Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Pho 533 Expands, Adds a Spring Roll Bar

About a year and a half ago, Chad Gardner—known for his fantastic Dash and a Handful Catering business—purchased longtime old-school Vietnamese restaurant Pho 533, located at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

What a difference 18 month makes: On Tuesday, Aug. 30, Pho 533 will emerge from a month-long closure as a completely different place.

First, Gardner has doubled Pho 533’s size while also revamping the menu. Second, he’s added a cocktail bar. Third, he’s added a 10-seat spring roll bar.

Yes, that’s right … a spring roll bar.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Pho 533 offered a sneak preview to the Palm Springs Eating and Living Facebook group—and the new digs are gorgeous.

The food’s pretty amazing, too. The new spring roll menu includes 10 different types of rolls, featuring everything from mango to chicken to lobster to mushrooms. The samples of the spring rolls being created—“hand rolled to order,” thank you very much—at that aforementioned spring roll bar were delicious. I got a bite or two of the spicy tuna roll ($16), which comes with sashimi-grade tuna mixed with pickled ginger, shirataki noodles, cilantro, lettuce, cucumber, sesame seeds and the house sriracha mayo. Let’s just say I am looking forward to enjoying my own spicy tuna roll, and don’t expect me to be in a sharing mood.

As for the drinks coming out of the new bar: The event featured the tequila “buoi”—Pho 533’s version of the paloma—which includes Arette blanco tequila, Bundaberg grapefruit soda, lime and salt. Tasty, indeed.

For more information, visit Pho 533’s Facebook page or website for more information.

Coming Soon: Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine

We have a good-news, bad-news situation here.

First, the bad news: Thai Kitchen 1, which was located at 67555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City, has closed. Thai Kitchen 1 was one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the valley, and I learned the restaurant had closed the hard way: When I called the restaurant to get some takeout, I got that dreaded message: “Beep beep BEEP! We’re sorry. You have reached a number has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”

Now, the good news: The folks who owned downtown Palm Springs’ Wasabi for many years are opening Umami Seoul Korean BBQ and Japanese Cuisine in that spot.

“How did we come up with the name Umami Seoul?” the restaurant’s website asks. “We wanted to combine both our Japanese and Korean influences into one. Umami means savory in Japanese, using and challenging all of your senses to create a truly ‘umami’ experience. Seoul is our hometown city in Korea and the place that has inspired all of our Korean cuisine.”

The online menu promises various appetizers, sushi rolls and Korean specialties. Yum!

The restaurant should be open any day now; heck, it may be open by the time you read this. Stop by, or visit and for updates and more information.

In Brief

Fans of the Augustine Casino’s restaurants—Café 54 and the Menyikish Bar and Grill—take note: The entire casino will be closed from Monday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 16. The Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians is taking that time to do a full-scale remodel of the 14-year-old facility, located at 84001 Avenue 54, in Coachella. Visit for details and updates. … Coming soon: The Big Rock Pub, to 79940 Westward Ho Drive, in Indio. Expect “a blend of classic rock and classic cuisine.” Visit for more info, including details on Big Rock’s job fair, taking place Sept. 6-9. … Congrats to the good folks at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, who on Aug. 28 celebrated the one-year anniversary of the restaurant’s popular Sunday Desert Divas Drag Brunch! For just $14.95, it’s an amazing deal. (Be sure to bring dollars to tip the divas, too!) Visit for more info. … Get ready to enjoy German beers and eats—and support a great cause while doing so! From 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 2, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding an Oktoberfest celebration—and 30 percent of all Oktoberfest proceeds will go to the March to Equality, billed as “the most expansive virtual march in history supporting full LGBT equality.” Visit for more details. … Please extend a hearty Coachella Valley welcome to Andrew Cooper, the new executive chef at the La Quinta Resort and Club, at 49499 Eisenhower Drive, in La Quinta. He’ll oversee the food and beverage program at all of the resort’s bars and restaurants, including Morgan’s in the Desert. Cooper’s 15-year career includes a lot of time at various Four Seasons resorts, most recently the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, N.M. More info at … Popular build-your-own-pizza joint Pieology Pizzeria has opened its first valley location, at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite D, in Rancho Mirage. Head to for details. … Coming soon to the old Sam’s Sushi location at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: Fox and Fiddle, a British-style pub. There are a bunch of Canadian locations of Fox and Fiddle; visit for more info. … Keep your eye open for changes at Matchbox, on the second floor at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s under new ownership; a new name and menu should soon follow. … We’ve been hearing nothing but raves about Cie Sichuan Cuisine, which opened a couple of months ago at 45682 Towne St., in Indio. We’ll give a more detailed report after we’ve had a chance to check it out; in the meantime, find menus and more info at

