A list of "old standbys" and new-and-notable spots to visit in Palm Springs, that we recommend to guests of Elrod Villa.
Dining Out (Usually, with Drinks)
330 East Amado Road, Palm Springs | +1(760)8661952
Such a great place: Good American/California cuisine, full bar, swanky dining room, a good happy hour, and beautiful big patio for dining.
The Tropicale is another great restaurant for special occasions or anytime - certainly less "fussy" (and less expensive!) than either SoPa or Melvyn's (described below) and really good, consistent food. Beautiful outdoor or indoor seating, good for groups (with a reservation) and we love it for brunch.
If you want a sit down dinner, make reservations. Call them or book on OpenTable.
Melvyn's Restaurant & Lounge
200 West Ramon Road, Palm Springs | +1(760)3252323
The oldest of the old school. If you want a trip back in time to the glamour days of Palm Springs as the vacation destination to the stars, this is it. Fancy dining room (proper attire required), rich old-school American food, a cool bar (with live piano entertainment) decorated with photos of the Rat Pack, Sonny and Cher and other 20th Century celebs partying with proprietor Mel Haber.
The cocktail napkins are emblazoned with a painting of FRANK SINATRA! You're out of your mind if you don't at least pop in here for a drink.
Mind you: The food is not *great*. It's the 1950's idea of fine dining (go check out the menu, you'll see). The service in the dining room can be surly/inattentive. However, if you wanna put on a suit and go chow down on a steak and tableside Ceasar salad, this is the place.
The piano bar is fun and the cocktail servers are adorable gals. They make proper cocktails here. Pro tip: Ask your server for a stack of Sinatra cocktail napkins to take as a souvenir and they will deliver.
2444 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3201558 | http://deltaco.com/
Yes, this is fast food. Yes, fast food is gross. However, sometimes you've been out at your favorite bars and need some grease to soak things up. This fast food joint's drive thru is open 24 hours a day and is walking distance to the Villa.
No trip to Palm Springs is complete without making your taxi or Uber driver take you through the drive thru at Del Taco. Proceed to order way more food than you need. Ask for extra "Del Scorcho" sauce packets. Take it back to the Villa and chow down. Wake up in the morning going, "Oh my god, why did I eat all that?"
Pro tip: The "Double Del" cheeseburger is arguably the best fast food cheeseburger (outside of In-N-Out Burger). Yes, it's strange that a taco place has a good cheeseburger, but have one when you're drunk 'n' famished and you shall see.
Azul (also Club Alibi)
369 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3255533
Azul is one of our "go to" places in Palm Springs. We never drink/dine inside here - it's all about the huge outdoor bar with bar seating, cocktail rounds and swinging booths (they're like big porch swings). In summer months, they have misters going full blast to keep things moderately cool. In winter, they have heat lamps going full blast to keep things moderately warm. Great happy hour specials on snacks. Full menu served at the bar. The food can be a little inconsistent (I don't recommend their nachos or taco salad, for example, too bland), but the flatbread pizzas, sandwiches and such are just fine.
Good mixed crowd of gay/straight. Some really nice bartenders who (like just about everybody in Palm Springs) are happy to chat you up, give you suggestions about things to do, etc.
We like to get the pulled pork flatbread here (kind of like pizza).
Alibi is the club upstairs. We never go there, but some people like it. Indoors, Azul sometimes has drag shows and other entertainment.
Wang's In the Desert
424 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3259264 |
Sorta fancy sit-down Chinese food. The restaurant is huge and has an interesting bar area. The food's not *great* (just good), but it's a Palm Springs standby that folks will frequently refer you to. And that name... How can you not?
155 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)7786000 |
This pizza/Italian restaurant is upstairs in a shopping/dining complex that used to include a lovely steak restaurant ("The Falls," which unfortunately is recently closed). However, Matchbox is a reasonable substitute if you're in the mood for slightly upscale pizza. Though it's a chain restaurant (based mostly in the Washington DC area), this place's pies are surprisingly good. They have a well-stocked bar and service is better-than-expected (especially since the restaurant itself is HUGE and it's often quite bustling). It can be busy on some nights and is popular with the "family friendly" crowd.
