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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The morning BLT

Where: Grand Central Palm Springs, 160 La Plaza, Palm Springs

How much: $16

Contact: 760-699-7185; www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com

Why: It’s a sophisticated, tasty take on a classic.

Here’s the story of Grand Central Palm Springs’ opening, as told through our Restaurant News Bites column:

April 26, 2016: “Downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza will soon be the home of Grand Central Palm Springs.”

Nov. 28, 2017: “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. … And then nothing happened. … Rita Capponi, a partner in the project, said it would likely open sometime in January, if not before.”

March 30, 2018: “The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs … is apparently close.”

May 22, 2018: “Grand Central Palm Springs is finally open!”

Whew! And the news gets even better: Grand Central was worth the wait.

I stopped in one recent morning for breakfast with my friend Brad, and I was immediately struck by how interesting the space is. First, it’s huge; second, it’s gorgeous in a decidedly “classic” way. The La Plaza building, once home to Desmond’s department store, was built in 1936. The old, historic nature of the building—which had been vacant for more than a decade—is what led to all of the delays, Capponi told me.

Then there’s the food … which is creative and delicious. Brad had the palm sugar waffles—“sweet waffles with Nueske applewood bacon and our own cherry butter,” the menu says—and he loved them. I was in more of a mood for savory food, though, so I was ecstatic that I ordered the morning BLT, featuring the aforementioned Nueske bacon, a double-yolk poached egg, heirloom tomatoes and lemon arugula, placed on a piece of grilled sourdough bread topped with avocado dressing. Fantastic.

Grand Central is only serving breakfast and lunch now, but dinner service is slated to start sometime in October. This is a new restaurant to watch; something truly special may be taking place at Grand Central.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week, From June 1-17, Boasts 100-Plus Participants

Hey, foodies: That wonderful time of year known as Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here!

From June 1-17—so, yeah, it’s more of a Greater Palm Springs Restaurant 2 1/2 Weeks—restaurants valley-wide will be offering special prix-fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner. Those lunch menus, with at least two courses, will cost $15, $20 or $25, while dinner menus, with at least three courses, will be $29, $39 or $49.

As of this writing, the Restaurant Week website listed a whopping 104 participants, from AC3 Restaurant + Bar to Zin American Bistro.

There are truly fine offers available at every price point for both lunch and dinner. However, because I earn a journalist’s salary (read: a half-step above “pauper”), I tend to focus on the $29 dinners—and, man, there are some great deals to be had. For example, we can go to Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine in Rancho Mirage and get the amazing paella (or one of five other main courses) and one of three first courses and one of two desserts for just $29. Or we can go to Jake’s in Palm Springs and choose one of six mains—including petite filet mignon!—plus a starter and dessert, again for just $29.

And now, a word of caution: While the majority of the Restaurant Week prix-fixe meals are indeed good deals … not all of them are. I’ll be diplomatic here and won’t name names … but some restaurants are offering menus under the Restaurant Week banner that are no better and no more exciting than what’s usually available. So, I recommend doing due diligence and researching the menus first.

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week takes place Friday, June 1, through Sunday, June 17. For more information, including a constantly updated roster of participants with their menus, visit www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/dinegps/restaurant-week.


New: Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar Opens in Downtown Palm Springs

The ever-controversial downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project is now home to yet another place to dine—and there’s nothing controversial about saying that the Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar is a whole lot of fun.

The Marlin Bar, located at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 150, is—like the Tommy Bahama restaurant and bar in Palm Desert on El Paseo—attached to the beachware-themed clothing store. However, the Palm Springs menu is a bit more limited than the Palm Desert one, although there’s still plenty of food to satisfy any appetite—and the prices are quite reasonable

At a recent media preview, I was able to sample some of the Marlin Bar’s signature offerings. The coconut shrimp ($9) were simply divine, while the ahi tuna tacos with wonton shells ($8) were fresh and delicious. The Cuban sandwich ($11) was a messy delight, while the all-American burger sliders ($10) were juicy and delectable.

Beyond the ample selection of appetizers and “hand-helds” (i.e., tacos, sandwiches and burgers), the Marlin Bar also offers entrée salads ($13-$16) and mains ranging from a vegetarian bowl ($13) and a Thai shrimp bowl ($14) to guava-glazed baby back pork ribs ($18) and steak frites ($22).

What about the cocktails? There are a lot of yummy rum and island-themed drinks—no surprise there—along with martinis and standards that’ll cost you from $11 to $13.50. Select wines and cocktails are knocked down to $6 during happy hour, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., during which you can also enjoy select martinis for $8; select beer for $4; and well drinks for $5.

