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Looking Back and Looking Ahead at the Local Restaurant Scene

As we turn the calendar from 2015 to 2016, it’s worth examining the year gone by in the local food scene—and speculate about what’s coming up.

What did we learn about the local restaurant scene in 2015? A few top-of-the-mind thoughts:

• Intriguing restaurants can still create a buzz. Think for a moment: What was the last local restaurant that opened and created a buzz like Eight4Nine did? Unless I am forgetting something (which is entirely possible), it’s been years since a new place created such a fervor.

In some ways, Eight4Nine represents a perfect restaurant-buzz storm: It has an excellent pedigree, thanks to the team of co-owner Willie Rhine, the longtime general manager at Lulu California Bistro; renowned photographer John Paschal; and veteran executive chef Chuck Courtney. It has an exciting location, in the burgeoning uptown design district of Palm Springs. Finally, previews of the look and menu of the restaurant helped build excitement long before the doors finally opened.

I also think part of the buzz surrounding Eight4Nine can be attributed to a less-than-pleasant fact about the local dining scene: People are starving for great dining experiences here. There are a lot of good restaurants in the Coachella Valley. Tons of ’em. But there are just a few great ones.

• Having said that, there are nuggets of greatness to be found in the Coachella Valley food scene. Roman Blas is doing amazing things at Over the Rainbow, and just got a little love on Top Chef. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhousewas named the 2015 Brewery of the Year at the California State Fair, and the two newer breweries in the valley are picking up medals at various beer competitions.

The stupid runs deep when it comes to some protesters. I totally understand why someone would be opposed to the concept of foie gras, or want to be vegetarian. There are some serious, serious problems with the corporatized food industry in this country regarding food safety and humane practices.

However, I don’t understand why local food protesters set their sights on Mindy Reed and Zin American Bistro.

In January, a California law banning foie gras—fatty duck or goose liver—was overturned, and Reed added several foie gras dishes back to the menu at Zin, located in downtown Palm Springs. Soon after, she was besieged with hate mail and protesters.

If the protesters had done their research, they would know that Reed is one of the area’s biggest proponents of local, free-range and humanely raised ingredients. That goes for foie gras, too.

“I serve foie gras that’s humanely raised,” she told the Independent earlier this year. “The geese are not caged. There’s no tube. There are no machines. The goose is hand-fed. There are a few farms doing this. Geese will gorge themselves naturally. People who like foie gras appreciate the fact that I buy humanely raised foie gras.”

Reed also had a question for her protesters.

“Why aren’t they picketing McDonald’s or other restaurants in town (that don’t seek out meat from humanely raised animals)?” she asked. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

She’s right. If you’re going to protest, think things out first, OK?

• Restaurants come and go. We lost a lot of great restaurants this year, including The Falls Steakhouse, Margarita’s, Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, Michael’s Pizzeria, Wasabi, 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub and the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club.

So what should we expect from the local restaurant scene in 2016? Whether you love what’s going on in downtown Palm Springs, or you hate it, restaurants will be part of the scene when all these new developments begin opening late this year. Here’s hoping they are good ones.

I also think (and hope) that the craft-cocktails trend continues to develop in the valley. While you’ll find more craft cocktails here now than you would have two or three years ago, the cocktails scene is still lacking.

Whatever 2016 may bring in the food and restaurants world, we’ll be reporting on it. Keep watching this space.

In Brief

Congratulations to the fine folks at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill. The much-loved Mexican restaurant, located at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, celebrated its fifth birthday in December. Get more details at rioazulpalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to downtown Palm Springs: Chicken Ranch, which is going into the old Jiao spot at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Dave Morgan and Mike Smith are opening the place, which according to its Facebook page will offer free-range, farm-fresh, locally grown fare including rotisserie chicken, sides and salads. There’s a full bar as well. Keep your fingers crossed for a January opening date; watch www.facebook.com/EatChickenRanch for updates.

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

Top Chef Comes to Palm Springs

During its 12 seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has spent time in great food cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and, most recently, Boston.

Now we can add Palm Springs to the list … sort of.

For the show’s 13th season, producers decided to mix things up by returning to California—but hopping around, with stops in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the Coachella Valley.

While not a lot of details on the Palm Springs stop have been released, here’s what we do know: On Wednesday, May 20, the chef-testants were tasked with cooking for a mass same-sex wedding/renewal-of-vows ceremony. We also know that Over the Rainbow’s Roman Blas was asked to make a wedding cake for the show. (He shared that tidbit on Facebook.)

If any more Top Chef news makes its way to our desk, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Johannes Stops Offering Tap Water in Favor of Bottles ... to ‘Preserve the Environment’?

OK, we’re confused here.

Johannes Restaurant—for my money, one of the top restaurants in the valley—has announced that as of June 15, it will no longer serve tap water, and will instead offer bottled water from New Zealand.

Why, you ask? It’s being done in an effort to “preserve the environment.” Yeah, we don’t get it, either.

Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

“The restaurant will offer Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water, a New Zealand treasure for centuries, for $1. Waiwera water is carbon neutral and bottled at the source in BPA-free PET bottles. If a guest doesn’t finish the bottle of water, they can take it with them.

