Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Grand Central to Open Soon … Hopefully? … in Palm Springs’ La Plaza Center

More than a year ago, local foodies were all abuzz about the anticipated opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in the historic La Plaza Center in downtown Palm Springs.

In early August 2016, Grand Central hosted a job fair; the restaurant’s Facebook page reported that 200 people had applied for jobs in person, with another 90 applications coming in online. Other posts teased menu items for the restaurant, which was going to feature American food, a coffee bar and cocktails. It seemed that Grand Central’s opening was imminent.

And then … nothing happened, at least publicly. More than 14 months went by with nary a peep on Grand Central’s fate.

Fearing Grand Central had been scrapped, I decided to try to find out what was going on. I sent a message via Grand Central’s Facebook page—and was relieved when Rita Capponi, a partner in the project, called me and assured me that Grand Central was still happening. In fact, she said it would likely open sometime in January, if not before.

“We are so close to the finish line,” she said.

So … what was the huge and apparently unexpected delay all about? Capponi said the owners greatly underestimated what it would take to get the building—built in 1936, and unoccupied for a decade—ready for business.

“We’ve been laying low, because bringing a 1936 building up to 2017 building code—well, it’s been an adventure,” she said with a weary laugh.

Capponi said what she hoped would be the “final inspections” would take place around early December. She also said she’s been buoyed by the support people have offered the Grand Central Team.

“People have been stopping by and saying, ‘We’re really rooting for you. We’re waiting for you,’” she said.

Keep your fingers crossed, and watch for more information.

Agua Caliente Names Leanne Kamekona as the New Executive Chef

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has named Leanne Kamekona as its new executive chef. She oversees all of the restaurants at the resort, located at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage.

Kamekona, according to a news release, first became smitten with the food business while working in a family-owned grocery store in her native Hawaii. She went on to graduate from the University of Hawaii, and has thus far enjoyed a career in the food/resort world spanning more than two decades.

Since arriving at Agua Caliente, she’s revamped the menu at the Waters Café, adding items ranging from a classic chicken pot pie, to a lobster roll, to saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup featuring Portuguese sausage and fishcake in a dashi broth.

“The Hawaiian way of life continues to infuse the menus I develop with unique culinary experiences, while incorporating in the flavors that are distinctive to our Southern California location in Rancho Mirage,” Kamekona said in the type of quote that could only be found in a press release.

For more information, visit

In Brief

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and somehow missed all the fanfare: The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs has finally opened its doors at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way. That means its two restaurants—4 Saints, the much-anticipated rooftop space, and Juniper Table, offering Mediterranean-inspired fare—are open, too. Get all the details you need at … Also now open on the same block: The fancy-schmancy Starbucks Reserve. … Down in Rancho Mirage, The River shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, has welcomed the new Coachella Winery. The wine bar offers both bottles and glasses of wine at a variety of price points, as well as food including pizzas, salads, appetizers, piadina (Italian flatbread sandwiches) and a variety of bar snacks and appetizers. You’ll find menus and more info at … Coming soon to Indio: Heirloom Craft Kitchen, at 49990 Jefferson St. It’s a new place by Andie Hubka, the owner of the much-loved Cork and Fork in La Quinta, and it’ll offer “craft sandwiches,” “crafted salads” and entrées like buttermilk fried chicken and grilled wild salmon. Oh, and then there are the sides … including truffle tots. Wow! Watch for updates. … Mark your calendars: The 11th annual Desert Woman’s Show is coming to the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 13 and 14. The show includes Taste of the Valley, which will feature food and drink from nearly two dozen area restaurants and vendors. Tickets are $15 in advance; head to to get ’em and learn more.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Desert Womans’ Show is a fabulous opportunity for women to connect, grow, learn, socialize and be entertained.

Held Sunday and Monday, Nov. 17 and 18, at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, the two day event brings together incredible Coachella Valley women with the goal of enhancing their business and personal lives—while also having fun.

This show is close to my heart. It originated with me in Canada in 1986 as an opportunity to work with other businesses looking to market to women and benefit local charities. In 2008, friends encouraged me to hold such a show here in the Coachella Valley. This year’s event will be the sixth-annual show.

The exceptional women in our community are always eager to be involved in the goal of helping other women while making new friends and business liaisons. We now boast a 70 percent return on exhibitors, with a couple thousand attendees each year!

A diverse and interesting group of women recognized in their fields of expertise present at the show, so there is a topic for everyone—and an opportunity to branch out and learn about things one may not have thought about before attending. Topics covered will instill knowledge, confidence and energy, as well as provide health and beauty tips, financial advice and more. Last but not least, the ladies have opportunities to socialize and enjoy each other's company—with live music, glamorous fashion shows, shopping, exhibits and Taste of the Valley, featuring food and wine from 14 popular local restaurants, including Tommy Bahama’s, The Steakhouse and Castelli’s.

As a result of feedback from our attendees, we’re introducing a full Business Conference to the show for the first time. Recognizing the power of women in business in our own backyard, the presenters will share success stories and offer a vast pool of knowledge to our attendees. I was amazed and thrilled at the level of interest in our incredible women business leaders.

We are a community that strongly supports philanthropy, so we are also proud to support two local charities: The Women Leaders Forum, with our keynote speaker Suzanne Somers at Monday’s luncheon; and Loving All Animals with a concert by Eagles tribute band Desperado on Sunday evening.

What I love most about this show is the women I have come to know and can call my friends. Women are special; they give from their hearts and they share what they believe in.

The Desert Woman’s Show takes place Sunday and Monday, Nov. 17 and 18, at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets start at $25. For more information, call 760-285-3903 or visit

Published in Community Voices