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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

More than 80 people came to the Copa Nightclub on Wednesday, Dec. 12, with one goal: to celebrate the people, businesses and organizations that make the Coachella Valley a fantastic place to call home.

The Coachella Valley Independent and Copa Nightclub sponsored the fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party, an event that honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories ranging from the best place to hike, to the valley's best restaurants, to the valley's best sex-toy shop. (Our readers say it's Skitzo Kitty, by the way.)

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle, with help from assistant editor Brian Blueskye—came to celebrate Barbara Carpenter, voted Best Real Estate Agent for the second year in a row, and Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping seven categories.

After the awards were given out, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music delighted the audience with a full set.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald. In the media section, find the welcome video from Rep. Raul Ruiz, as well as a video of the event, courtesy of Tantalum Films. (Originally published on Dec. 13; updated with video Jan. 3.)

Published in Snapshot

Two decades ago, a group of friends who grew up together started a band called The Hellions—and they’re still rocking the local music scene today.

Although the Hellions have endured lineup changes at various points, the current group—Angel Lua (vocals/guitar), Bob Llamas (drums), Jamie Hargate (guitar) and Travis Rockwell (bass)—has been around for a while.

The Hellions will be receiving the Best of Coachella Valley Legacy Award on Wednesday, Dec. 12, During the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party at the Copa Nightclub in Palm Springs.

During a post-rehearsal interview at Bernie’s in Rancho Mirage, I asked them how they’ve managed to keep playing, rehearsing and writing for 20 years as marriages, families and career moves have taken place.

“That was all part of the plan,” Hargate joked.

“You never start something hoping that it’ll end,” Lua said. “We had a common taste in music, and we thought, ‘Let’s do something with it.’ I think everything falls into place, and we just keep it going. If we ever felt like we were forcing ourselves to do it, we probably wouldn’t be doing it anymore.

“It’s something that’s second nature to us at this point. We grew up together musically, and we all got better as musicians playing together and learned off each other. You have to like the people you’re around to do that; otherwise, forget it. Everybody is on the same page for the most part … or at least 65 percent of the time.”

Over 20 years, the Hellions have written some songs, but have released just one record, 2016’s Hymns From the Other Side. Dali’s Llama frontman Zach Huskey told me once: “The Hellions are kind of the slowest songwriters in the world.” The members explained the lack of prolificacy.

“I don’t think we put the effort into finishing a song,” Llamas said. “Right now, we probably have at least a dozen songs that are almost done. Why? I don’t know. We’ll work on new music, but then we’ll have a show come up, and we’ll focus on our set instead.”

Rockwell said the band worked hard to make a professional recording, with former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder recording and producing.

“It costs money to put an album out when you do it the right way,” Rockwell said. “Anyone can go out and buy a computer and record shit in their bedroom right now. We planned to go into the studio and put in the work and put in the time and money to have Scott Reeder produce it. That was probably the tightest we ever were, when we went up to Scott’s place to record that album. That was about $6,000, and when we play a show, usually we make $100. So how many shows do we have to play to make that? Then we have to pay for mastering, and then we have to pay for the production. It’s a lot of work. Our whole philosophy is whatever money we make as a band goes back into paying for that.”

Lua said he had personal reasons for wanting the album released.

“I wanted to give my mom something,” Lua said. “She always asks me, ‘When do you play again?’ ‘Oh, we’re going to play at 11 p.m. tonight,’ and she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s too late!’ So I gave her a record and said, ‘Here’s a record. Go play it on your phonograph!’”

The Hellions are known for being generous with their time: If they’re asked to do a benefit show for a worthy cause, and they’re available, the Hellions are always in.

“People enjoy our music and want to come and see us play. The least we could do is give something back to our community,” Hargate said.

“People who wouldn’t normally come out to see us get to see us, and we play to an entirely new audience,” Rockwell added. “Some 18-year-old kid’s mom comes out, and she’s fucking re-living the ’80s. She’s done a ton of shots; she’s dancing; and the skirt gets a little higher up.”

The Hellions have played with many national tour acts as they’ve come through town.

“One of my favorite shows we ever did was with the Dwarves,” Hargate said. “I was always a big fan when I was 15 years old and going to their shows. To bring them out here as our friends now is pretty humbling.

“We’ve even been fortunate enough to meet a lot of musicians who have done some great things. For me later on in life, and having been a fan of them when I was a kid, it’s very comforting. But I’m not starstruck anymore.”