“Serving tap water with ice has become wasteful, and in order to conserve water, Johannes has made this decision to convert to a new concept. Restaurants in other cities are adopting this same concept. During the course of a year, the restaurant uses over 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of ice and 15,000 gallons of water, which converts to an average of over 75,000 glasses of water and ice per year.”

The news release goes on to say: “We hope more restaurants in the Coachella Valley will consider doing the same and that our guests will understand and support our concept.”

OK. We understand that less water will be coming out of California’s aquifers as a result of this move, perhaps … but shipping water all the way in from New Zealand!?

If we figure out how that works, we’ll let you know. For more information, visit www.johannesrestaurants.com.

Babe's Joins Forces With The Venue for a Special Dinner

It’s being touted as “the desert’s first five-course sushi and craft beer pairing dinner.”

It is taking place at The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 3. The Venue’s sushi will be combined with the great beer—and a little bit of the barbecue—from Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage. The dinner starts with tempura-style stuffed zucchini blossoms (with spicy tuna!) being paired with Babe’s Honey Blond Ale—and it goes from there. As for the third course: We’re dying to find out what hickory-smoked tri-tip sashimi is! It’s being paired with Babe’s Bin 1214 Imperial Red Ale.

The dinner is $65 per person. For reservations or more details, call 760-346-1500.

In Brief

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge is closed—again. After getting back on its figurative feet after two recent fires, the restaurant, at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, quite suddenly shut its doors on May 17. We’re told that serious maintenance issues within the building could not wait any longer to be fixed, so management decided to bite the bullet and address them, all while keeping fingers crossed for an Aug. 1 reopening. Here’s hoping that’s the case, as we’re already hankering for a bowl of Twin Palms’ amazing gumbo. Watch www.facebook.com/twinpalmsbistro for updates. ... Jersey Mike’s Subs is now open at 79174 Highway 111, in La Quinta. It’s the second Jersey Mike’s in the valley; there’s already one on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and a third is supposedly coming to Palm Springs. … Wasabi, a Japanese/sushi joint that had for years been located at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed, and an Italian restaurant is taking its place. More details to come. … The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has again tweaked its menus with help from Five Leaves restaurant out of Brooklyn, N.Y. We recently joined other media folks at a tasting of the new fare at the Ace’s King’s Highway, and found the food to be quite tasty. In particular, we were blown away by the shepherd’s pie! We’re also intrigued by the fact that the Ace is now serving some special cocktails out of taps and bottles. We’ll share more boozy details when we get ’em; in the meantime, head to www.acehotel.com/palmsprings to check out the new menus.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

There were a whole lot of winners at Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge on Thursday night, Dec. 3.

Numerous Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015 honorees joined Independent staffers, contributors and readers on the rainy evening to celebrate the results of the annual readers' poll, which were published in the December print issue of the Independent, and online at CVIndependent.com. 

Photographer George Duchannes was on the scene to photograph the brief awards ceremony and other goings-on. The photo gallery is below.

Published in Snapshot

The holidays are here, and there are a lot of things for which I am thankful:

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s knowledgeable readers. Our inaugural Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll is complete, and the results are here! With a few categories excepted (In-n-Out has the valley’s Best Burger? Really?!), the results show that our readers, like you, are smart, cultured and local-minded: Very few chains won in our poll, especially when compared with readers’ polls in other publications and/or other cities.

I hope that as many of you readers who voted in the Best of Coachella Valley poll as possible (and, heck, even those of you who didn’t vote … next year, right?) will join us to celebrate the winners at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 3, at multiple-category-winner Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The Best of Coachella Valley Party will feature a brief awards ceremony at 7:15 p.m., and great specials on food and drinks all night.

See you there!

• I’m thankful for the Independent’s fantastic employees and contributors. Specifically, I’m thankful for those Independent designers and scribes who helped me out with our booth at Greater Palm Springs Pride, where we gave out community bags containing newspapers and great deals, as well as mini-flying discs and lots of pens. Thank you to Brian Blueskye, Wayne Acree, Victor Barocas and the indefatigable Valerie-Jean Hume for representing the Independent so proudly! Also, thanks to the readers who stopped by to say hi!

• I’m thankful to everyone who has contributed to our Indiegogo campaign. As I noted last month, we’re trying to raise $10,000 so we can increase our distribution and, most importantly, boost our coverage of news and local events. As of this writing, we’ve received some fantastic support, including a donation from reader Shilo Herrling, who wrote: “I really appreciate the CV Independent, and wish you all the best of luck in your expansion efforts. Unlike many, I don’t think The Desert Sun is a bad paper … but I do like to have options and alternative viewpoints, and CV Independent does a great job!”

Thanks, Shilo!

Despite the support from readers like Shilo, as of this writing, we’re behind the pace we need to be on to reach our goal. Please consider joining Shilo in supporting the Independent; find details on every page here at CVIndepedent.com, and via the short video posted below.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Published in Editor's Note

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015!