Oh … and the patio, just off Palm Canyon Drive, is pretty epic.

The Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar in Palm Springs is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. Call 760-778-0019, or visit www.tommybahama.com for details.


In Brief

As promised … Grand Central Palm Springs is finally open! The restaurant is located inside the historic building at 160 La Plaza; for now, coffee, breakfast and lunch are being served from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday through Tuesday, with dinner to come later. Oh, and there’s a full bar, too! For more information, including menus and a history of the building, visit www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com; you can call ’em at 760-699-7185. … New to Indio: Sushi Bento, located in the old China Jo’s location at 82280 Highway 111. The place opened in March; get more info by calling 760-775-3444, or visiting this very odd and apparently in-progress website: sushi-bento-pan-asian-restaurant.business.site. … New to La Quinta: Enzo’s Bistro and Bar, at 78121 Avenida La Fonda. Enzo’s opened its doors in April and offers upscale Italian fare; the bar opens at 3 p.m., daily, with the dining room opening at 5 p.m. For more information, call 760-564-7333, or visit www.enzosbistroandbar.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Help the Desert AIDS Project by Dining Out for Life on April 26

Thursday, April 26, is one of my favorite foodie days of the year.

It’s not a day featuring a lot of great deals and food specials; instead, it’s a day during which local restaurants and their customers (i.e., you) do a lot of good for the community.

April 26 is this year’s date for Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Desert AIDS Project and other HIV/AIDS service organizations around the country. It’s simple, really: On that day, restaurants across the Coachella Valley have agreed to donate anywhere between 33 and 110 percent of their sales to DAP.

It really is simple: All you do is go out to eat, like you probably would anyway—and DAP gets a big chunk of whatever you spend. (If you feel like you must do more than simply eat out, never fear: Many participating locations also have donation envelopes available.)

My friends at DAP tell me that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smaller markets in which Dining Out for Life takes place, it’s one of the larger markets in terms of money raised. Last year, we ranked No. 3 in North America—and this year, the folks at DAP are keeping their fingers crossed for a jump to No. 2. Our li’l community does so well, in part, because of the generosity of some large and very busy restaurants: Lulu California Bistro (donating 50 percent), TRIO (donating 60 percent) and Spencer’s (donating 75 percent) generally rank near the top of the continent-wide list in terms of the amount of money donated.

However, it is most certainly not all about the big places: The biggest generosity, in many ways, comes from the smaller, mom-and-pop places. Rooster and the Pig and Ristretto are both donating 100 percent of their sales on April 26 to DAP—while Townie Bagels is giving a whopping 110 percent.

On Dining Out for Life day, you’ll be able to find me at a half-dozen or so—maybe more—participating restaurants throughout the day: having bagels, coffee, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, a post-dinner snack and then probably a few drinks. Follow my exploits via the Coachella Valley Independent Facebook page.

Please join me for Dining Out for Life on April 26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s literally the least you can do.

Visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings for a complete and constantly updated list of restaurants and their donation percentages.


In Brief

The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, is apparently close. Yeah, we’ve heard this several times before over the last two years, but co-owner Rita Capponi is so confident it’s actually happening this time that she gave me a “firm” opening date: May 1. More details to come; watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for updates. … Alicante, the tapas-themed restaurant at 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is gearing up for a name and theme change. Revel Public House will offer sports, great food and lots of drink, led by three new exclusive beers brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works—under the name Palm Springs Brewing Co. Visit the brand-new Revel Facebook page for details. … Draughtsman, at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just started a new late-night menu. “Late Night at Draughtsman” takes place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes fare such as Cauliflower “McNuggets” ($9) and a braised pork belly banh mi ($14), along with late-night beer specials and frequent entertainment. Get more info at draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The owners of CCBC—a gay, clothing-optional resort and play place (*ahem*)—have announced plans to build an adjoining 2,560-square-foot restaurant, called Runway; it’ll also have a 568-square-foot dining patio. We cannot wait to see this! See plans at www.ccedd.org/project/ccbc-resort-runway-restaurant. … Try (hopefully) great chili and benefit the Cathedral City Senior Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 7. The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place at the Big Lots Center at Highway 111 and Date Palm Drive; $20 gets you chili tastings and a box lunch from Aspen Mills. Yum! Find more details at www.cathedralcenter.org. … And now, in the “Why in the hell not?” category: The Village Pub Palm Springs, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has launched two new food challenges. On Wednesdays, you can try one of two challenges: Eat 10 blazing wings in five minutes ($13); or gobble down one pound of potato chips and two pounds of fish with homemade beer batter in 10 minutes ($30). Beat the challenge, and the food is free. Hmm. Learn more about the “Village Idiot Food Challenge”—and see if any idiots actually succeed—at www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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 www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com 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 www.hotwatercasino.com.