It’s been a fascinating month of November here at the Independent, with the election and, of course, the Best of Coachella Valley. But I get to all of the greatness that is the Best of Coachella Valley stuff, I need to bring up a couple of stories we posted last week, because they have to do with one worst tragedies in modern California history—and the fact similar tragedies are likely to keep happening over and over again due to our new reality.

As of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County has claimed 88 lives—a number that is sure to rise, since more than 150 people have not yet been accounted for. More than 18,700 buildings—the majority of those homes—have been destroyed, including almost the entire town of Paradise.

Let’s put that in perspective: Paradise and Desert Hot Springs are about the same size in terms of population. Paradise is larger than Rancho Mirage. And it’s essentially gone.

One of the stories came to us compliments of our friends at the Chico News & Review. It starts out with one of the most harrowing, terrifying and heartbreaking stories of survival and loss that you’ll ever read. It concludes with a link to a GoFundMe page for Chico News & Review staffers who lost their homes in the Camp Fire. This one holds a special place in my heart—not only are these fellow newspaper people; I started my career working for the News & Review company, so I ask you to contribute if you can. Thank you.

Meanwhile, life goes on here in our amazing Coachella Valley—and that brings me to the Independent’s fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll.

A record number of people voted in this year’s two rounds of polling, and we’re excited to present the results of that vote, along with features on some of the winners, and some additional “Best Of” selections by Independent staff and contributors.

I have a lot of people to thank here, including Beth Allen, who did the layout for the whole Best of Coachella Valley section in the print edition; and Brian Blueskye and Kevin Fitzgerald, who contributed our features. Huge thanks also go to all of our fantastic advertisers—and most of all, to the readers who navigated nearly 130 categories on our ballot to vote.

Please join us to celebrate all of our winners at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show, taking place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub in Palm Springs. After we give out the awards, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music will perform; admission is free.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. I encourage you to pick up the December 2018 print edition, on newsstands now. Finally … have a fantastic and fruitful holiday season!

Published in Editor's Note

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

Best Auto Service for Honesty’s Sake

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Cam Stone’s Automotive in Palm Desert is the kind of auto-service shop every woman dreams of—at least women (and men) like me who know little to nothing about car repairs.

The people at Cam’s do good work, are honest, and never seem to recommend anything you don’t really need. And if money’s really tight … you can ask them what absolutely, positively has to be done; they’ll let you know how far you can push the part you can’t afford to have replaced today before a major mishap occurs.

Guy Allchin (pictured here with his family), who runs it, and Karl, his excellent sidekick, are straight-up guys who explain things so you can understand them and so you can make the best decisions to keep your wheels on the road. 74867 Velie Way, Palm Desert; 760-568-2999; camstonesautomotive.com.

—Anita Rufus


Best Sandwiches Inside a Convenience/Liquor Store

Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli

From the outside, Larry’s Gourmet Market and Deli looks like a run-of the-mill liquor store, selling the usual stuff. But … go inside, and you’ll see Larry’s is an unexpected, family-run treasure chest.

For one thing, the deli is really good. We’ve enjoyed everything we’ve gotten there, but our favorite is the meat-filled Don Veto specialty sandwich (pictured here).

Larry’s also has a variety of interesting gourmet items you might not find elsewhere. One example: On a recent trip, we got a box of delicious rose-flavored Turkish delight candy.

Along with a nice variety of beer and hard liquor, Larry’s carries a respectable wine selection that goes from very cheap to the $100-a-bottle range. There’s even a refrigerated wine room in the back that feels great in the heat of summer.

Just don’t go to Larry’s looking for lottery tickets. They don’t sell them … which, for us, classes up the place. 2781 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-832-7188; larrysgourmetmarket.com.

—Jeffrey Clarkson


Best Place to Avoid If You’re Arachnophobic

The VW Spider on Indian Canyon Drive at Interstate 10

When you’re driving by, you can’t help but notice the massive spider looming large in front of a warehouse with “Hole in the Wall” emblazoned across the front. And you may have wondered, like me: What? How? Why?

After some sleuthing, I discovered that the 28-foot high, eight-legged hunk of metal formerly fronted a Volkswagen repair shop, Hole in the Wall Welding. The enormous recycled artwork (the spider body is a full-size VW bug) was created by owner/welder/mechanic/desert rat Bob Miner, who passed away in 2008. The repair shop no longer exists, but Bob’s family still resides in the warehouse.