Here’s how these results came to be: Between Aug. 29 and Oct. 3, Coachella Valley Independent readers voted at CVIndependent.com in an open ballot in the categories listed below.

No finalists were selected in advance; readers had to write in their selections.

We then took the top three to five finishers in each category and put them on a final-round ballot, which ran at CVIndependent.com from Oct. 8 to Nov. 7. 

Readers had to provide an email address, and were allowed to submit only one ballot in each round. We sent an email to each voter; if the email bounced, we did not count the ballot associated with that email address.

Here are the results of this first-ever Coachella Valley Independent readers’ poll.

Enjoy!


Arts

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. Gallery 446

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Archangel Gallery

5. Stewart Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. The Hood Bar and Pizza

5. The Date Shed

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. Backstreet Arts District

 

Best Local Band

Queens of the Stone Age

 

Runners up:

2. Machin’

3. The Rebel Noise

4. TIE

CIVX

Slipping Into Darkness

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. All Night Shoes

3. House Whores

4. TIE

CoffeeBlvck

Femme A

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Mark Gregg

3. Giselle Woo

4. Charles Herrera

5. Gene Evaro Jr.

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Elena Bulatova

 

Runners up:

2. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

3. Michael Weems

4. Jennifer Stern

5. Lon Michels

 

Best Movie Theater

Camelot Theatres

 

Runners up:

2. Cinemas Palme d’Or

3. UltraStar Mary Pickford

4. Regal Palm Springs

5. Century Theatres at The River

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley History Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Palm Springs Art Museum Palm Desert

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Empire Polo Club

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs

5. The Palms Restaurant


Life in the Valley

Best Alternative Health Center

Stroke Recovery Center

 

Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. All-Desert Wellness Centers

4. Live Well Clinic

5. Palm Springs Healing Center

 

Best Farmers’ Market

Palm Springs VillageFest

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3. Old Town La Quinta

4. Palm Desert (Chamber of Commerce)

5. Joshua Tree Certified

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

4. Shelter From the Storm

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Gym

Gold’s Gym Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. World Gym Palm Springs

3. World Gym Palm Desert

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. 24 Hour Fitness

 

Best Public Servant

Congressman Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Mayor Steve Pougnet

3. County Commissioner John Benoit

4. Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez

5. Assemblyman Brian Nestande

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Power Yoga

5. Evolve Yoga

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Not So Innocent

 

Runners up:

2. Skitzo Kitty

3. Q Trading Company`

4. Gay Mart

5. Red Panties Boutique

 

Best Auto Repair

Desert Classic Cars

 

Runners up:

2. Performance Plus Automotive

3. TIE

Chuck’s Automotive

European Auto Service

Palm Springs Tire and Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

TIE

Airport Quick Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash (pictured)

 

Runners up:

3. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

4. Executive Car Wash

5. Red Carpet USA Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Vintage Nursery

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Cactus Mart

5. Moorten Botanical Gardens

 

Best Pet Supplies

PetSmart

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. Bones ’n’ Scones

4. Cold Nose Warm Heart

5. Exotic Birds

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars, by the AIDS Assistance Program

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Walk, by the Desert AIDS Project

3. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, by the Desert AIDS Project

4. Paint El Paseo Pink, by the Desert Cancer Foundation

5. Center Stage, by the LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Spotlight 29

5. Augustine Casino

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. CBS Local 2

3. KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

 

Runners up:

2. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

3. John White, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2

5. Thalia Hayden, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Big 106 (KPLM)

3. KDES FM 98.5

4. TIE

KWXY FM 107.3

K-News 94.3

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jeff Michaels, Big 106 (KPLM)

 

Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

4. Joey English, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, EZ-103

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Revivals

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

3. Best Buy

4. Barnes and Noble

5. Video Depot

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Hoodoo

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Video Game Store

GameStop

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Video Depot

Walmart

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Riviera Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Saguaro

5. Renaissance Palm Springs


Fashion and Style

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

Runners up:

2. Glossy Boutique

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Fine Art of Design

5. Wil Stiles

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Resale Therapy

3. Angel View

4. The POP Shop

5. Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Plummers

 

Runners up:

2. Ashley Furniture HomeStore

3. Marc Russell Interiors

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Gypsyland

4. Pioneer Crossing Antiques

5. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. ASC Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. Brien O’Brien Salon

4. Turquoise A Salon

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Spa

DHS Spa Hotel

 

Runners up:

2. JW Marriott Desert Springs

3. Studio M

4. The Canyon Spa

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Jensen’s

5. Blooming Events

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

Bloodline Tattoo

TG Tattoo

5. Flagship Tattoo

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. TIE

Elegant Eye Optometry

Oh La La de Paris Eyeware

5. Desert EyeCare Center


Outside!

Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo

 

Runners up:

2. Downtown Palm Springs (general)

3. College of the Desert

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Moorten Botanical Gardens

4. Ruth Hardy Park

5. El Paseo

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Palm Springs (general)

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta (general)

3. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness (Top of the Tram)

4. Salton Sea State Recreation Area

5. Tahquitz Canyon

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto

4. Tahquitz Canyon

5. Mission Creek Preserve

 

Best Park

Whitewater Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Wellness Park

5. Dateland Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Off the Grid

4. Second Amendment Sports

5. Walmart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Cyclery

3. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Sports Authority

4. Lumpy’s

5. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek

3. Indian Wells

4. Eagle Falls

5. Escena


For the Kids

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. La Quinta Park

5. Whitewater Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s for Kids

 

Runners up:

2. Toys “R” Us

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Goodwill

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Janie and Jack

4. Goodwill

5. Justice

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Ruby’s

4. Islands

5. Dickie O’Neal’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

Wet ’n’ Wild

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Boomers!

Rock-N-Roll Mini Golf

4. Palm Desert Aquatic Center

5. Chuck E. Cheese

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Children’s Discovery Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese

3. Boomers!


Food and Restaurants

Best Casual Eats

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sherman’s

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Caterer

LuLu/Acqua Pazza

 

Runners up:

2. Lynn Hammond

3. Fusion Flair

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Savoury’s

 

Best Diner

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sunshine Café

4. Rick’s

5. John’s

 

Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Sprouts Farmers Market

Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. Appetito

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Pastry Swan Bakery

3. Sherman’s

4. Exquisite Desserts

5. Jensen’s

 

Best Desserts

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Crave (now Plate | Glass)

5. French Corner Café

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Lique at Fantasy Springs

5. Ben and Jerry’s

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Hadley Fruit Orchards

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Lappert’s Ice Cream

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

TIE

Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

Tutti Frutti

 

Runners up:

3. Beach House

4. Yogurt on Tap

5. Cactusberry + Frozen Treats

 

Best Bakery

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery

4. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

5. TKB Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s

 

Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Cowboy Way

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Big Willie’s Catering

 

Best Burger

In-n-Out

 

Runners up:

2. Grill-A-Burger

3. Woody’s

4. Tyler’s

5. Smokin’ Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Grill-A-Burger

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Woody’s

Ruby’s Diner

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Aspen Mills

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza

3. Piero’s PizzaVino

4. Giuseppe’s

5. Ciro’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. LuLu California Bistro

4. Bar

5. Village Pub

 

Best Bagels

New York Bagel and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s

4. Townie Bagels

5. Bagel Bistro

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Juice It Up

4. Jamba Juice

5. Luscious Lorraine’s

 

Best Buffet

Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3 TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

3. Old Town Coffee Company

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Ernest Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Tea

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Teavana

3. Ristretto

4. Old Town Coffee Company

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Breakfast

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Louise’s Pantry

 

Best California Cuisine

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO

3. Acqua Pazza California Bistro

4. Jake’s

5. POM—The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

 

Best Brunch

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Pinocchio’s

4. Escena Lounge and Grill

5. Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Best Chinese

Wang’s in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. China Wok

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. New Fortune

5. Supreme Dragon

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Miro’s Restaurant

 

Best French

Le Vallauris

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

Pomme Frite

4. La Brasserie

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Shabu Shabu Zen

 

Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Gyoro Gyoro

4. Otori Japanese Cuisine

5. No Da Te

 

Best Italian

Nicolino’s

 

Runners up:

2. Giuseppe’s

3. Il Corso

4. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

5. Mimmo’s

 

Best Sushi

Wasabi

 

Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Edoko Sushi

5. The Venue

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Ruben and Ozzy’s

3. Shanghai Reds

4. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

5. Oceans Seafood Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Chop House

3. Mastro’s

4. The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

5. The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai Smile Rancho Mirage

3. Peppers Thai

4. Le Basil

5. Thai Kitchen 1

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Bangkok Noodles

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Figue Mediterranean Cuisine (no longer in business)

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Spencer’s

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. The Falls

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Village Pub

3. Bar

4. Alicante

5. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel

 

Best Mexican

El Mirasol

 

Runners up:

2. El Gallito

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. La Tablita

5. Tlaquepaque

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Runners up:

2. Rincon Norteno

3. Maracas

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Margaritas

 

Best Burrito

El Gallito

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

La Tablita

Santana’s

4. El Taco Asado

5. Jalisco Restaurant


Spirits and Nightlife

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. The Beer Hunter

Eureka!

4. Village Pub

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Local Brewery

TIE

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

La Quinta Brewing Co.

 

Runner up:

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

TIE

Hunters

Palm Springs Lanes

 

Runners up:

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Sharky’s Family Billiards

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Purple Room

3. Eureka!

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Streetbar

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

4. Score

5. Digs

 

Best Happy Hour

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. LuLu California Bistro

3. TIE

Hunters

Stuft Pizza

5. Village Pub

 

Best Dive Bar

Neil’s Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Score

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Maracas

5. Blue Coyote Grill

 

Best Martini

The Falls

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Copley’s

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Nightclub

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. LIT at Fantasy Springs

4. TIE

Schmidy’s Tavern

Village Pub

 

Best Sports Bar

Burgers and Beer

 

Runners up:

2. Yard House

3. The Beer Hunter

4. TIE

Tilted Kilt

Village Pub

 

Best Wine Bar

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

12th Floor Cocktail Lounge and Wine Bar at Fantasy Springs

Zin American Bistro

4. Wine Bar Bistro

5. Fame Lounge

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

4. Fame Lounge

5. LQ Wine

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Melvyn’s

4. Schmidy’s Tavern

5. Copa


Staff Picks

Best Story From an Annual Festival

“The Moneymaker”

A woman who appears to be about 65 and who is here for the American Heat Bike Weekend event in downtown Palm Springs comes in to Crystal Fantasy and wants to use some tape, because her “moneymaker” is broken. I give her some packing tape, and she takes something out of her pocket she is trying to fix.