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 kimptonhotels.com. … 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 www.coachellawinery.com. … 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 heirloomcraftkitchen.com 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 www.desertwomansshow.com/taste-of-the-valley to get ’em and learn more.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: Elixir at the V Palm Springs Hotel

Could Palm Springs be entering an era when hotel-pool restaurants are all the rage with locals?

Given the wild success of Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, it’s possible—especially if the new restaurants at the V Palm Springs live up to their potential.

The V Palm Springs, located at 333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is not quite finished yet; about half of the former Curve hotel opened just before April’s big music festivals, with the rest of the rooms slated to open later this year.

As for the food: The V’s owners enlisted the help of the New York-based Blank Slate Group to develop the restaurant concepts. Keep your fingers crossed that Solstice, the V’s signature restaurant, will be open late this summer (i.e., September or so). Press materials say Solstice “will be a desert-inspired, simple, modern American restaurant and cocktail lounge, serving creative farm-to-table fare with a commitment to the freshest locally sourced ingredients,” during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Slated for the menu are dishes including “roasted bass with preserved blood orange, fiddleheads, spring peas and lemon balm,” and “grilled skirt steak with cilantro spaetzle, black garlic puree, crispy shiitake and mache.”

You don’t have to wait to check out Elixir Pool Bar and Grill, which opened in mid-April. “Asian-fusion BBQ fare” is the emphasis here, with dishes including a green curry guacamole for starters, and entrées including fried rice noodles with sautéed vegetables.

During a preview event at the V, I was able to taste a couple of the V’s signature cocktails. I especially enjoyed the Cucumber Crush, with citrus-infused vodka, cucumber juice, lime, Velvet Falernum and pineapple.

Brian Kabateck, one of the attorneys who owns the V, told me he does not want the V to just be enjoyed by visitors.

“The local community is very important to us,” he said.

Get more information at vpalmsprings.com.


United Way of the Desert’s Annual Gala This Year Is ‘Shaken, Not Stirred’

Like martinis? Want to help out a fine cause? Have an extra $275 sitting around?

If your answer to all of those questions is, “Why, sure!” you’ll want to get your tickets for “Shaken, Not Stirred,” the 2016 edition of the annual gala put on by the United Way of the Desert.

It takes place at 6 p.m., Friday, May 6, at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, at 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive. Your $275 will get you live music, dancing, entertainment—and, of course, signature martinis!

For more details, call 760-323-2731, or visit www.unitedwayofthedesert.org.


In Brief

The Funkey family—the people behind Giuseppe’s, Bar and Smoke Tree BBQ, all located in Palm Springs—have opened a second Smoke Tree BBQ location in Palm Desert, at 73850 Highway 111. Get smoked pork baby-back ribs, Angus choice brisket and other yummy food, plus cocktails, daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; smoketreebbq.com. … Chad Gardner, the owner of Dash and a Handful catering and Pho 533, has announced plans to open a new restaurant at the Andaz Palm Springs, 400 N. Palm Canyon Drive, when it opens in 2017. Fez Modern Moroccan will emphasize Moroccan fare, obviously, as well as vegan and vegetarian delights. Keep up to date at www.facebook.com/fezmodernmoroccan. ... We were zooming down the road through Rancho Mirage the other day when we noticed a sign announcing that Fisherman’s Crab Restaurant would soon be taking over the old Crab Pot location at 70030 Highway 111. That’s all we know for now; watch this space for more information. … Coming soon to the Henry Frank Gallery at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive: Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace. From the Facebook page: “Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace is poised to be the No. 1 destination when it comes to quality grab-and-go-prepared foods in Palm Springs. The store will be an international market and deli that will feature a signature rotisserie chicken. In addition to the chicken, the store will offer prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as specialty food items and gifts from around the world.” Watch www.tippersgourmetmarketplace.com for updates. … Downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza will soon be the home of Grand Central Palm Springs. Restaurant veteran Aaron Rogers is the general manager, and the restaurant’s website says Grand Central will have a full bar and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect the fare to be “American contemporary, a mix of updated classics and comfort foods” using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients where possible. Visit www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for more information.

Published in Restaurant & Food News