If you’re into kitsch and not afraid of creepy crawlers, this hairy-legged arachnid is a quirky must-see landmark. If you are afraid … avoid Indian Canyon Drive (next to Jack in the Box), just south of the Interstate 10.

—Beth Allen


Best Place to Pretend You’re on the Set of a David Lynch Movie

Open-Mic Night at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley

The Palms is one of those middle-of-nowhere places that’s really a groovy hangout. It’s a throwback, with very affordable booze—$1.50 for a can of Pabst beer; $3 for a domestic bottle; shots starting at $4—and cheap tasty, eats (the onion rings and fried zucchini are delish), all in an atmosphere that’s weathered, worn-in, kooky and cool.

Every Friday at 7 p.m. (with signups starting at 6:30), The Palms hosts an open-mic night, where there’s a good chance reality may become fuzzy—all in the name of “entertainment.” Spoken word, comedic acts, genuinely gifted musicians, not-so-gifted musicians … there’s something for everyone. You may witness folks like “Grannie”—a toothless senior in a cute wig and cowboy hat—crooning “Stand by Me,” a cappella, in a gruff, “I’ve been smoking a pack a day for the last 60 years” voice. The Palms’ open mic is truly strange and endearing at the same time. The Palms Restaurant, 83131 Amboy Road, Wonder Valley; 760-361-2810. (Pictured: Guitar-player Karl Van Dyke performs at The Palms’ open-mic night. Photo courtesy of Joseph Barrett.)

—Beth Allen


Best Tapas and Wine Hideout

Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs

With its semi-mandatory valet parking, fancy-schmancy main restaurant and well-heeled celebrity clientele, the Parker Palm Springs can be a bit intimidating … despite the hotel’s ostensible casual-hip vibe. However, we’re madly in love with Counter Reformation, the hotel’s cozy wine bar, featuring friendly service and great music.

The door to the bar is hard to find—head toward the pool and take a left—but discovering this well-designed and inventively Catholic-themed spot is serendipity. The wine choices are not extensive, but the selections are diverse and interesting enough. And at the prices … well, at the Parker, at least, they’re bargains.

We’ve sampled about half of the tapas on the menu, and everything so far has been delicious. These small plates, along with the free loaves of fresh-baked bread and the complimentary olives and cornichons, can make for a filling meal … a meal you can partially work off during the walk back to your self-parked car on the street outside. 4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-770-5000; www.parkerpalmsprings.com/food-and-drink. (Pictured: The Jamón Iberico at Counter Reformation.)

—Jeffrey Clarkson


Best New Band

Mega Sun

Mega Sun arrived in early 2018—and the group quickly earned the admiration of the local music scene.

The band’s sound reminds of stoner rock, circa the early ’90s, and the group’s live shows are always loud and fantastic.

The power trio is currently in the process of completing some recordings. I’m excited to see what this band will do in 2019 … and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Album

Throw the Goat, The Joke’s On Us

Throw the Goat had a great year in 2018 after finishing off 2017 on a mind-blowing note: The group won a contest, as announced on New Year’s Eve 2017, put on by Dave Ellefson of Megadeth to release an album on his Combat Records label. The Joke’s On Us was released shortly thereafter.

The name of the album is a reference to the presidency of Donald Trump and has political themes. Produced and recorded by guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, the album shows the band going heavier with more punk. It’s a great example of a musical evolution.

While Throw the Goat might confuse audiences who question whether the band is punk or metal, we can all agree: The Joke’s On Us is a great album.

—Brian Blueskye


Best All-Female Band

The After Lashes

I have enjoyed watching the all-female four-piece band The After Lashes improve its sound over the course of 2018; in fact, every time I take in one of the group’s shows, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much the talented band has improved since I first saw The After Lashes.

Why has the band improved? The members of The After Lashes put in the work. Combine that hard work with talent, attitude and energy, and The After Lashes are amazing.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pizza Joint You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Pizzeria Bambinos

I’m kind of shocked that Pizzeria Bambinos wasn’t a Best Pizza finalist this year. But then again … this fantastic pizza joint seems to be flying under the figurative radar. In fact, it may be the valley’s best kept pizza secret.

