CVIndependent

Sun01202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

This whole process started back in August, when voting began in the first round of the fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll.

Now, after three months, two rounds of voting and ballots from more than 1,300 people, we’ve come to the glorious end of the process: Here are the results of the Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019!

From all of us here at the Independent: A huge, sincere thank you to all of the readers who voted. We realize that this is not an easy ballot to fill out—almost 130 categories is indeed a lot— but because you took the time to do so thoughtfully, the slate of winners and finalists presented here is truly impressive. It’s diverse; it’s valley-wide (even including representation of the high desert); and it shows how truly great the people, places, organizations and businesses are that call the Coachella Valley home.

Now, it’s time to celebrate. Please join us at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub—your selection this year as Best Nightclub—244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, for the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party. All of the winners present will receive certificates and have an opportunity to say thank you; after that, your Best Local Band selection, Avenida Music, will take the stage and perform. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

CODA Gallery

 

Runners up:

2. Heather James Fine Art

3. Shag

4. Beatnik Lounge

5. Michael Weems Collection

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Show at Agua Caliente

3. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

4. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Empire Polo Club

3. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

4. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheater

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. La Quinta Arts Foundation

4. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. CREATE Center for the Arts

 

Best Local Band

Avenida Music

 

Runners up:

2. Frank Eats the Floor

3. Mega Sun

4. The Flusters

5. Sunday Funeral

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Day

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Alex Harrington

DJ PWee

4. Sugarfree

5.Pedro Le Bass

 

Best Local Musician

Matt King

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo

3. John Stanley King

4. Justin Ledesma

5. Nick Hales

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez

 

Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Nancy Worthington

4. Cristopher Cichocki

5. Marconi Calindas

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Century The River and XD

4. TIE

Camelot Theatres

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

5. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory Company

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

5. Coyote StageWorks

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group

Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

4. Desert AIDS Project

5. L-Fund

 

Best Gym

World Gym

 

Runners up:

2. 24 Hour Fitness

3. EOS Fitness

4. Planet Fitness

5. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Power Yoga Palm Springs

3. Yoga Central

4. Bikram Yoga Plus

5. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

4. Yucca Bowl

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Q Trading Co.

 

Best Auto Repair

Ramona Tire and Service Center

 

Runners up:

2. Andy’s Auto Repair

3. Lou’s Automotive

4. Downtown Shell Palm Springs

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Executive Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Vintage Nursery

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Pet Supplies

PetSmart

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. Bones ’n’ Scones

4. Pet Oasis

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Palm Springs Pride

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Walk (Desert AIDS Project)

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

5. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Morongo Casino Resort Spa

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Haley Clawson, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Best Radio Station

Jammin’ 99.5

 

Runners up:

2. Q102.3 Classic Rock

3. Mix 100.5

4. 93.7 KCLB

5. Big 106

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Jeff Michaels, Q102.3/Big 106

3. Bill Feingold, KNews 94.3 FM

4. Randy Houston, The Big 106

5. Joey English, KGX 99.1 FM/920 AM

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Rancho Mirage Library Book Nook

The Book Rack La Quinta

4. Sagebrush Press

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

The Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

3. Vista Music and Video

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Oasis Comics

3. Comic Asylum

4. HooDoo!

 

Best Hotel Pool

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

 

Runners up:

2. The Saguaro

3. Riviera Palm Springs

4. Renaissance Palm Springs

5. Arrive

 

Best Urgent Care

Eisenhower Medical Center Urgent Care

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Oasis Urgent Care

3. Executive Urgent Care

4. TIE

Centro Medico Urgent Care

MedPost Urgent Care

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Get Air Trampoline Park

3. Laser Oasis

4. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Lisa Bodon

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Amanda Curnock

4. Dr. Geoffrey Block

5. Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky, PA

 

Best Eye Care

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

3. Dr. Greg Evans (Evans Eyecare)

4. Old Town Optix and Optometry

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Frank Hernandez (Hernandez Dental)

3. Dr. Larry Kunkle (Palm Desert Dental Center)

4. Dr. Natalie Le (Palm Springs Modern Dentistry)

5. Dr. Ray Cros (Cros Dental)

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Suzanne Quardt

4. Dr. Natalie Driessen

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Barrett

3. Christopher Heritage

4. Emily Benjamini

5. James Jackson

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

TIE

Comfort Air

General Air Conditioning

 

Runners up:

3. Nexgen Air Conditioning and Heating

4. Blair Heating and Air

5. On Call Air Conditioning and Heating

 