After a few moments, she says, “OK, I’ll see if it works”—and proceeds to swallow a foot-long (now-taped) all-beef hot dog down her throat; she then pulls it out of her mouth. The tape wasn’t really sticking, and all I had otherwise was some purple duct tape.

That seemed to do the job. She very professionally deep-throated the hot dog, thanked us and left.

—Joy Brown Meredith, as told to the Palm Springs Neighborhoods Group on Facebook, adapted with permission by Jimmy Boegle


Best Band Militia

Machin’

I first met David Macias of Machin’ for an interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, and I was rather surprised when he told me about what he called the “Machin’ Militia”—the band’s loyal fans who turn up for their shows.

Well, I’ve seen Machin’ perform several times over the last year—and I’m not surprised that the Machin’ Militia is growing rapidly.

Perhaps David’s military background explains his terminology. He was born in Mexico and completed two deployments to Iraq as a Navy corpsman. When he gets together with classically trained violinist Bri Cherry and upright-bass-player/accordionist Andy Gorrill, they make attention-grabbing music that combines Latin, hip-hop and rock sounds. Their sound is instantly recognizable wherever they go.

Crowds of all sorts adore Machin’. They have a weekly residency at the Purple Room in Palm Springs; they busk on street corners in various places while on tour. Wherever Machin’ is, people can’t help but clap or dance along when the group performs.

Machin’ is truly what the name means in Spanglish slang—supremely excellent.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Food and Drink Trend That’s Finally Arrived in the Valley

Craft Cocktails

Tucson, Ariz., the city in which I used to live, is the home of one of the leaders in the craft-cocktail revolution. Scott and Co.—a speakeasy-style bar that’s received national attention for its amazing and innovative drinks—was perhaps the place I missed the most when I moved to the desert several years ago.

Look at the Best Cocktail finalists here, and you’ll see why I used to miss Scott and Co. so damned much: When I first started making preparations to move here, four of the five finalists picked by our readers weren’t yet in existence.

Today, however, I don’t miss Scott and Co. all that much—because over the last couple years, the craft-cocktail revolution has belatedly arrived in the Coachella Valley. In addition to our readers’ five Best of Coachella Valley finalists (great picks, readers!), you can find fantastic hand-crafted beverages at locations all across the valley, from Indian Wells’ Vue Grille and Bar, to retro-tiki newcomers Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki in downtown Palm Springs, to Citron at the Viceroy (pictured), also in Palm Springs.

Cheers, folks. The local craft-cocktail scene is getting better by the month.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Social Trend

The Increasingly Busy Summer

Let’s face facts: The business and tourism cycle in the Coachella Valley will always have seasonal highs and lows. The power of the weather is undeniable: Temps in the 70s and 80s will always draw people to the valley during the winter, and temps in the 110s will always push people out during the summer.

However, that seasonality is beginning to lessen—just a little.

I live in downtown Palm Springs, and last summer, the streets near my home weren’t as lonely as they used to be in years past. In fact, on some summer weekend nights, Palm Canyon Drive foot traffic was even something approaching busy. (Not April busy, but still.) The reason? More people are starting to brave the toasty temps to come to the valley, thanks to great events like Splash House (which was so nice, they did it twice during the summer of 2014; pictured), fantastic deals (like those offered during Restaurant Week) and the realization that the slower summer pace here has its benefits. (No snowbirds on Highway 111?! YES!)

Can one argue that the Best Season here in the Coachella Valley is, in fact, the summer? No … we won’t go that far. But the summers here are certainly not as dead as they used to be—and that’s something worth celebrating.

—Jimmy Boegle

Photo credits: Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash courtesy of elephant-carwash.com. The Living Desert courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB. Machin’ courtesy of Chris Miller via Machin’ Facebook. Splash House by Guillermo Prieto/IROCKPHOTOS.NET.

Published in Readers' Picks

Twin Palms Reopens After Fire-Related 8 1/2-Month Hiatus

As we briefly mentioned last month: Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, located at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, re-opened in late December after a closure of 8 1/2 months.

Here’s what happened: On April 9, a small fire broke out in the kitchen of the “comfort food” restaurant. The damage was minor—limited to a fairly small area behind some stainless-steel wall panels, according to co-owner Pat Daltroff—because it was extinguished quickly. Daltroff and his crew thought the restaurant would be closed for days, or maybe a week or two, tops, due to the fire, which Daltroff blamed on shoddy workmanship by a former tenant.

Those days or weeks turned into 8 1/2 months. Why?