Out in the courtyard on the street, you'll find a fountain with a sculpture of Sonny Bono. That's cool.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
800 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)4593451 |
We don't really like this place and don't really recommend it. But here's the thing: Everyone - literally, actually EVERYONE - will tell you to go here and tell you how great it is. So it must be mentioned.
Workshop specializes in "farm to table" California cuisine with innovative recipes made from the freshest ingredients, locally sourced and sustainably raised. It's situated in a cool, modern-industrial looking space and has a full bar with high-end and hard-to-find liquors. Fantastic, sign me up, right?
Unfortunately, the hosts/hostesses are ding dongs, the service is slow and inattentive and the food is poorly executed, over-priced and, to our minds, unremarkable.
If you must go, I think the best bet is to sit at the bar (which is small and only has a few seats) and eat there if you can. The bartenders seem to be awesome and, since they're situated next to the kitchen, I think service issues are eliminated there. But we haven't tried that. Also, reservations are a must. If you don't want to sit at a communal table or outside, make sure you request a booth at the time of reservation. Even then, you might not get your desired seating.
Your mileage may vary.
1050 EAST PALM CANYON DRIVE, Palm Springs | +1(760)3231858 |
We have just one thing to say about this place, "WOW... JUST WOW!"
Situated in the new and very exclusive L'Horizon Resort and Spa, SOPA is one of the best dining experiences we have had ANYWHERE in the world (and we live in very foodie San Francisco). It's pricey and very California in its portion sizes, but sharing several dishes family style in this beautiful location is a rare treat. Zagat describes it as follows, "The almost all outdoor space features a fire pit, fountains, Lindsey Adelman chandeliers and a mix of intimate and communal tables for small luncheons or group dinners. Chef Giacomo Pettinari, who worked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Fabio Trabocchi’s Floriana in London and El Bulli in Spain, plus Valentino in Santa Monica, creates things like foie gras torchon with preserved black cherries; squid-ink gnocchi with seasonal vegetables; and ricotta and orange blossom gelato." IT IS ALL FANTASTIC.
Bars (Sometimes, with Food)
Toucan's Tiki Lounge
2100 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)4167584 |
This is *not* a Tiki bar. It's a dive bar. And it's a great dive bar. A fave amongst all of our faves. Here's the deal:
Back home in San Francisco, our friends and I hang out at another fantastic dive bar called Vertigo. Vertigo features surly/sassy/friendly bartenders, vaguely Tiki-inspired decor, tall/strong/cheap drinks, has a covered smoking patio (rare in SF!), a random and eclectic clientele, decent-to-great music (depending on the night, bartenders and or DJs in residence) and turns into a DJ disco dance club on weekend nights... And it's less than a half mile walk from our home...
Toucan's is all of those things, but here in the desert. In fact, we call it Vertigo-in-the-Desert. Toucan's is ostensibly a gay bar and they have drag shows and other events on certain nights (check their website), but in truth it attracts a completely mixed crowd.
It used to be kind of dirty and trashy, but it got quite a makeover in recent years, so we can't call it "Trashcans" anymore. It's also easily walkable/stumbleable from the Villa when it's not too hot out (alternatively it's a real real quick cab or Uber ride away).
Tuesday nights they have two-for-one drinks. You know what you're doing on Tuesday night now. You're welcome.
The Tonga Hut
254 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3224449 |
Tonga Hut is a real Tiki bar that focuses on rum-based cocktails, cool retro Tiki bar decor and they even serve a small menu of tasty pu-pu platter snacks to go with your Mai Tai or Singapore Sling. The menus and some of the decor were designed by lowbrow artist SHAG (see "SHAG: The Store" under Shopping).
It's upstairs and has outside seating on a patio where you can smoke, if you so desire.
The patio/balcony is also a great place to escape from the Thursday night street fair (see entry under "Things to Do") - you can sit up there and people watch.
If you're a fan of midcentury Tiki bar culture, craft cocktails, etc., you'll also want to check out Bootlegger Tiki (see entry for Earnest Coffee under "Coffee").
302 East Arenas Road, Palm Springs | +1(760)3230700 |
Hunters is one of the many bars on Arenas Road, which is sort of Palm Springs's version of the Castro. Though most of the bars in this area are, ostensibly, gay, many of them attract a mixed crowd and Hunters is one of them. If you're looking for a place for DJ dancing, this is a good bet (but see also, Toucan's).