Best Personal Trainer

Jaime Jimenez

 

Runners up:

2. Brandon Wertz

3. Ted Guice

4. Francisco Serrato

 

Best Chiropractor

Jim Cox

 

Runners up:

2. Daryl Richardson

3. Nazemi Chiropractic

4. Vincent Savarese

 

Best Real Estate Agent

Barbara Carpenter

 

Runners up:

2. Bob Ross

3. Paul Zapala

4. Valery Neuman

5. Michael Benthall

 

Best Electrician

Desert Pro Electrical

 

Runners up:

2. Hegge Electrical Contractors

3. Electrician4Hire

4. Collins Electrical Services

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta City Councilman Robert Radi

3. Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Oooh La La

 

Runners up:

2. Bobby G’s

3. Trina Turk

4. Wil Stiles

5. Grayse

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

5. Unity Home

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley HomeStore

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. West Elm

 

Best Antiques/Collectibles Store

Misty’s Consignments

 

Runners up:

2. Victoria’s Attic

3. The Estate Sale Co.

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Hephaestus

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Brush Palm Springs

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Wondercuts Inc.

5. Alankara, an Aveda Lifestyle Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

 

Runners up:

2. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

3. Two Bunch Palms

4. Miracle Springs Resort and Spa

5. Feel Good Spa at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Revive Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. Studio M Salon and Spa

3. Desert Serenity Float and Spa

4. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. The Flower Company

4. Mami’s Floral Boutique

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Bloodline Tattoo and Body Piercing

 

Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Oasis Tattoo and Body Piercing

4. Strata Tattoo Lab

5. Solid Tattoo

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Milauskas Eye Institute

3. Desert Vision Optometry

4. America’s Best

5. Panache Optical Gallery


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Moorten’s Botanical Garden

4. Shields Date Garden

5. El Paseo

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek Loop

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Palm Canyon Epic

 

Best Recreation Area

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

5. Cathedral City Town Square

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon Trail

3. La Quinta Cove to Lake Cahuilla Trail

4. Ladder Canyon Trail

5. South Lykken Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Sunrise Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. BikeMan

5. Pedego Electric Bikes

 

Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Country Club

3. SilverRock Resort

4. The Lights at Indio GC

5. Classic Club Golf


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. Ruth Hardy Park

5. Ironwood Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Target

 

Runners up:

2. Walmart

3. Mr. G’s Toys and Expressions

4. The Lumpy Bunny

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. The Children’s Place

3. Carter’s

4. Gap

5. Crazy 8

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Old Spaghetti Factory

5. Laser Oasis

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Boomers

3. Laser Oasis

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Laser Oasis

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Eureka!

4. TRIO Restaurant

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Katherine King Catering and Special Events

4. TRIO/Liquid Catering

5. Lynn Hammond

 

Best Diner

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Goody’s Cafe

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. Rick’s Restaurant

5. Sunshine Café

 

Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s

 

Runners up:

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

4. Whole Foods

5. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

 

Best Custom Cakes

Nothing Bundt Cakes

 

Runners up:

2. Over the Rainbow

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

5. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. French Corner Café

5. Over the Rainbow

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Ben and Jerry’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Lappert’s Ice Cream

5. Kreem

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Oasis Date Gardens

4. Great Shakes

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

Runners up:

2. Tutti Frutti

3. Beach House

4. Jus Chillin’

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

 

Best Bakery

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. French Corner Café

4. Carousel Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries

 

Best Barbecue

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Jackalope Ranch

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Smoke Tree BBQ

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burgers

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

Tyler’s Burgers

Grill A Burger

Eureka!

Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

4. TIE

Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Sandwich

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Real Italian Deli

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. Piero’s PizzaVino

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Smoke Tree BBQ

5. Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Bagels

Panera Bread

 

Runners up:

2. Townie Bagels

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Smoothies

TIE

Fresh Juice Bar

Jamba Juice

 

Runners up:

3. Juice It Up

4. Koffi

5. Palm Greens Café

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Coffee Co.

3. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Joey Palm Springs

6. Sip Coffee House and Juice Bar

 

Best Breakfast

Broken Yolk Café

 

Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Wilma and Frieda’s

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Rick’s Restaurant

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Acqua California Bistro

3. Kaiser Grille

4. TRIO Restaurant

5. Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms

 

Best Brunch

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Broken Yolk Cafe

4. Escena Lounge and Grill

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. City Wok

4. Bobby Mao’s Chinese Kitchen and Bar

5. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Athena Gyro

4. Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

5. Koutouki Greek Estiatoro

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Joey Palm Springs

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza

 

Best Italian

Nicolino’s Italian Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Ciro’s Ristorante and Pizzeria

4. Il Corso

5. Venezia Restaurant and Pizzeria

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Shogun Restaurant

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Otori Japanese Cuisine

 

Best Korean

Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. Umami Seoul

 

Best Sushi

Dragon Sushi

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Sam’s Sushi

4. Misaki Sushi and Grill

5. The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Roy’s

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. The Steakhouse at the Spa Resort Casino

5. Chop House at Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. My Thai

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Thai House

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. 533 Viet Fusion

4. Fuzion Five

5. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

4. Wildest Greens

5. Luscious Lorraine’s

 

Best Upscale Dining

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Morton’s The Steakhouse

3. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

4. Wally’s Desert Turtle

5. Johannes

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Eureka!

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rincon Norteno

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Rincon Norteno

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Pueblo Viejo

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Chipotle

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Blanca


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Best Local Brewery

La Quinta Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Red Barn

 

Best Cocktail Menu

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Tonga Hut

4. Seymour’s

5. Truss and Twine

 

Best Craft Cocktails

TRIO Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Bootlegger Tiki

3. Seymour’s

4. Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms

5. Truss and Twine

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar Palm Springs

3. Hunters

4. Blackbook

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Happy Hour

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza

3. La Quinta Cliffhouse

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Red Barn

4. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails

5. Score

 

Best Margarita

TIE

Las Casuelas Terraza

Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

3. Blue Coyote Grill

4. El Mirasol

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Best Martini

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Purple Room Palm Springs

5. Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Copa Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. The Nest

3. Zelda’s

4. Hunters

5. Costa’s Nightclub at the JW Marriott Desert Springs

 

Best Sports Bar

TIE

The Beer Hunter

Burgers and Beer

 

Runners up:

3. Big Rock Pub

4. Playoffs Sports Bar

5. Smokin’ Burgers

 

Best Wine Bar

Mastro’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. La Fe Wine Bar

3. Dead or Alive

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

BevMo!

 

Runners up:

2. Total Wine and More

3. Desert Wines and Spirits (Go Deli)

4. The Wine Emporium

5. Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Dead or Alive

4. Paul Bar/Food

5. Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs

Published in Readers' Picks

Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life Breaks Records

If anyone ever needs proof that the residents of the Coachella Valley are a rather generous lot, look no further than the results of the Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life (DOFL) fundraiser back in April.

First, a recap of how DOFL works: On one chosen day per year, restaurants across the Coachella Valley agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales—from one particular meal, or from everything—to the Desert AIDS Project.

On April 26, 75 local restaurants participated, raising a whopping $280,000 for DAP—an increase of $50,000 from last year. An estimated 10,000 valley residents went to these 75 restaurants that day.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a ‘badge of honor’—the ‘I Dined’ stickers given to diners at participating locations,” said event manager George Nasci-Sinatra, according to a news release.

That’s impressive. However, it’s even more impressive when these numbers are put into context.

Dining Out for Life is a nationwide (plus Canada!) campaign held the last Thursday in April every year by various HIV/AIDS service organizations. Representatives of all of these campaigns gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the North American Dining Out for Life Conference in July to compare notes. Well, it turns out that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets participating in Dining Out for Life, we rank No. 2 (!) in terms of money raised.

“Only Denver, which had three times more participating restaurants, raised more funds this year,” said Darrell Tucci, the chief development officer for DAP. “To be the smallest market in population driving the second-largest results is absolutely extraordinary and something we should all be proud of. Other markets have more participating restaurants, but no other market can boast the level of commitment shown by restaurants in greater Palm Springs.”

The main reason for the local Dining Out for Life’s success is the sheer generosity of local restaurants: In fact, the Top 3 restaurants in the country (plus Canada!) in terms of the total amount of money donated are here—Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistroand Trio Restaurant, in that order. They raised a combined total of $61,679.

It’s also worth noting the sacrifice of some smaller restaurants that elected to give 100 percent or more of the day’s proceeds to DAP: Townie Bagels, Holiday House, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and Rooster and the Pig. Heck, the wait staff at Rooster and the Pig even donated their tips for the day to DAP.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I’m personally a supporter of the Desert AIDS Project; the Independent does business with DAP; and George Nasci-Sinatra and Darrell Tucci are good friends of mine.)

Will the Coachella Valley be able to top these fantastic results during the next Dining Out for Life, on Thursday, April 25, 2019? Stay tuned.

For more information as the 2019 date draws nearer, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings.