Maybe it has to do with the location; this small pizzeria is tucked away in the same shopping plaza as Big Lots in Cathedral City, and has limited seating … but it makes fantastic pizza, with other delicious options as well. 69040 Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City; 760-770-0505; pizzeriabambinos.com.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Comfort Food in a Desert Dining Wasteland

Two Guys Pies

I moved to Morongo Valley a year ago from the Bay Area … and my taste buds have been suffering terribly in this desert wasteland. Nearby Yucca Valley is more of a mecca for fast food (including ridiculous overexcited buzzing about the recent opening of a Popeye’s Chicken) than any sort of place for fine dining. However, all is not lost.

I am in the midst of a comfort foodgasm over my discovery of Two Guys Pies, aka TGP. Specializing in brick oven ’za, Guy and Guy, the two guys behind Two Guys Pies, promote rock ’n’ rolling all night and ’za-ing every day. Their double-decker pepperoni pizza ranked 24th in the world at an international pizza expo just last year!

Aside from the delicious pizza, Two Guys has salads, pastas and sandwiches … all with creative rockin’ names like Sound Tomato Garden, Bon Chovies, The Hungry Rollins Band, Spinach Tap, Weird Al-Fredo, Run DMCaesar, etc. The Basket Case bread balls with Love Potion No. 9 dipping sauce are an absolute must-have.

It’s hard for me to refrain from eating at TGP every night. My only complaint: It closes at 4 p.m. on Sundays. 56969 Yucca Trail; Yucca Valley; 760-418-5075; 2guyspies.com. (Pictured: A Two Guys Pies employee hard at work. Photo by Shawn Smith.)

—Beth Allen


Best Local Event for Car Lovers

McCormick’s Palm Springs Collector Car Auctions

Keith McCormick is a classic-car guru, and whether you’re looking for a rare foreign vehicle or a domestic beauty from the ’50s, a Porsche or a Corvette, chances are you can find one at McCormick’s showroom on Indian Canyon Drive downtown Palm Springs—or at his twice-a-year car auction.

McCormick is an import himself: He moved from the outskirts of Liverpool in England to Palm Springs in 1981.

“I’ve been into the cars since I was 18,” he said. “Moving my exotic car biz here was a no brainer: It was the same (here) as in England, except for the sunshine and no rain over here.”

In 1985, he put together the Palm Springs Vintage Grand Prix and Concours d’Elegance show to help promote local tourism.

“We raced the vintage cars where now the new Convention Center is,” he said, proudly pointing out that he himself owns a cool Ferrari 488 GTB.

The McCormick family—with his wife and son, Jason, working alongside—has put together 65 Palm Springs Collector Car Auctions so far. The event is held twice a year, in February and November, with more than 500 cars at each event.

The McCormicks sell and ship cars all over the world, from Japan to Germany.

“We have sold Sinatra’s, Liberace’s and Elvis’ cars—even the Batmobile,” McCormick said with a grin. “Classic cars are like art to me—it’s like looking at ‘Mona Lisa,’ but a lot less expensive.” www.classic-carauction.com. (Pictured: Keith McCormick. Photo by Brane Jevric.)

—Brane Jevric


Best Artery-Clogging Meal

The Disco Superfries at Blackbook

If you’ve ever been hungry while in downtown Palm Springs, you know there are many, many options for food … but when my friends and I are in the mood to be bad, we always pick the cardiac special of disco superfries at Blackbook on Arenas Road.

These little yummies are a home run every time. Think nachos … but instead of chips, you get fries! That’s right—fresh fries topped with gooey cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and hot sauce.

You can share them, or you can make them a meal—you get a whole small cookie sheet of them! Warning: This is an item that’s just begging to be shared, so even if you’re alone and intend the superfries to be your meal … you will always have “friends” magically appear, even if you didn’t bring any with you. 315 Arenas Road, Palm Springs; 760-832-8497; blackbookbar.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Karaoke

Peabody’s Café

The Coachella Valley is certainly not suffering from a lack of talented professional singers. But if you’re not a professional … it’s hard to carry your shower out on the town with you, so check out Peabody’s Café on Friday and Saturday nights for karaoke.

Even if you don’t want to croon yourself, you can kick back and hear some great singers … and some not-so-great singers. There is a great music selection, and the DJ is a nice guy. The fun starts at 7:30 p.m., but get there early—it fills up fast!

Enjoy the menu and bar while you’re waiting for your turn on the mic; Peabody’s has killer Bloody Mary’s. Heck, bring your friends and make a night of it! 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-1877; www.peabodyscafeandbar.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Weekend Culinary Classes

Wabi Sabi Japan Living

One of my favorite places to hang out is Wabi Sabi Japan Living. It may sound weird that I like to hang out at a small Japanese-goods store, but don’t judge.