Published in Restaurant & Food News

I admit that when I first heard about Stephan Anspichler’s March to Equality project, I didn’t quite get it.

The March to Equality is billed as “the most expansive march in history supporting LGBT equality,” and consists of people from around the world uploading their “steps”—pictures of feet, videos of “journeys,” or evidence of actual marches—via social media (using the #marchtoequality hashtag) and The goal: To gather 2.5 million steps by the 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots on June 28, 2019.

As of this writing, reports that 985,000-plus steps have been made. While the March to Equality boasts an impressive slate of “global ambassadors” such as former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean and actor Alan Cumming, there’s no fundraising aspect—and no other discernable point, other than to “support full LGBT equality.”

However, when I recently chatted with Anspichler—a film and TV producer who now lives in Palm Springs part-time—he helped me finally get what the March to Equality is about.

It’s all about storytelling.

“We knew that we would celebrate Stonewall and the 50th anniversary,” Anspichler said. “We wanted to find the right way to tell the story.”

Anspichler said he’s always been drawn to different forms of storytelling, so it was not a stretch when he and his colleagues decided to tell the story of the fight for equality via the Internet and social media.

“For me, it was pretty much the same as doing a movie, but the medium being used is just different,” he said. “It was a really amazing experience to see that it is possible to tell such a story in a much different way.”

March to Equality kicked off during the United Nations’ 70th General Assembly in September 2015.

“We wanted to really build awareness for all those world leaders who were gathering at the United Nations and tell them, ‘Hey, we are here, and here is this movement,’” Anspichler said.

As one example of the type of stories he wants to see from the March to Equality, Anspichler cited the fact that many people—including a large number of Americans—don’t yet have equality in the workplace.

“We want to engage people to tell us and to show us (what it’s like to be) LGBT in the work place. We want to start conversations online,” he said. “We want to really strengthen awareness —through social media and with the people who are already marching with us—that there is a force against (workplace discrimination).”

Anspichler made a home in the Coachella Valley last summer for personal reasons, he said, but he said he soon learned that the Palm Springs area was also a great place for his work on the March for Equality.

“The Coachella Valley is one of the most interesting places to actually talk about such a project, because … the LGBT community is like nowhere else,” he said. “It’s a very warm and friendly atmosphere. The acceptance level here is amazingly high compared to other places. People immediately understood.”

Anspichler said that as the 50th anniversary of Stonewall draws closer, he hopes the March to Equality will also include high-profile events—a concert, for example. But in the meantime, he wants people to keep contributing steps and telling their stories.

“We have a very major goal: By June 2019, we want to have circled the globe entirely in footsteps,” he said. “With all the different struggles that we have around the globe in regard to LGBT-related topics … my biggest hope and wish is that other people in other countries learn from what has happened in the United States, and that this movement would actually be accessible in other countries.

I asked Anspichler what he’d tell locals to encourage them to participate in the March to Equality.

“I would tell them to be proud of the community in the Coachella Valley, because there’s nothing like it … in regards to acceptance and how people are being treated by each other,” he said. “The Coachella Valley should be proud of that and show it to the world as an example of how the world could be a better place.”

For more information or to participate, visit

Published in Local Issues