The Ace Hotel and Swim Club Celebrates Its Annual Craft Beer Weekend.

It’s become a summer tradition for Southern California beer-lovers: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club's Seventh Annual Craft Beer Weekend will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4 and 5.

The weekend’s big events are a Craft Beer Festival from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, featuring entertainment, food and unlimited tastings (!) from some of the top craft breweries from SoCal and beyond; and a beer brunch at 11 a.m. on Sunday, featuring six beer-inspired and beer-paired courses—plus starting and ending beers, too.

Passes for the Saturday festival are $35, and the Sunday brunch will set you back $55—or do both for just $70. Attendees who book a room for the weekend get into the festival for free.

Get tickets and more info at www.acehotel.com/calendar/palmsprings/craft-beer-weekend-18.


In Brief

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has announced it has adopted new technology from a company called ORCA Digesters, Inc., that turns food waste into water. This will keep an estimated 624 tons (!) of food out of landfills each year. Awesome! … The Libation Room is now open at 73750 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The new cocktail bar promises a speakeasy type of vibe; check it out Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. on. For more information, call 877-869-8891, or visit www.libationroom.com. … The Manhattan in the Desert in Palm Desert, at 74225 Highway 111, has apparently closed. The Palm Springs location, at 2665 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is still alive and kicking. … One of the most happening outdoor-dining spots in downtown Palm Springs has been temporarily closed for a “facelift.” The patio at Tropicale, at 244 E. Amado Road, was closed on July 9 for a remodel that “should take about three weeks,” although the indoor bar and dining room remains open during construction. Depending on how that goes, and when you’re reading this, it may have reopened already! Call 760-866-1952 with questions.

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

Former Dish Chef Lands at Azucar; Alebrijie Lands in Former Dish Space

As the saying goes: When one door closes, another opens—and such is definitely the case in the restaurant industry.

A door closed, literally, for Joane Garcia-Colson last fall, when she shut down Dish Creative Cuisine, her well-regarded restaurant at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs; she cited conflicts with others involved with the business as the reason. I don’t use the phrase “well-regarded” lightly: Dish, which originally opened more than five years ago in Cathedral City, made many “Best Of” lists thanks to Garcia-Colson’s amazing blend of classic technique and whimsy.

Given Garcia-Colson’s talent, it was inevitable that another door would open for her—and it did at Azucar, the restaurant at the La Serena Villas, at 339 S. Belardo Road, in downtown Palm Springs. She’s taken her former Dish sous chef with her, and we can’t wait to see what she does at Azucar; watch laserenavillas.com/azucar-restaurant-and-bar for updates.

Meanwhile, at the old Dish location, a door opened for Alebrije Bistro Mexico. The restaurant debuted on Valentine’s Day, featuring upscale Mexico City-style cuisine. That Valentine’s Day menu featured tasty treats like lamb stew, rib eye with mole de cadera, and—as an appetizer—a bone marrow thyme emulsion and shaved Parmesan.

Wow. We can’t wait to check out Alebrije ourselves. Watch the Alebrije Facebook page for updates.


New: The Craft Rancho Mirage Comes to The S at Rancho Mirage

The Desert Island Country Club, located at 71777 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Rancho Mirage, is now called The S at Rancho Mirage—and the restaurant inside the country club has been revamped and is now open to the public.

The restaurant is now The Craft Rancho Mirage. It’s being run by executive chef/partner Erick Hernandez, formerly of Escena and the Indian Canyons Golf Resort; and veteran food/beverage director John Trad.

“We are excited to invite folks into The S at Rancho Mirage Country Club to be able to have a ‘taste’ of the club life without the membership,” said John Trad in a press-release quote. “While there are so many fabulous restaurants in the valley, this specific area of Rancho Mirage is lacking in options, and we are thrilled to be able to open our doors to the general public to join us in an incredible setting.”

The menu features “fresh, high quality and locally sourced ingredients,” and includes entrées like shrimp scampi, sugar-and-spice salmon, and “The Gatsby”—blackened ahi tuna, zucchini pasta, heirloom tomatoes and wasabi beurre blanc. You’ll pay between $24 and $36 for your main course—or you can enjoy happy hour every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the bar.

For more information, call 760-328-2111, or visit www.thesresort.com/dining.


