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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Now Open at Palm Springs’ Kaptur Plaza: V Wine Lounge

Before we get to all the sad news … let’s celebrate a little bit of good news with a glass of wine!

V Wine Lounge has finally opened its doors in Kaptur Plaza, at 600 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in downtown Palm Springs.

Mikey Consbruck, the owner of V Wine Room in West Hollywood, and James Mortensen are the masterminds behind V Wine Lounge. On offer are 80 wines by the glass from California and the old world; a nice variety of craft beers; and even cheese plates, if you’re feeling a bit peckish.

Even though Independent World Headquarters is located just a short jaunt from V Wine Lounge, we haven’t yet had a chance to stop in for a drink or three. We’ll do so soon—so watch this space.

For more information, call 760-668-9665, or visit www.vwinelounge.com.


Three Much-Loved Local Restaurants Shut Their Doors

And now for the sad news: Three well-liked local restaurants in recent weeks have announced that they’re shutting down:

Justin Eat & Drink, which had become a favorite of foodies at 68784 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City, announced via social media on Sept. 18 that it would not be reopening for the season. The soon-to-start construction on the Agua Caliente casino in Cathedral City was cited as the reason. “Keep your eyes open and stay tuned. You never know where you might see us next!” said the Facebook post.

Maria José Peruvian Restaurant, located in The Atrium at 69930 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, will also not reopen after a summer vacation. In an upbeat message posted on Facebook on Sept. 14, the owner said the time had come for her to “pursue other endeavors and devote more time to myself.” However, it’s no secret that the space Maria José occupied inside the sleepy Atrium mall was a tough sell—made even tougher since CVRep moved out of the mall earlier this year.

Frankinbun, which had delighted fans of all things sausage for five years at 540 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, announced on Facebook on Aug. 23: “So landlord decided not to renew our lease. ... The good news is we will be moving to the virtual world launching in 2020. All our vegan sausages and chutneys will be available. Stay tuned and thanks for all your support and love!” Watch www.frankinbun.com for updates.


In Brief

More sad news to report: The Coachella Valley restaurant world has lost two icons in recent weeks. Johnny Costagliola, the founder of legendary Palm Springs Italian restaurant Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, passed away on Sept. 4. He was 87 years old. His namesake restaurant remains open in the capable hands of his family. … Bill Tracy, the owner of the two Bill’s Pizza locations, passed away in early September. He fell off the roof of the Palm Desert restaurant in July, and then faced a series of complications. He was 69 years old. … Now open in Cathedral City: Bake’d Cakes and Pan Dulce, at 27800 Landau Blvd., No. 102. The bakery’s croissants, desserts and other goods are already earning raves on social media; call 760-656-0176, or visit www.facebook.com/Baked27800 to learn more. … Now open in Rancho Mirage: K-Tofu House, at 72817 Dinah Shore Drive, in the space that was briefly Sushi Arigato. If you’re not a fan of bean curd, don’t worry: K-Tofu House offers all sorts of Korean favorites with meat and veggies—bulgogi, bibimbap and a whole lot more. Call 760-656-8886 for more details. … Our friends at the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the city of Indio, are again showing off the eats from great east valley restaurants at the Taste of Indio event. It’ll take place from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 24, at Jackalope Ranch, 80400 Highway 111, in Indio. Tickets are $20 and include tastes from the dozen-plus participating restaurants. For tickets or more information, call 760-347-0676, or visit gcvcc.org/event/taste-of-indio-2. … Like meatballs? Then get thee to the seventh annual Sammy’s International Meatball Festival, taking place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Boys and Girls Club of Cathedral City, located at 32141 Whispering Palms Trail, in Cathedral City. The event is a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club. The $15 ticket includes meatball tastings, entertainment and access to a beer and wine garden. Kids get in (albeit not to the beer and wine garden part) for $5. Props to Sam Pace of Sammy’s Place for hosting the event! For tickets or more info, call 760-770-4965, or visit bgcccity.org.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Best Local Album

Thr3 Strykes, CMNCTN-BRKDWN

When I interviewed them last year, the members of Thr3 Strykes told me that putting together the album that would become CMNCTN-BRKDWN was a proving to be difficult task—and taking a long time.

All that hard work and time was worth it: The final result is awesome, and I can’t think of another album put out this year by a local band that matches its energy and insanity. The track with J. Patron and Christina Reyes of Caxton, called “The Colony,” is a must-hear.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Re-established Band

Sunday Funeral

Sunday Funeral was a worthy Best Local Band finalist this year—and what a year it’s been.

The band that Justin Ledesma has fronted for more than a decade has made a remarkable transformation. At the end of 2016, the members set the foundation by cutting back from a four-piece to a trio; meanwhile, Andrea Taboada took over bass duties.