Not only does Wabi Sabi have great merchandise; the owners, Darrell and Sam, offer amazing classes on how to enjoy and use their products. Check out the website for dates and times; the classes are usually held on Saturday afternoons. I have been to the bonsai tree and ramen classes … but I have yet to attend the class I want to take most of all: the sushi-making class. You learn how to make three rolls by actually making them … then you get to eat them! You have to sign up early; the class fills up quickly. Wabi Sabi also offers sake and Japanese-grilling classes.

Not only do Darrell and Sam know what they are talking about; you can feel their passion. Take note: Wabi Sabi is set back off of the road a bit; look for the Rising Sun flags. 258 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-537-3838; www.wabisabijapanliving.com.

—Dwight Hendricks


Best Seafood Towers and Tostadas

Mariscoco’s Culiacan

Because I am a west valley resident, I don’t get down to the east valley that much … but I can tell you that an east valley trip is coming soon. In fact, it’s probably already happened by the time you’ve read this.

The reason: I have a huge, honking hankering for the food at Mariscoco’s Culiacan.

The last time I was at this Coachella mainstay, I ordered the tostada especial (pictured here): an individual-sized plate of delicious, fresh and cool seafood, including shrimp, abalone, octopus, fish, sea snail and scallops—plus cucumbers, onion, avocado and other ingredients—all mixed in with Mariscoco’s special smoky-tasting sauce. It was really, really good.

Still, I looked longingly at the seafood towers—including many of the aforementioned ingredients, and then some—as they went by to other tables. These huge creations are meant for more than one mere mortal … so next time I go to Mariscoco’s, I won’t be going alone.

Hey, west valley friends: How about a short road trip? We can meet our east valley friends at Mariscoco’s. 51683 Harrison (Cesar Chavez) St., Coachella; 760-398-5666; www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

On a recent sunny but cool weekday afternoon, more than 200 children and teens, ages 7 to 18, were busy inside the President Gerald R. Ford Clubhouse at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley in La Quinta.

Just as they do every weekday afternoon during the school year, the kids happily immersed themselves in one of the myriad activities and programs offered here and at the other BGCCV outposts in Indio, Coachella and Mecca. (There are two other separately managed clubs in the valley: the Boys and Girls Club of Cathedral City, and the Boys and Girls Club in Palm Springs.) Sounds of laughter, chatter and serious discussion filled the rooms where kids can do their homework, learn about technology (including robotics), play sports and much more.

“The beauty of the Boys and Girls Club is that we give all of our children a place to belong—a place where they feel like they can be useful, a place where they get some positive influence from good, positive people, and where they can feel like they’re accomplishing great things,” said Siah Nix, a 22-year BGCCV veteran who is the unit director of the Ford Clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, BGCCV CEO Quinton Egson talked to me at his administrative office in Palm Desert. Egson, who has worked with the club for 36 years in various capacities, explained how the different program options at each of the clubs are developed and implemented.

“When we first went out into Mecca in 2012, we were sitting at a table with maybe eight to 10 teenagers, and I asked, ‘By a show of hands, who’s going to go to college?’ Nothing. I guess their aspirations were to finish high school, which is commendable, and then go to work. So we saw a need to make sure that the kids were prepared to go to college. We started a series of programs called Next Step Prep, Goals for Graduation and College Bound. Fast forward, and now we have over 40 kids who have gone to college out of Mecca.

“Academics is really big at all of our clubs. We help kids with their homework and make sure that they are ready to get promoted to the next grade. Grade progression is important, as is the goal that they graduate on time with a plan for the future.”

Nix said the Boys and Girls Clubs have adapted as technology has advanced.

“Now all children have laptops or tablets at their schools,” Nix said. “So we have specific computers that are designed just for them to do their homework if they don’t have their laptop or tablet with them. There are no excuses now for not doing the homework.

“We’ve made it into an incentive program based on how much time they put in here doing their homework. We count every 15-minute interval they spend here, and at the end of the month, we have an incentive party for the top 10 children participating. Children watching from outside the classroom see these children doing something different from the norm and enjoying this party atmosphere, and they inquire as to how they can become a part of that experience. Then we tell them all that’s required is doing your homework, and we get more kids wanting to join in. Initially, they just want to be a part of that party—but we know that having them get their homework done right after school when the learning is still fresh in their heads is important.