In Brief

Help a new nonprofit organization get up and running, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Pirch, 71905 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Not only can you learn about Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley’s mission, programs and services; you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and Pirch signature cocktails. Admission is $50; RSVP by March 9 at 760-776-3100 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. … Every year, TRIO Restaurant throws its much-anticipated “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party during the Academy Awards, to benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. This year’s event starts at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 4; for $125 (bar seating) to $175 (VIP/premium seating), you’ll get a prix-fixe six-course dinner, well drinks, wine, champagne and the satisfaction that comes from helping out a great cause. Get tickets at aapfoodsamaritans.org or by calling 760-325-8481. … Coming soon to 170 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in the curve area of Palm Springs: Kreem Artisanal Ice Cream and Coffee. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening date here soon; watch www.facebook.com/ilovekreem for updates. … Newish to Indio: La Michoacana Real, serving up ice cream, raspados, juices and more at 81673 Highway 111; call 760-347-3939 to learn more. … Support the kids in Rancho Mirage High School’s CAFÉ Culinary Arts Department while trying their delicious creations from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 15. Admission is $10, and attendance is limited to 250 people—and these popular fundraisers often sell out. The school is located at 31001 Rattler Road; call the Thousand Palms Chamber of Commerce at 760-343-1988 to RSVP. Awesome! … And now for something else that’s awesome, albeit quite a bit more expensive: Citi Taste of Tennis takes place at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells from 7 to 10 p.m., Monday, March 5. For $200, you can enjoy cocktails and great cuisine while mingling with tennis greats and culinary giants, including Top Chef Richard Blais and Iron Chef Jose Garces, and local luminaries including Andrew Copley (Copley’s, AC3) and Engin Onural (The Venue, Sandfish). Get tickets at www.tasteoftennis.com/iw.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Some 75 attendees enjoyed fantastic cocktails, noshed on delicious food and learned a lot about mixology at the second annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The five competing bartenders were given the task of making a special, brand new drink with the sponsor liquor, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky. First, they had to make one-ounce sips for attendees, and then they had to make five full-sized drinks from the judges and the host, Jimmy Boegle, of the Coachella Valley Independent.

Hunter Broggi, a relative desert newcomer who works as a restaurant manager at Lulu California Bistro, was named this year’s champion thanks to his drink, Lulu’s Smokin’ Crown, beating a talented field that included Rob Nightingale, of Moxie Palm Springs; Bryan Palmer, of the Purple Palm; and last season’s champion, Sherman Chan, of TRIO Restaurant.

Rob Learned, of Giuseppes Palm Springs, was voted the Audience Favorite.

The judges—Leslie Barclay, of Southern Glazer/Pacific Wine and Spirits Of California; Brad Fuhr, of Gay Desert Guide; Chris Reutz, of the Desert AIDS Project; and Mike Thompson, of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert—gave high marks to all of the bartenders’ creations.

The event was sponsored by the Purple Palm Restaurant, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash Blended Canadian Whisky and Gay Desert Guide. The event’s beneficiaries are the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week continues at 12 bars and restaurants across the valley through Saturday, Jan. 27.

Scroll down to see some photos from the event, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Debuts on Feb. 17

The large and increasingly renowned Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival is set for March 23-25. So … is there a need for yet another food and wine festival happening just five weeks before and just a few miles away?

According to festival organizer David Fraschetti, the answer is a resounding yes—hence the brand-new Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival, featuring food from 15 Rancho Mirage restaurants, and sips from more than 40 wineries, on Saturday, Feb. 17.

Fraschetti is the man behind the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival—but he resides here in the Coachella Valley. He wanted to start a festival locally, so he started looking for places to do so. It just so happens that he and his wife were playing tennis at Rancho Mirage Community Park one day, he said; she mentioned it would be a fine place for a food and wine festival. At first, he thought it would be too small, but they decided to take a closer look. An art fair was also going on that weekend—and that helped him realize he’d found a potential site.

“I was amazed at how large that park really is,” he said.

Fraschetti said he partnered with the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce—hence the inclusion of only Rancho Mirage restaurants, at least this first year—and the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival was born. But what sets this festival apart from others … like, you know, that one happening down the street five weeks later? He said he learned a lesson from talking to the winery reps at other festivals, and asking what they’d change.

“They said, ‘Get rid of the beer. Get rid of the spirits. We’re tired of all the drunks, ’” Fraschetti said. “When you mix alcohols, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

So this festival has no beer, no booze and no cooking demonstrations. Instead, Fraschetti said, the focus is strictly on the wine.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he said. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive. Tickets start at $75; some of the proceeds will benefit the Desert AIDS Project. Visit www.ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.com for those tickets or more information.