The members found themselves in the finals of CV Weeklys Battle of the Bands in 2017, and have been playing more shows while putting together some great new original material. They’re a definite contender for Best Local Band honors next year; keep your eye on ’em.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Local Live Music Event

The 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener featuring The Flusters and The Yip Yops

The days between the two Coachella weekends are simply packed with great music events throughout the valley—but the one held this year on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza may have topped them all.

The Flusters and the Yip Yops packed The Hood for the 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener, with the bar having to turn away patrons when the venue reached its capacity. Both bands put on spectacular co-headlining sets—after collaborating on marketing materials that were genius and went above and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Benefit Show

The Concert for Autism

Josh and Linda Heinz, the husband-and-wife duo in Blasting Echo and 5th Town, have now been producing the Concert for Autism for 10 years—and every year, it continues to grow.

Because Josh and Linda are the parents of autistic children, this is a cause that is very near and dear to their hearts—and their efforts to help others facing the same challenges that their family faces are simply remarkable.

Of course … the show is always fantastic, too.

—Brian Blueskye; photo of Josh Heinz by Cory Courtney.


Best Customer Service for Those Quitting Smoking

Desert Vapors

I recently transitioned from cigarettes to vaping—I tried to quit cold-turkey, but needed help with the transition away from cigarettes. I had a lot of questions, and I went to a few shops to get some information and ask questions.

Desert Vapors, with locations in Palm Desert and Indio, had by far the best customer service of the vape shops I went to—and I wound up purchasing my first vaping kit from them. I went back a few days later after having some problems and got service that went above and beyond.

Also, the flavors that they offer are fantastic.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pet Grooming

Desert Pet Grooming

Let’s face it: When a pet groomer is named something like Royal Canine Resort and Day Spa, and the cutesiness level of the place is off the charts, that fluff is for human companions. All Fido cares about is that the potentially stressful grooming experience goes quickly and without a hitch. As for us human companions … if the grooming shop is welcoming, clean and safe, who needs to feel as though our pet is in the line of succession for the British throne?

Desert Pet Grooming, in Cathedral City at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard, offers everything you need in a quality pet groomer—without the silliness and added cost of massaging the human companion’s ego. The functional shop is spic and span, and all the grooming is done out in the open. The groomers we’ve tried there have all been great, but Brenda in particular will treat your furry friends like her own.

—Jeff Clarkson


Best Great (but Unpretentious) New Restaurant

Justin Eat and Drink

We like this restaurant on Highway 111 in Cathedral City for the very reason that it’s unpretentious. The Coachella Valley can always use more restaurants like this—serving tasty, interesting food, at reasonable prices, in a simple but hip atmosphere.

This place doesn’t go over the top like some of the restaurants geared toward tourists here in the valley. It’s just a casual, contemporary setting where one can enjoy a relaxed dinner. The portions aren’t huge, but they’re price-appropriate, and while the menu is not extensive, everything we’ve ordered has been delicious.

Although the service is sometimes slow, it’s always friendly—and the food is definitely worth the wait. Now that the restaurant is becoming more popular, reservations are recommended. Justin, the owner/chef, may even pop out and greet you at your table.

—Jeff Clarkson; photo courtesy of Justin Facebook page


Best Local Restaurants (on a National Scale)

TKB Bakery and Deli

Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar

It’s simple math: If there’s a list of, say, 100 top places to eat in the United States, that means the average state will be home to two places on the list. Right? Right.

That means if, say, a not-huge community like the Coachella Valley by itself were home to two places on the list, that would be freaking amazing. Right? Right!

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yelp’s 2017 list of the Top 100 Places to Eat for 2017. Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar, long an Independent staff favorite, was No. 78 on the crowd-source review website—an amazing accomplishment. However, what Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli has accomplished is even more fantastic: It came in at No. 5 on the list—making the Top 5 for the third straight year, something no other restaurant in the whole country has done.

TKB and Shabu Shabu Zen prove that despite some deficiencies, the Coachella Valley dining scene has much to be proud of.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Quail

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

I grew up eating quail—not all the time, or even regularly, but often enough that I knew what to expect whenever one of these gorgeous but silly small birds wound up on my dinner plate.

Well … at least I thought I knew what to expect.

That all changed the first time I enjoyed the codorniz estilo Ernesto at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill in downtown Palm Springs. The grilled quail with sautéed tomatoes, potatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic, green onions and cilantro is very, very good by itself. However, when it’s paired with Chef Ernesto’s diablo cream salsa, which is served on the side … well, let’s just say that none of the quail dishes I had while growing up were anywhere near this good.

A plate of codorniz estilo Ernesto, paired with a Rio Azul house margarita, is about as close as one can get to culinary nirvana here in the Coachella Valley, as far as I am concerned. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Prime Rib

TRIO Restaurant

TRIO is one of my favorite restaurants—but the place used to frustrate the heck out of me.

Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

Several years ago, TRIO would occasionally offer prime rib as a special—and after ordering it a time or two, I was hooked: It was the some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. (Considering I grew up on a cattle ranch, this is high praise, indeed.)

Problem is … because it was a special, the prime rib wasn’t always on the menu. Therefore, there was a time or three that I got a hankering for prime rib, went to TRIO with my fingers crossed … and got frustrated when the server told me prime rib was not on offer that particular night. However, that’s no longer an issue: Every Tuesday at TRIO is now Prime Rib Tuesday—and the meal costs a downright-reasonable $26.

This system is not perfect—a prime-rib hankering can occur on non-Tuesdays, after all—but at least now I know precisely when I can go to Trio to get that hankering satisfied. And that is a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

The New York Company Restaurant Closes After Three-Plus Years

After more than three years in business, The New York Company Restaurant, at 1260 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed its doors for good.

“We know you enjoyed dining at The New York Company Restaurant,” said a note sent to the restaurant’s email list on April 25. “So, we want you to know that our last day serving our guests was at Sunday’s champagne Brunch on April 23rd. It was a great run while it lasted … three-plus years of spending wonderful evenings together. Our party is over despite all we could do to create success. We know that we will miss you!”

This closure saddened me for several reasons. For one thing, one of the finest meals I’ve had in the Coachella Valley occurred last year at The New York Company Restaurant. For another, I got to know some of the folks there due to the restaurant’s participation in the inaugural Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, during which New York Company bartender Joey Tapia won both the Audience Choice Award at the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, and top honors at the Non-Alcoholic Craft Cocktail Championship.

While the closure saddened me, it certainly didn’t surprise me. I don’t know all of the things Neil Castren, Ken Misa and Wally D’Agostino did to get the word out about the restaurant, but I do know the place escaped my consciousness, more or less, for most of the time it was open—even though I live just a five-minute drive away. I rarely saw advertisements for the restaurant, and its social-media presence was nearly non-existent. If someone like me—a media-savvy person who writes about food on a regular basis—was never somehow motivated to check the place out, what chance did The New York Company Restaurant have with other potential customers?

Perhaps there’s a lesson here: Marketing and publicity, or a lack thereof, can make or break a restaurant.

So long, New York Company. You’ll be missed.


Coming Soon to Palm Springs: 716 on 111

After the sudden closure of the beloved Dickie O’Neals due to the death of its owner in the spring of 2015, the building at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, sat vacant until Frenchy’s Sports Bar and Grill came along in late 2016.

But within months, Frenchy’s was gone. However, the building won’t be vacant for long.

Keep your fingers crossed for an August opening of 716 on 111. The restaurant, owned by couple Christopher Krayna and David Hoffman, already has a Facebook page that’s full of useful information. For example, the page tells us that 716 on 111 will use “always fresh, never frozen” ingredients, often from local purveyors; that the menu will include “real deal” chicken wings, as well as a cast iron-prepared filet over a crisp wedge iceberg salad; and that a life-sized buffalo sculpture will somehow be involved.

Watch the 716 on 111 Facebook page for updates.


In Brief

We’re getting more and more information about the restaurants coming to the big downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project along Palm Canyon Drive north of Tahquitz Canyon Way. A press release issued in mid-May by Grit Development—formerly known as Wessman Development, before John Wessman, y’know, got indicted—revealed that Il Corso, a longtime Palm Desert restaurant, will open a spot in the development. Other restaurants will include Stout Beer and Burgers, a Tommy Bahama and a Starbucks Reserve. … New to Cathedral City: Justin Eat and Drink just opened its doors at 68784 E. Palm Canyon Drive. The menu of the “upscale casual” restaurant includes appetizers (“Snack Time,” says the menu header), tacos (“Taco ’bout It”), salads (“Rabbit Food”), sandwiches/burgers (“Things on Bread”) and entrees (“Grown Up Stuff”) including a prime hanger steak and a mushroom risotto. For more info, call 760-904-4093, or visit www.facebook.com/justinrestaurantcc. … A few doors down is another new place: Pollo Doky’s, at 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive. Peruvian fare—most notably rotisserie chicken and chicharron (pork) sandwiches—is what you’ll find at this fast-casual joint. For more information, call 760-832-6878, or head over to the restaurant Facebook page. … The Reef is now open in the bar area at the Caliente Tropics, at 411 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Rory Snyder’s bar/restaurant replaces The Congo Room, which fled the property amidst claims of leaky roofs and storm damage. Visit www.thereefpalmsprings.com to learn more. … Now open: Blackbook, in the old Café Palette space at 315 E. Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. The stylish-looking joint serves appetizers, sandwiches, chicken wings, salads and tacos; call 760 832 8497 or visit www.facebook.com/blackbookbarandkitchen for more info.

Published in Restaurant & Food News