“Also, now when the kids go home, they can enjoy quality time with Mom and Dad,” Nix added with a smile.

In recent years, the BGCCV has made a daily meal service a priority as well.

“(During the school year) we’re open from 2 to 7 p.m.,” said Egson, a College of the Desert graduate who was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious national Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s Herman Prescott Award, for visionary leadership and exemplary field work. “During the summer, we’re open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to accommodate the working parents. We started feeding our kids dinner every night during the school year, because we saw that the kids were getting their best meal each day at their school’s lunch. Now they can get a second good meal at our place. Also, in the summer, we give the kids both free breakfast and free lunch. When a kid is hungry, he’s not worried about getting an ‘A’ in class. What l try to do with our team is assess our kids constantly in conversations and by keeping our ears to the ground. Then we can meet them where their needs are—and once we can meet them where their needs are, we can help them get to where they should be.”

Such a multifaceted organization delivering services on such a grand scale—more than 6,000 youth members are served by the four BGCCV facilities annually—requires a substantial fundraising effort. Egson explained how his group raises the required $3.5 million each year.

“Just recently, we had a special event called Putting Party With a Purpose. We did the glow-golf thing at Indian Wells Golf Resort and we had about 200 people there,” Egson said. “It was excellent. We raise about one-third of our annual budget with events, and they give us a chance to introduce ourselves and our mission to a lot of people. We do a lot of grants as well; we’re working over 20 grants right now. Also, we do private donations. We get out there, and we shake the trees.

“Every year, in my mind, we start at zero and we have to raise that $3.5 million. We’ve been around since 1966, so through trial and error, we’ve been able to put together some reliable funding sources to help us be a sustainable organization.”

Major fundraising events planned for the near future include the Sports Heroes Luncheon (which may become a dinner event) sometime in January 2019, and the annual gala called the Grand Auction, slated for March 9, 2019.

“It’s going to be at the Hyatt in Indian Wells,” Egson said. “That’s our signature fundraiser, so to speak. Last year, we raised over $1 million. We draw about 600 to 700 people who know what they are there for.”

Any child between the ages of 7 and 18 can become a member by getting registered online or at a BGCCV clubhouse; membership fees vary based on the ability to pay. Adults can volunteer by calling or contacting the BGCCV via the website.

“You have to go through a background screening,” Egson said. “… Next, we hook you up with our volunteer coordinator, who takes you through a little questionnaire to determine what your goals are for volunteering. Finally, we put you in the right spot, and we get you started. A lot of times, we help volunteers share their passions with our youth.”

It’s obvious a lot of great work is being done at the clubs to keep local kids on the right path.

“One of my life’s philosophies is to build kids now, so that we don’t have to fix adults later,” Egson said. “It’s hard to fix adults.”

For more information, call 760-836-1160, or visit www.bgcofcv.org.

Published in Features

For Avenida Music—voted as the Best Local Band by readers of the Independent in the annual Best of Coachella Valley poll—music revolves around family.

The band includes three brothers—and may be the only local group to be the subject of a song by another local band (Frank Eats the Floor). Avenida Music has played all over Southern California for weddings and corporate events, and has a weekly residency at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.

When I sat down with Josiah Gonzalez (piano/synth), he told me some fascinating stories about the musical journey that led to the formation of Avenida Music.

“The band is composed of two of my brothers (Vincent and Samuel), myself and Sean Poe (also of the Hive Minds),” Josiah Gonzalez said. “My brothers and I have been playing music together since we were 9 years old. My dad scrounged money together to get us lessons and instruments, and we were playing in church or just for fun. We’ve been playing for about 15 years together.

“We all found ourselves back in the Coachella Valley after college and decided we should continue to play. It started as a cover gig for my aunt’s birthday party; she wanted us to play some Beatles tunes. We liked doing it so much that we started playing with friends and playing in garages in 2015. We had no idea what we were doing and were just looking for some gigs playing covers.”

Avenida, like some other local bands, is named after an element of a local neighborhood.

“We spent the first two or three months playing in a garage trying to come up with a name. We couldn’t come up with anything anybody liked,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We went through 50 or 60 different options no one could agree on. We were originally playing in Cathedral City, and every other street is called Avenida something. We thought, ‘Why not Avenida?’ It stuck.”

While Avenida Music started off playing covers, it is not just a cover band … although when you see “Avenida Music” on the bill, you should expect covers.