The Palm Desert Greek Festival Returns on Feb. 17 and 18

For some reason, I’ve really been craving good grape leaves lately. Because of this (and all sorts of other edible reasons), you’ll probably find me at the 22nd Annual Palm Desert Greek Festival, taking place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18.

Not only will grape leaves (six tubs of them!) be for sale; all sorts of authentic Greek food will be available at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, along with entertainment including Greek music and dancers.

Admission is just $3, or free for children 12 and younger, as well as active-duty public-safety officers and members of the military. The church is located at 74109 Larrea St.; some shuttle service is available. Find those details and more by calling 760-568-9901, or visiting www.pdgreekfest.org.


In Brief

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey is now open at 1556 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s the latest venture by Engin Onural, the owner of The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge in Palm Desert. Get more info at www.facebook.com/pg/sandfishsushiwhiskey. … Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, has closed its doors for good following a death in the owner’s family. We send our best wishes. … Carousel Bakery is now open at 440 S. El Cielo Road in Palm Springs. We’ve been hearing good things; call 760-699-5006 for more details. … The ever-popular TRIO Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has a new executive chef: Nestor Ruiz. His previous employers include Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Palm Desert and The Chateau at Lake La Quinta. … Brand-new at 73655 El Paseo: Domo Sushi El Paseo. While we have not yet had a chance to try Chef Jin’s food, it sure does look beautiful. See for yourself at www.facebook.com/domosushielpaseo. … Speaking of beautiful food: New to Cathedral City, at 34041 Date Palm Drive, is Lala’s Waffles, Crepes and Shakes. See the pretty pics at www.facebook.com/eatlalas. … Now open in the old Clementine’s building at 72990 El Paseo: Wildest Greens, serving up raw, vegan, gluten-free and paleo options, plus more. Get more details at www.wildestgreens.com. … Also new, at 73900 El Paseo: Le Fe Wine Bar. You’ll find beer, wine, small plates and a fantastic happy hour. Learn more at www.facebook.com/pg/LaFeWineBar. … 716 on 111, which had been slated to open in the old Dickie O’Neal’s building at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, may not ever happen, thanks to mold. Visit www.facebook.com/716on111 to learn the latest news on what has become a rather ugly tenant-landlord dispute.

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

TRIO Closed Indefinitely After Early-Morning Fire

Sometime around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, a fire broke out in the parking lot behind TRIO Restaurant, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The ever-popular restaurant suffered significant smoke and water damage during the fire—and is now closed indefinitely.

In the aftermath of the blaze—which also devastated the neighboring Shag Store—TRIO owner Tony Marchese said he hoped Trio would reopen by Labor Day weekend. However, in late August, he announced via TRIO’s Facebook page that the cleanup and other work would not be completed by then.

Keep your fingers crossed for a reopening date sometime in mid-late September.

Authorities deemed the fire “suspicious,” but had not released any further concrete details as of our press deadline.

Watch www.facebook.com/TrioPalmSprings for updates.


Village Pub Closed for 'Rehab' After Liquor-License Violations

Whoever is in charge of the spin effort regarding the month-long closure of the Village Pub—at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs—deserves a raise.

Here’s what happened: The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended the Village Pub’s liquor license for 30 days due to a couple of major violations: A now-former employee “battered” a customer, and the pub had a bar manager who did not meet the state’s qualifications.

Oops. Well, how did the Village Pub handle the mess? The brilliant answer: Management ’fessed up and embraced the punishment.

Managers did TV interviews. Owners answered reporters’ questions. They announced the closure—which was cleverly branded as the bar’s “Rehab”—would take place starting Thursday, Aug. 24. They said that between then and a planned Saturday, Sept. 23, reopening, they’d “clean, refresh and retrain.” And they announced some great parties—some pre-“Rehab”-themed—before the closure.

Bravo for the PR effort … but not so much for the rules violations.

Watch www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings for updates.