Daltroff, selecting his words carefully, answered thusly: “For whatever reason, the landlord took 8 1/2 months” to make the repairs allowing Twin Palms to re-open.

Of course, 8 1/2 months is a long time, meaning that Daltroff and general manager Marilyn Simmons had to almost start over. Simmons—who herself was forced to find another job while the landlord/insurance/etc. saga at Twin Palms dragged on—said that most of the original wait staff has returned, but the entire kitchen staff needed to be replaced. For that reason, the restaurant has been gradually re-introducing menu items and specials during their “soft reopening.”

Some of the favorites for which Twin Palms was known and loved are back, including red beans and rice on Monday nights; all-you-can-eat fried chicken on Tuesday nights; and all you can eat spaghetti on Wednesday nights. The restaurant is now open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays—a fact which makes me particularly happy, as I’ve been missing their crab-cakes Benedict all these months.

Daltroff emphasized that local government agencies—from the Palm Springs Fire Department, to the permit-issuing officials within the city of Palm Springs, to the Riverside County Health Department—“bent over backward” to help Twin Palms.

“They could not have been more anxious for us to reopen,” he said.

What’s in store for the future of Twin Palms? “We’re just trying to build our business back up,” Daltroff said.

Stop by and help the good folks at Twin Palms do just that, will ya? Call 760-322-3730 for more information.

Coming Soon: Pho Vu Palm Springs

The slow but steady diversification of downtown Palm Springs’ restaurant scene continues!

A Vietnamese restaurant is soon joining the figurative fray: The valley’s third Pho Vu will be opening at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive. A mid-to-late January look in the windows revealed a mostly gutted space, with a few pieces of equipment here and there. In other words, the restaurant is still weeks, if not months, away from opening.

The other two Pho Vu restaurants in the valley are located at 79630 Highway 111 in La Quinta, and 34620 Monterey Ave. in Palm Desert—bright spots in a valley where there’s not a heck of a lot of good Vietnamese fare.

To our knowledge, Pho Vu Palm Springs will become only the second Vietnamese restaurant on the valley’s west side, joining Pho 533 at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

Visit phovurestaurant.com for more information.

Coming Soon: The Tonga Hut

Ever since we saw Tonga Hut’s awesome entry in the Palm Springs Festival of Lights, we’ve peeked in every time we’ve walked by to see if the bar/restaurant at 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive (above NYPD) is open yet—and alas, it has remained “coming soon.”

Why are we so excited about the Tonga Hut? Well, it’s the sister bar to the legendary Tonga Hut in North Hollywood, which has been serving fruity Island drinks and other tropical fare since 1958; it’s Los Angeles’ oldest still-open Tiki bar, in fact.

While Tonga Hut’s Palm Springs operation was not yet open as of our press deadline, the Tonga Hut Facebook page promises that an opening is imminent; watch that page for more details.

In Brief

On Sunday, Feb. 2, the inaugural Palm Springs Vintage Market will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the parking lots of the Spa Resort Casino (near Indian Canyon Drive and Amado Road). The organizers promise lots of vintage goods—as well as food trucks! (Hence the inclusion in this column.) The market is slated for every first Sunday, and admission is $5; find more info at www.palmspringsopenairemarket.com. … The news release was headlined: “Natural 9 Noodle Company to celebrate year of the horse with specialty dishes.” Thankfully, the restaurant—located at Morongo Casino Resort Spa—is not serving horse. Instead, the eatery, under the direction of executive chef Michael Nguyen, will be celebrating Chinese New Year with yummy special dishes, including a lobster cognac fried rice with Chinese sausage, shitake mushrooms and other goodies ($24); and roasted whole Peking duck with green onions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and Chinese pancakes ($32). The celebration runs from Thursday, Jan. 30, through Monday, Feb. 17; find more info at www.facebook.com/Natural9NoodleCompany.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Update: CV Brewing Co. Is Open for Business

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.—the brand-new brewery whose taps graced the cover of the Independent’s summer print issue—has finally opened its doors to the public, at least for special events.

The taproom, at 30640 Gunther St. in Thousand Palms, was the site of an Animal Samaritans special event this week.

However, as they always say (OK, not really, but play along), it’s not official until there’s a cheesy ribbon-cutting event—and that cheesy ribbon-cutting event will take place at noon on Friday, Aug. 30.

Everyone’s welcome, and if you want to try some of the beer, bring $10, and you can get tastes of four of ’em. Master brewer Chris Anderson will be on hand to answer questions, and a good time will be had by all.

Stay in the loop by calling (760) 343-5973, or visiting www.cvbco.com.

A Frickleburgers Comeback Is Not to Be

Frickleburgers, the Cathedral City restaurant that closed in May despite several “Best Of” wins, will not be making a comeback.

When the restaurant, which was located at 68375 E. Palm Canyon Drive, closed its doors, owner Michael Zoll vowed to do everything he could to fix his business plan, get new investors and reopen the restaurant.

However, his efforts did not pan out: He announced via Facebook on Aug. 19 that he and his family would be relocating to Chicago.