“We do have original music. We made an interesting pivot after we picked up Sean,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We started playing covers and original stuff, but it was hard to differentiate. … When we started making more money as a cover band, we decided we really needed to focus on that. We wrote our five-year plan based on the idea we’d play corporate gigs and weddings. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been writing original stuff—and that’s what we’ve been working on right now in side projects not named Avenida Music. We really try to separate the two to remain consistent in what we do as a band.”

The Gonzalez brothers had no choice but to play music growing up.

“That was predetermined. Literally: Before we were born, our parents decided what instruments we were going to play, and when they were going to have us,” Josiah said. “They knew they wanted a quartet that had a piano, bass, drums and a sax. They ended up with four boys (each) two years apart. … My dad has been a minister for most of his life, and he would do jobs for people, saying, ‘I’ll do your landscaping for free if you teach my son how to play piano.’ That’s how he got all of us lessons. We’d come out of the womb, and two years later, they’d be introducing us to the instrument as if it was propaganda, like, ‘Isn’t the piano great?’ We all ended up playing those instruments, and we all still do play those instruments.

“They didn’t let us quit. I tried to quit piano a couple of times, and my parents said, ‘We’re sorry, but that’s not really an option.’ I’m grateful in retrospect. They made sure to tell me, ‘We work really hard to make to get you these lessons, and this is something you will carry with you for the rest of your life.’”

The Gonzalez brothers’ parents believed music would help instill character.

“I remember being really scared, because they were making me play in a convalescent home. I got really mad and said I didn’t want to be playing in convalescent homes and church events for old ladies,” Josiah said. “I was about 11 or 12, and my dad told me, ‘I didn’t work this hard to get you these lessons so you could go hide in a corner and play by yourself. Your job is to go use this gift you have to help other people.’ To this day, that is one of the things I remember. … It made an impression on me, and it really resonated as to why we still play music today. The reason we play is not for us; whatever we have is to be used to bless other people.”

Josiah Gonzalez said he was surprised to learn Avenida Music had been voted Best Local Band.

“We were blown away when we were nominated and when we won,” he said. “We have a big family; my dad has six brothers and sisters, as well as a lot of cousins. But I think more than anything, we’ve really tried to be as supportive of other musicians as much as possible, and we’re really grateful, because some people reciprocated that and voted for us. … We’re really grateful that people appreciate what we do and the music we do.”

Avenida Music will perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information on Avenida Music, visit www.littlestreetmusic.com.

Published in Features

Matt King of Frank Eats the Floor was shocked when he learned he was voted Best Local Musician by the readers of the Coachella Valley Independent—beating out local greats including Giselle Woo and last year’s winner, John Stanley King.

After all, King is not even out of high school yet—but it goes to show how Frank Eats the Floor is quickly developing an enthusiastic fan base.

King credits his older brother for spurring his interest in music.

“When I was 5 or 6, my brother played in this metal band called Fistful of Glass, and there are pictures and videos of me sitting on the front porch behind the drum set,” King said. “Music has been an integral part of my life, whether I’ve been watching it or listening to it—or in recent years, playing it. I always wanted something to do within music, and I started my record collection when I was 12. I went to my first concert at 14. My love for music really started when my brother showed me the Beatles.”

King and I discussed his influences, and he was extremely attentive when I suggested some musicians and bands for him to check out.

“The Beatles influenced me for sure. There was a point in time I knew all of their songs and no songs by other bands,” he said. “I started to branch out, and I went from The Beatles to hip hop and rap. I listen to Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye and all of that.

“When I first started playing bass, I was trying to emulate pop and hip-hop beats into my bass-playing. When I met the rest of the guys in Frank Eats the Floor, they expanded my mind and showed me all these other bands, like Primus and The Doors, that have shaped my style.”

King said he easily related to the bass guitar.

“Les Claypool of Primus has this great quote about how the bass was just the crown he picked out of the box, and I feel like that relates to me, too,” King said. “My brother played guitar, and the bass-player in the band was not that great, so it made me think, ‘I could do that! It doesn’t seem that hard!’ The bass just sort of found me, I guess.”

King is a senior in high school. I asked him what he plans to study in college, and whether it will be related to music.

“It is application season, and I’ve been trying to get all my stuff together,” he said. “(I am interested in) something along the lines of music, but something I can combine with performing arts, because I’ve been doing drama during my four years of high school as well. It’d be awesome to have music as a path for a career, but one of the problems I’m having now is this success that I’m seeing at 17: Will it translate to 20-year-old me? 30-year-old me? It’s hard to tell, and it’s hard to tell if it’ll translate if I go to Los Angeles, San Diego or somewhere out of state.”