In Brief

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is holding its sixth annual Craft Beer Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10. A craft-beer festival, a beer brunch and all sorts of other events are on the docket; get details, tickets and reservations at www.acehotel.com/palmsprings. … Congrats to our friends at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill. On Sunday, Aug. 20, the restaurant, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, celebrated the two-year anniversary of its wildly popular Desert Divas Drag Brunch. The Sunday brunch and the show are a steal at $16.95; get info at rioazulpalmsprings.com/drag-brunch. … When Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, reopens for its 42nd season on Friday, Sept. 1, it’ll have a new look. “The new concept has a modern feel with exotic woods and soft earth-tone colors,” according to a news release. “The beautification of the dining room will feature new carpet, all new upholstery and seating, and new paint throughout the restaurant. Custom angled framed mirrors will showcase the walls; new chandeliers, sconces and other enhancements will allow the dining experience to be more intimate.” Visit johnnycostaspalmsprings.com for more info. … After a series of violent incidents at The Block Sports Bar and Grill, 68955 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, the city shut down the restaurant on Aug. 10, apparently due to an expired business license. However, management jumped to resolve the paperwork issues, and reopened two weeks later. Watch www.facebook.com/theblocksportsbar for updates. … Coming very soon to the space at 68525 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City, that most recently housed Mike’s American Bistro: Bubba’s Bones and Brews. Watch this space for more information. … Coming soon: The valley’s fourth Koffi, to Tahquitz Plaza, at 600 Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. It’ll be the third Palm Springs location for the popular hangout; watch www.kofficoffee.com for more information. … Fans of the Desert Fox Bar, which called downtown Palm Springs home until closing in 2015, have cause to celebrate: The bar is making a return, at 44750 San Pablo Ave., in Palm Desert. Watch www.facebook.com/desertfoxbar for an exact opening date. … New to Palm Desert, specifically the Westfield Palm Desert mall: Burgerim, a “gourmet” chain burger joint. Customers who sign up can get all sorts of free food during a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 13; visit www.facebook.com/BurgerimPalmDesert for info and signup details. … Grocery-delivery service Instacart has come to the Coachella Valley. For $5.99, you can get your grocery order of $35 or more—from stores including Stater Bros., Ralph’s, Smart and Final, Petco, Whole Foods and Costco—delivered to your door. Get more info at www.instacart.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Three New Places Coming Soon From Local Restaurant Greats

In the coming months, at least three new restaurants are slated to open their doors in the Coachella Valley that are owned by veteran local restaurateurs.

In order of anticipated opening:

Acqua California Bistro—at The River, 71800 Highway 111, in Palm Desert—finally opened its doors to customers on Thursday, July 27.

A little history: Jerry and Barbara Keller got into the local restaurant business with Acqua Pazza California Bistro, located at The River, well before they opened their wildly popular Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs in August 2011. However, when the lease for Acqua Pazza expired in December 2014, the Kellers decided to walk away after 10 years, citing a desire to slow down and focus on Lulu.

BB’s at the River, owned by Jack Srebnik—who also owns The Slice and Maracas—soon opened in the space, but closed last year due to a lack of business. The owners of The River then did a very smart thing: They talked the Kellers into returning, and last September, they announced that Acqua California Bistro would open sometime in the winter.

Winter then turned to spring, which then turned to summer, without an opening date; Keller cited construction issues, in part due to the restaurant’s expansion, as one reason for the delay. However, opening time is finally here; to work out kinks, the restaurant served invited “pre-opening” guests July 22-24. (I was fortunate enough to be one of the guests, and the service and food were both top-notch—a good sign for a pre-opening meal, when the staff is still learning.)

If you know the menu at Lulu, then you know what to expect at Acqua, including the popular three-course menu for $19.99, and the all-day happy hour at the bar. As for the décor, the Kellers bumped things up a notch, including a sculpture featuring various colored forks out front, made by Karen and Tony Barone.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage.

• A mile or two away in Palm Desert, crews are hard at work preparing AC3 Restaurant + Bar, at 45400 Larkspur Lane—just off El Paseo—for an anticipated fall opening.

AC3 is a joint project by some of the minds behind two of Palm Springs’ most popular restaurants: Tony Marchese of Trio Restaurant, and Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley from Copley’s Restaurant. The description on the AC3 Facebook page sums things up nicely: They’re “teaming up to pair the distinctive style of Trio’s hip local vibe with Chef Andrew’s vibrant progressive cooking.”

While no menu information has been posted yet, we know the décor will include the colorful work of young Rancho Mirage artist Nicholas Kontaxis.

Visit www.facebook.com/ac3palmdesert for more information, including pictures of some of Kontaxis’ art. Head on over to ac3palmdesert.com to sign up for emailed updates.

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine has gained an increasing number of fans since opening early this year at 72695 Highway 111, Suite A6, in Palm Desert—and owner John Tsoutis delighted his restaurant’s west valley devotees when he announced in mid-July that a second Evzin would be opening in Palm Springs in October.

Despite serious grilling from friends and fans on Facebook, Tsoutis—as of our press deadline—had not revealed the location of the Palm Springs Evzin; he did, however, say it would be part of a hotel. Hmm.