On many nights, I've seen just as many bachelorette parties in here as gays. If you really wanna get your drink on, you can order a rainbow of Jell-o shots (yeah, one of every color) here.
There are many other bars and clubs along Arenas: Other faves of our crew include Spurline (ostensibly country and western themed, but they have crazy sing-along nights) and Streetbar (pretty much next to Hunters - I think that Streetbar smells like dirty socks, but some of my friends really like chilling on the patio there).
340 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)5377337 |
Bar is more-or-less right across the street from Alibi/Azul and is more of a straight bar with an LA feel. I kinda like it - good snacks, well stocked bar, little patio/smoking area on the street, sometimes live music. I think it's cool (my wife and friends usually wanna go someplace else - I think they think it's douchey). But your host recommends it, at least for little stop in.
Coffee (Sometimes, with Liquor)
Koffi North Palm Springs
515 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)4162244 |
Koffi is another indie coffee place in the northern "Uptown Design District" part of downtown. It's in a little complex with a garden out back, and little shops. They roast their own coffee and some folks swear by it.
I put this here not so much because I go there a lot (though I have), but to orient you to this area. There are lots of cool midcentury modern antique shops, design stores, etc. along this stretch of Palm Canyon. Great for exploring.
Ernest Coffee / Bootlegger Tiki
1101 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3184154 |
This is a really good coffee place on Palm Canyon (again at the North end in the design district) that is close to the Trina Turk / Mr. Turk store (just 1 block south). It's co-located with a true Tiki bar called Bootlegger Tiki (open nights), with a focus on craft cocktails inspired by the classic Tiki drinks. Ernest Coffee/Bootlegger Tiki are situated on the site of the original Don the Beachcomber tiki bar and restaurant and the proprietors are quite proud of this fact.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tramway Road, Palm Springs | +1(760)3251391 |
Near us at the North end of town is an aerial tramway. Yep, it's a tram that takes you to the top of the mountain where, due to the elevation, it's many degrees cooler and there's a stunning view of the entire Coachella Valley. During winter, there's snow up there!
Buy tickets in advance on the website, because if you just show up, you're in for a long wait. There's dining, a bar, and gift shop, etc. at the top as well. Really amazing.
Every Thursday Night: Palm Springs Villagefest Street Fair
Amado and North Palm Canyon, Palm Springs | +1(760)3203781 |
Every Thursday evening, there is a street fair in downtown Palm Springs. It takes place right in the heart of downtown (N Palm Canyon Drive between Amado and Baristo). Lots of different vendors, street food, entertainment, etc. Pretty fun to go mill about with both tourists and locals. When you get bored of it, duck into Tonga Hut or Hair of the Dog (both on Palm Canyon about halfway between Amado and Andreas) for a real cocktail.
Street fair hours are:
October through May 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
June through September 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
It's worth noting that this event messes up traffic downtown because it blocks off several blocks of the main drag. So, if you're out and about on a Thursday evening, be advised!
From the description on their site:
"Every Thursday evening, Downtown Palm Springs transforms into the Palm Springs VillageFest, also known as the Palm Springs Street Fair. At the VillageFest, you will experience a diverse array of artists, artisans, entertainers, and purveyors of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks and sweets. Add all that to the great shops, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment venues located along World Famous Palm Canyon Drive - and the result is one of Southern California's most popular weekly events: VillageFest!"
Palm Springs Art Museum
101 North Museum Drive, Palm Springs | +1(760)3224800 |
It ain't the MOMA, but the building is a really interesting example of modern architecture and the collections and exhibits are quite good. Worth a visit for art and architecture lovers.
Palm Springs Air Museum
745 North Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262 | 760-778-6262 |
A surprisingly interesting and *large* collection of vintage warplanes and other exhibits await at this family-friendly museum. With both indoor and outdoor exhibits, the Air Museum is an interesting diversion at any time of year.
Other Recent Round-Ups of Palm Springs Recommendations
Recently, we've come across several great blog posts with current (Summer 2016) recommendations for various accommodations, dining and attractions in Palm Springs. All three of these are worth checking out!
What to See, Do and Eat in Palm Springs: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Let's Go To: Palm Springs, California
Thrillist: Where to Drink in Palm Springs this Summer
The Best Of Palm Springs