“I did everything I possibly could and followed every lead, path and inquiry to try and find a company or investor to reopen my dream which was Frickleburgers, all which ended with plenty on interest, but no capital,” he wrote.

We wish Zoll nothing but success in his future endeavors. He’s a damn fine burger-maker.

Fatburger Returning to the Coachella Valley

In happier burger news: Fatburger will be returning to the Coachella Valley.

The Palm Springs location on Ramon Road closed in 2011, but the chain restaurant, which touts itself as “The Last Great Hamburger Stand,” will open up shop in Palm Desert in November or December, according to the company’s website. (However, that website disconcertingly calls the city “Palm Dessert.”)

The Fatburger, at Highway 111 and Fred Waring Drive, will be joined by a corporate sister restaurant: Buffalo’s Café, which serves chicken wings.

In Brief

The Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, which closed after a fire on April 9, remains in limbo. “Still no word from the insurance or landlord attorneys,” said a Facebook post from the restaurant on Aug. 13. “Wish we had some news to share, but it is out of our hands at this point. The construction has started (which is a good sign) and pretty much everything is still the same. Thank you everyone for the kind words and support.” … Word is that Dhat Island—a Caribbean Creole restaurant in Redlands—is slated to open a second location at the old Marie Callender’s location at 69830 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. Keep your fingers crossed for an October opening. … Speaking of beer: La Quinta Brewing Co., in Palm Desert, is getting close to an opening date. Watch the pages (online and in print) of the Independent for more details soon, and follow the progress at www.facebook.com/LaQuintaBrewingCo.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Legendary Purple Room Slated to Reopen This Week

The bad: The Legendary Purple Room, located inside of the Club Trinidad time share at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, closed in early June.

The good: If everything goes according to plan, it will reopen at 4 p.m. this Friday, June 28.

The ugly: Since the closure, there’s been drama.

Here’s what happened, according to Art Brigman, the longtime CEO of Club Trinidad: Tom and Susie Pacholik, who took over management of the club in 2011, informed Brigman they’d be ending their Purple Room involvement, and decided to close while Brigman was on a multi-week vacation.

When Brigman returned, he says, the Purple Room was essentially cleared out—including some items owned by Club Trinidad and not the Pacholiks, Brigman says.

“I have an inventory of what was mine, and what was theirs,” Brigman says.

Brigman also says the Pacholiks failed to pay the state the club’s taxes for the last quarter; he says he’s paying the state, and that if the former managers don’t pay him back, he’ll take them to small-claims court. (This could not immediately be confirmed with the state Board of Equalization.)

However, Tom Pacholik tells a different story entirely. First, Pacholik says the taxes have indeed been paid; second, he says everything he took from the Purple Room was, in fact, his. He says he may have even left some of his own stuff behind.

"I absolutely did not take anything that belonged to the Club Trinidad," Pacholik says.

Pacholik claims that it was Brigman who made the decision for them to part ways: He says Brigman gave them a 90-day termination notice, and that they responded by later giving Brigman 30 days of notice, as called for in their contract.

"I really didn't want to leave. This is what (Brigman) does all the time," Pacholik says, adding that the Purple Room name was revived by his wife and him when they took over the club in 2011. (The lounge was known as the Purple Room in its old-school heyday.)

Brigman’s plan was to have the bar in business again on Friday, June 28. He intends to have it open—with an ample amount of live music, starting with Bill Baker this Friday and Saturday—at 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

Whatever happened surrounding the closure, we’re elated that it was only temporary. The Purple Room is a unique, quirky and decidedly old-school club—a club that more people need to know about.

Dish Creative Cuisine Having an Amuse Night

When dining at Dish Creative Cuisine (68525 Ramon Road, No. A-101, Cathedral City), the greatest delights often don’t come from the appetizers, entrées and desserts on the menu (although these menu items are, in fact, delightful). Instead, it’s the complimentary amuse-bouches that lawyer-turned-chef Joane Garcia-Colson offers all of her customers, delivered between the various courses, that often turn a very good meal into something truly special.

And on Thursday, July 18, Garcia-Colson is going to give her delicious little bites the starring role they so richly deserve.

That’s the date for “Amuse Night,” when for $75 (not including beverages, tax and gratuity), she’ll offer her diners 18 to 20 amuse-bouches as their meal. (She’ll be offering optional wine-pairings, too!) My fingers are crossed that one of those amuses will be what I call “beet nipples”—a bite-sized pleasure (pictured) with a hardened meringue outside, and a delicious creamy beet filling inside. (These are amazing, folks … and this is coming from someone who generally loathes beets.)

We asked Garcia-Colson for a sneak preview, and she shared this tidbit: One of the planned courses is a lobster lollipop with sweet miso caramel sauce and crispy leeks. Mmmm. And liquid nitrogen MAY be involved in creating some of the amuse-bouches, if everything works out.

Reservations for this most unique meal at one of the valley’s most innovative restaurants are sure to go fast; call (760) 832-6526 to get your spot before they’re all gone. (And be sure to leave for the meal a wee bit early, as the stretch of Ramon on which Dish sits is currently under construction!)

