. 1.

“We outgrew the space,” Stoltz said about the old Café Europa digs. “People were also asking when we were going to open up an evening place.”

The space at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive addresses both of those dilemmas: It has twice the amount of seating as the old spot, and a kitchen that’s about three times the size. Beyond that growth, fans of Café Europa have nothing to worry about: Stoltz promised that he “is not touching” the menu of Café Europa.

As for that evening place: Stoltz said Café Europa will share the space with a new concept, Jus’ Tapas, which will offer tasty small plates and a full bar during the evening hours.

It’ll work like this, Stoltz said: Café Europa’s tasty fare and relaxed vibe will rule the daytime hours, until 2 p.m. or so. After a brief closure, Jus’ Tapas will take over. Linens will then be placed on the tables—and the artwork may even be changed, he said.

Jus’ Tapas menu will feature items in the $6 to $19 range, Stoltz said. He mentioned that one of his favorites on the in-development menu is a Brussels sprouts dish; the sprouts will be paired with twice-baked hazelnuts and topped with crème fraiche and a Dijon mustard sauce.

Then there’s the “Man Candy”—strips of bacon coated with cayenne pepper and molasses. Wow.

Stoltz is especially excited about the bar concept: He said Jus’ Tapas will emphasize skinny, low-calorie cocktails, as well as a large number of wines offered by the glass.

Sounds pretty amazing to me! Watch www.cafeeuropapalmsprings.com for updates as Oct. 1 approaches.


When It Comes to Rumors, Don’t Necessarily Believe ’Em

Facebook brings both good and bad: The good: People can share information with friends, followers and fellow group members with just several clicks on a keyboard.

However, not all of this information is necessarily accurate. That’s the bad part.

So much misinformation regarding the restaurant world has been spread via Facebook and word of mouth recently that a local TV station had to come out and do a story to debunk an out-of-control rumor: On July 13, KMIR ran a piece emphasizing the fact that The Tropicale—one of the most popular restaurants in the valley, located at 330 E. Amado Road—is NOT closing, despite rumors that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians was kicking them off the land.

Turns out the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians doesn’t even own that land, according to the KMIR piece.

Rumors have also been running amok about the fate of Wang’s in the Desert and Bit of Country, located at 424 and 418 S. Indian Canyon Drive, respectively: Once the nearby Burger King closed, speculation that those two restaurants were doomed ran amok. Turns out there’s no evidence, at least that we could find, that this is the case.

That’s not to say rumors sometimes aren’t true; Woody’s Burgers, for example, recently had to move due to a land sale. But the point remains: Make sure your information is correct before blathering online, folks.


In Brief

Well, that didn’t take long: BB’s at The River, which opened in March of 2015 at the Rancho Mirage shopping center that made up part of the restaurant name, closed earlier in July, due to an apparent lack of business. The restaurant opened with a boast by Jack Srebnik that the old Acqua Pazza spot was one of the best restaurant locations in the valley. Hmm. … The approach of the month of August means that you should probably check to make sure your restaurant of choice is open before heading there: A lot of popular local joints close for several weeks, or more, during these dog days of summer. For example, all of the F10 Creative stand-alone joints—Cheeky’s, Mr. Lyons and Birba—are taking the month off, and reopening on either Aug. 31 (Mr. Lyons, Birba) or Sept. 1 (Cheeky’s). … While the approach of August brings numerous closures, this year, it also brought a most-welcome opening: Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a number of yummy to-go options; peruse all the menus at tippersgourmetmarketplace.com. … Also new in downtown Palm Springs—right next door to Tipper’s—is Gré Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, at 278 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The Beatnik-inspired joint mixes coffee, art and live performance; get more details at www.grecoffeehouse.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News