Watch www.facebook.com/Evzinrestaurant for updates.


Details Revealed Regarding Restaurants at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way—part of the huge and controversial downtown redevelopment project—will be opening sometime in the fall, and we now have information about the restaurants that will call it home.

According to the news release: “Juniper Table, a casual all-day Mediterranean café, and 4 Saints, an intimate hideaway on the rooftop, will serve bold, chef-driven cuisine under the direction of executive chef Stephen Wambach, along with an extensive cocktail, beer and wine program. … Prior to joining Juniper Table and 4 Saints, he led the Four Seasons Chicago as executive chef, revamping Allium to receive three stars from the Chicago Tribune, in addition to being awarded the esteemed Esquire ‘Best New Restaurant’ award for his work at Epic in Chicago.”

Juniper Table “will be a vibrant upscale-casual eatery featuring rustic, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine spotlighting seasonal and organic ingredients,” according to the release, while 4 Saints’ menu “includes sharable plates that reflect internationally inspired ingredients, such as foie gras bread and butter, paring autumn flavors with salted caramel apple, Thai long pepper and gingerbread.”

Sounds fancy!

Watch the restaurants’ respective websites—www.junipertable.com and www.4saintspalmsprings.com—for updates.


In Brief

If you somehow missed the social media freak-out surrounding the news: A Krispy Kreme is supposed to come to Rancho Mirage in a yet-to-be-built development near Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. The opening date, however, is at least a year away. … Our friends at Dish Creative Cuisine, 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have launched new menus both in the bar and dining room. The new creations by Joane Garcia-Colson and team include fried langoustine ravioli ($9) in the bar. Yum! Visit www.dishcreativecuisine.com for more information.

Updated July 27

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When Trio Restaurant’s Sherman Chan walked into the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel to compete in the first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship on Nov. 17, she brought with her a secret weapon: an extensive culinary pedigree, including stints in the kitchens of multiple Michelin-star restaurants.

“I really appreciate cocktails’ flavor aspect,” she said. “It’s not just about booze; it’s about aromatics, everything.

Chan, 29, was born in Hong Kong, and has lived most of her life in big cities—Toronto, New York and the like. She’s always been intrigued by food, and was all set to study at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she said. However, before she left, she was challenged by her mother to work in a kitchen for a month to make sure she enjoyed it.

“I was working with an old-school chef, and he said that I didn’t need culinary school; he’d teach me,” she said.

Chan wound up working at some of the world’s most renowned restaurants: L’atelier de Joel Robuchon (three Michelin stars); Caprice in Hong Kong (two Michelin stars); and the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley (three Michelin stars).

She came to the Coachella Valley in January 2012 to take a temporary job at the Parker Palm Springs, because the Restaurant at Meadowood was going through a month-long closure.

“I didn’t want to be on unemployment for a month,” she said.

She was only planning on staying for three months—in fact, she had her next job lined up in San Francisco. However, she became smitten with the desert.

“I love the weather, and it’s waaaaay cheaper to live here,” Chan laughed. “It’s a great place to live.”

She helped open the late, lamented Jiao, where she was a consultant and sous chef. Shortly thereafter, she started hankering for a chance to be in the front of the house, and she decided to take a job tending bar at Palm Desert Country Club.

“I thought I might as well start working the front of the house and see how it was,” Chan said, adding that the money is often better in the front. She actually started the process of moving behind the bar while she was in Napa, taking an online course from BarSmarts.

After Jiao, Chan spent time at a variety of well-respected local restaurants, in both the kitchen and at the bar—Escena, Tonga Hut, the Westin Mission Hills, Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise, So.Pa at L’Horizon and Mastro’s Steakhouse.

In December 2015, she started working part-time at Trio. Turns out she’d found a home: The fun energy at Trio, she said, made her eventually quit another part-time job to work full-time there.

“In hospitality, it’s really easy to work in a lot of places where you don’t feel like you belong,” Chan said. “I am so happy I got the opportunity to work here. Plus, the business is expanding, and they treat the staff really well.”

At Trio, she’s added a lot of variety and nuance to the cocktail menu. She brought the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship trophy to Trio with her “Bulleit Proof” drink, a combination of Bulleit Bourbon, grapefruit juice, honey syrup, lime, Peychaud’s bitters, ginger beer and rosemary.

“I really enjoy the whole bartending thing,” she said. “I get to create something and have guest interaction. It’s fun being a conductor of someone’s evening.”

Trio Restaurant is located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-864-8746, or visit triopalmsprings.com.

Published in Features & Profiles

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