Tropicale Owners Prepping to Open the Copa Room

Diners at Tropicale, 330 E. Amado Road, may have noticed that the building next door to the restaurant is currently under some serious construction.

When that construction is done later this year, the building will become the Copa Room bar/nightclub.

The Copa Room will be owned and operated by the same folks behind Tropicale. According to a recent Palm Springs Life article, the club is slated to open this fall, and people eager for updates should bookmark www.coparoomps.com, which should be up and running soon.

Update on Twin Palms (or a Lack Thereof)

The future of the newish Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, is in limbo after an April 9 fire.

While Twin Palms management kept an active presence on the restaurant’s Facebook page immediately after the fire (including some now-heartbreaking posts expressing plans to reopen within mere days), the posts have steadily decreased—and the restaurant remains shuttered. A May 28 Facebook post says, in part: “This should have been an easy fix to a small problem. … We continue to be at the mercy of the landlord and the insurance companies to get things resolved.”

Folks, keep your fingers crossed that a resolution comes soon.

(Editor's note: The first item here was updated Monday afternoon, June 24.)

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Fire Temporarily Shutters Twin Palms Bistro

On a fairly recent visit to the newish Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, a manager told us that the restaurant, which opened last year, was finally starting to hits its figurative stride after working out all of the kinks that come with launching a new business.

Then Murphy’s Law hit. And then it hit again. And yet again, as posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page show in heartbreaking detail.

On April 9, a “minor fire” broke out in the Twin Palms kitchen.

“The fire started in a wall and the good news is the damage appears to be minor. The bad news is we will be closed today as we work to repair the damaged area,” said an April 10 post on the Twin Palms Facebook page.

An April 11 post expressed hope that the minor damage would be repaired in time for an April 12 opening.

That didn’t happen. From an April 13 post: “Well, Murphy’s Law is in effect and we will not be able to reopen this weekend due to a couple of issues that our contractor has uncovered. We now have our sights on mid-week next week.”

Here it is, approaching mid-May, and the restaurant is still closed. The folks at Twin Palms tell us that a re-opening is probably several more weeks away, and that they’ll let us know the firm reopening date when they know it.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed on their behalf.

Rancho Mirage Koffi Opens

In early March, we reported that the Rancho Mirage location of Koffi—the fun coffee house owned by locals John Abner and John Strohm—appeared to be months away from opening, based on a look we took at the then-under-construction building at 71390 Highway 111.

Good news: Last week—less than two months after our initial report—the Koffi opened its doors to the public.

Koffi’s original location, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, opened in August 2002. The second Koffi, at 1700 S. Camino Real (at Palm Canyon Drive, near the Ace Hotel), opened in 2008. The new location differs from the other two in that it includes a coffee-roasting facility.

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: The success Abner and Strohm are enjoying with Koffi is downright refreshing, seeing as locally owned coffee houses across the world are closing after being pushed out by aggressive chains (like Starbucks). Bravo.

The Rancho Mirage Koffi can be reached at 760-340-2444.

Thai Smile Taking Over La Casita Spot

La Casita, at 100 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, recently closed—and one of Palm Springs’ most popular Thai restaurants is taking its place.

A sign put up earlier this week in a window at the old La Casita spot says that Thai Smile Palm Springs—currently located 651 N. Palm Canyon Drive—will soon open there.

That leads to a big question: What will come of the current Thai Smile Palm Springs spot? Will it close, or will the Thai Smile folks take a page out of the Las Casuelas playbook and keep two similar restaurants open within mere blocks?

A Facebook message and a phone message asking that question have thus far gone unreturned.

Rainbow Bar and Grill Closes

The Rainbow Bar and Grill, at 216 N. Indian Canyon Drive (at Arenas Road), closed rather suddenly last month.

Handwritten signs on the doors of the establishment claim that the restaurant is “temporarily closed” because the “wind knocked power out," while just inside the door, unopened mail litters the floor. Meanwhile, the Rainbow Facebook page announced on April 18: “Hello everyone! We’d like to inform all of our friends and loyal customers that Rainbow Bar and Grill will be temporarily closed until further notice. Thank you.”

The “temporary" closure is unlikely to end anytime soon; many Rainbow employees have already moved on to other jobs, meaning a re-launch would require a whole bunch of new hires. 

Rumors are circulating that a prominent gay couple—who owns a couple of other area business—is buying the place, but a representative of the couple reports that there’s “nothing to share” regarding that rumor.

Trio Hosting Weeklong Fundraiser for Stroke Recovery Center

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and to mark the occasion, TRIO Restaurant, 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, is holding a week-long fundraiser for the Stroke Recovery Center.

From Monday, May 13, through Sunday, May 19, TRIO will donate 10 percent of sales to the center.

“Trio owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are proud to host this event, and believe in the amazing work that the Stroke Recovery Center does here in the desert,” said a news release. “The center offers long-term rehabilitation to the survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injury along with support for their families, caregivers and loved ones.”

For more information, call TRIO at 760-864-8746.

Published in Restaurant & Food News