King was said he was humbled to even be a finalist in the Best Local Musician Category.

“I’m huge fans of Sunday Funeral and Justin Ledesma. I love Nick Hales of Sleazy Cortez, Giselle Woo and John Stanley King, and they’re all amazing people in our local music scene,” he said. “I’m really grateful to have been paired with those names, and winning is not setting in with me yet.”

Given that college is approaching, King said the future of Frank Eats the Floor is uncertain.

“We just released our album, and we started promoting it. But as for next July, it’s time for me and Aleks (Romo) to go to college, and that’s what we’ve been talking about,” King said. “We’re trying to make a plan where we’re able to pick this back up every month or every few months and still work as long as everyone is down. But it’s really starting to come down to the time when people grow up and grow out, which happens. The future is uncertain, but I think it’ll work as long as we all put in the work and try to make the Frank Eats the Floor train go for as long as we can.”

King said he’s enjoying the ride on that aforementioned Frank Eats the Floor train.

“Being onstage in drama is fun, but being onstage playing music and singing my songs is a step above,” he said. “My favorite memories of high school are kids coming up to me, saying, ‘Hey! You’re in that band, Frank Eats the Floor! “School Food Sucks!”’ Aleks doesn’t like to own up to it that much, but I think it’s cool being in high school and playing in a band. The only downside would be the fact that we were sort of looked down upon by some of the people around here, saying, ‘You can’t play this venue! You’re too young!’ Some people say that we’re just a novelty act. But we’re just having fun right now.”

Frank Eats the Floor will perform as part of the CV Music Showcase at 9 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Frank Eats the Floor, visit frankeatsthefloorfetf.bandcamp.com.

Published in Features

Some items worth noting as we head into the much-welcomed fall season:

• Thanks to all of you who voted in the first round of our Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019 readers’ poll.

Whether you voted or not in the first round … well, now’s your chance to vote in the second and final round!

The top three to six finalists (five, in most cases) from the first round are now up for your consideration at CVIndependent.com. Polls are open through Monday, Oct. 29.

Unlike other “Best Of” contests ’round these parts, for the Best of Coachella Valley, we only ask you to vote once per round. While a goal of other “Best Ofs” is for their sponsoring publications to get as much web traffic as possible from people visiting their websites over and over again, we’d rather have everyone vote just one time, so our list of winners can be as fair and accurate as possible.

The winners will be announced on Monday, Nov. 26, at CVIndependent.com, and in our December 2018 print edition.

Thanks. Now … go vote!

A few months ago, I used this space to mention the tariffs that had been placed on imported Canadian newsprint—and how those tariffs were so severe that they were threatening the survival of many U.S. newspapers, because some publications’ print bills were being jacked up by as much as 30-40 percent as a result. (The Independent’s print bill had “only” gone up about 12 percent … which is painful nonetheless.) I also asked concerned readers to contact our elected officials to encourage them to fight these tariffs—which were being requested by just one U.S. paper manufacturer, owned by a private-equity firm.

These tariffs were truly unfair and misguided. If all five U.S. paper mills that make newsprint operated at full capacity (due to the decline in the newspaper industry, there aren’t as many as there used to be), they couldn’t come close to producing enough newsprint for U.S. newspapers.

Well, I have some good news to report: The United States International Trade Commission, after hearing from a number of concerned members of Congress, overturned the tariffs in late August.

Thanks to all of you who heeded the call and spoke out against these tariffs.

Be sure to pick up the October 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting news stands this week. As always, thanks for reading; if you have questions or feedback, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

An enthusiastic and community-minded crowd packed The Hood Bar and Pizza—the choice of Independent readers as the valley’s Best Dive Bar—on Friday, Dec. 15, for the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Party.

Hosted by Jimmy Boegle and Brian Blueskye of the Independent, the awards portion featured a couple dozen winners coming onstage and thanking readers for voting them as the valley’s best—but only after Boegle emphasized the importance of supporting honest, ethical local media.

Following the awards, The Flusters—voted Best Local Band two out of the last three years—capped a busy week by performing to an enthusiastic crowd.

After The Flusters’ set, DJ Tommy Locust spun before the after-party launched with the spooky organ tunes of Herbert; he was followed to the stage by Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Below are some photos from the event, by Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Published in Snapshot

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