1. Best Patio for Sunday Brunch
Known best for its “private club-style” hospitality and ambiance, underscored by a backdrop of light piano melodies, Spencer’s Restaurant in Palm Springs has become a tradition also for its extravagant Sunday brunches that are best enjoyed on its gracious patios. Spencer’s main patio has an intimate feel with stately, light-adorned ficus trees that divide dining spaces naturally. An evaporative cooling system works in tandem with a refreshing, light breeze that seems to drift magically through the patio most days. The patio is a popular spot seven days a week; but none rivals Sunday, when brunch takes center stage, as one of those uniquely Palm Springs experiences. The brunch menu, under the direction of Executive Chef Eric Wadlund, is creative; but, as Wadlund points out, “The Benedicts are the stars.” Seven eggs Benedict selections range from salmon and lobster to vegetables.
701 W. Baristo Road Palm Springs 1-760-327-3446
2. Best Waterfront Patio
PIERO’S ACQUA PAZZA
Ideally positioned along the water’s edge in The River at Rancho Mirage, Piero’s Acqua Pazza is a sparkling liquid oasis for alfresco dining, replete with fountains, sun- and moonlight glinting off the water, and cruising mallards. Segregated from the dining room by the pedestrian walkway, the patio features heaters, misters, and fans, as well as lime-green umbrellas, glass windbreaks, and olive trees wrapped in romantic mini-lights for evening diners.
The River at Rancho Mirage
71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage 1-760-862-9800
3. Best Patio for Pets
PURPLE PALM RESTAURANT & BAR
Enter through a threshold of vines and flowering greenery to arrive at the pool-fronting restaurant of the chic Colony Palms Hotel in Palm Springs. Then take a seat on the patio by the sparkling pool lined with quiet cabanas and sun-kissed bodies for a leisurely Mediterranean-inspired repast. The mountain views past the red clay-tiled roof of the resort affirm the Movie Colony ambiance that surrounds you. The mellow patio has become a popular dining spot, not only for Las Palmas locals and hotel guests, but also for those with dogs in tow. Purple Palm’s canine-friendly policy, which includes special food and water dishes, was apparent on one Sunday when 15 furry guests were accommodated during the restaurant’s popular brunch. Like their two-legged companions, they were all well fed and contentedly grooved on the jazz.
Colony Palms Hotel
572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs 1-760-969-1818
4. Best Patio for Privacy
LA SPIGA RISTORANTE ITALIANO
Dining on the patio at La Spiga is a close-by substitute for feasting alfresco in a private Tuscan villa, hidden down a meandering countryside lane lined with ancient vineyards. Though not in Italy — nor in the countryside, La Spiga sits up against the mountains, secluded from view off Palm Desert’s lively El Paseo. It’s close to everything, but you may need directions to find the bistro with a spacious patio that shares space with fragrant rose gardens, fruit trees, and herb gardens. Reserve a table in the brick-lined patio with three private-dining gazebos guarded by hollyhock-entwined trellises, a cozy fireplace, a putting green, and a wood-burning pizza oven. (Many of La Spiga’s diners have standing reservations.) The gazebos accommodate from eight to 25, the largest featuring a fireplace.
72557 Highway 111, Palm Desert 1-760-340-9318
5. Best Patio With a View
PACIFICA SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Pacifica Seafood Restaurant has cleverly capitalized on its enviable view overlooking the posh El Paseo boulevard. In fact, two-thirds of the restaurant’s seating is alfresco, mostly on the patio that embraces this upper-story, street-fronting portion of The Gardens on El Paseo shopping and dining complex. Vistas of the distant Chocolate Mountains, palms that stretch for miles, and the close-up action of El Paseo shoppers just below are totally unobstructed. Patio cabanas offer semi-private status for people-watching portals to El Paseo happenings below. Thickly padded seating for up to six includes its own ecosystem of heaters and louvered side windows to capture breezes. The entire patio shares the climate-control benefits of a new custom patio wrap of see-through plastic.
The Gardens on El Paseo
73505 El Paseo, Palm Desert
6. Best Other-World Patio
TOMMY BAHAMA’S TROPICAL CAFÉ
Tommy Bahama’s affords the same vistas on its second-floor perch of The Gardens on El Paseo as Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, but with a tropical ambiance and creative Caribbean menu that puts you on “island time.” At one end of the patio is the bird of paradise-filled gazebo with tropical prints, gently rotating fans, and island-inspired music.
The Gardens on El Paseo
73595 El Paseo, Palm Desert 1-760-836-0188
7. Best Backyard Patio
Backyard barbecue dining typifies the valley’s laid-back, outdoor lifestyle. Jackalope Ranch’s 6.5-acre sprawling property serves up a true Western theme, carried out with casual and generous portions of food, drinks, lively entertainment, and ranch-style hospitality. The restaurant has a variety of dining areas and private rooms, but the “backyard” patio represents the heart and soul of the place. Dramatic waterfalls and streams, boulders, stately palms, flower gardens punctuated with statuary, and acres of meandering paths call for an after-dinner stroll. This is the spot for feasting on ribs or tri-tip slathered in a choice of barbecue sauces, washed down with prime tequila from the outdoor palapa bar.
80400 Highway 111, Indio 1-760-342-1999
8. Best Patio for Escapists
MORGAN’S IN THE DESERT
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, businessman Walter Morgan welcomed his Hollywood friends to his La Quinta Resort for a soothing antidote to the hustle and bustle of city life. Time has not changed the restful beauty of the resort, just enhanced it with more amenities. One major addition is the founder’s namesake restaurant, Morgan’s in the desert. The front patio holds just a few intimate seating areas, perched around built-in fire pit tables with views of the Andalusian fountain, brilliant blooms, and the lazed pace of resort guests. The main patio, adjacent to the lobby, affords endless vistas of flowing lawns, fruit-bearing trees, blooming gardens, and bougainvillea-entwined trellises. Cradled here under a magenta-flowered arbor, feasting on a tangerine salad, you are transported to graceful, slower times.
La Quinta Resort & Club
49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta 1-760-564-7600,
9. Best Patio for Proposals
The second-story Falls Steakhouse in Palm Springs may be best known for “smokin’” martinis and a bar backed by a wall of water, but the best dining is on the patios jutting over the pulsating flow of downtown Palm Springs. An L-shaped patio, seating about 40, includes a corner fire-pit table. But three private balcony patios perched over Palm Canyon Drive offer the seating in highest demand. One balcony seats four, and two are designed for a special couple each. Not surprisingly, the twosomes are top choices for marriage proposals.
155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs 1-760-416-8664,
10. Best Patio for Romance
“Magical” best captures the charm and Old World elegance of Le Vallauris’ outdoor dining. The romantic patio, born 37 years ago where a pool once graced the 1927 cottage, still thrives as one of the most coveted dining destinations in the valley. Eighty percent of the restaurant’s clientele request this locale — enveloped by a mini forest of light-studded ficus trees — for lunch and dinner. The restaurant came about when founder Paul Bruggemans was encouraged by the Hollywood crowd who wintered in Palm Springs to open a French-inspired counterpart to his famous Le St. Germain in Hollywood. Le Vallauris’ patio still reigns as a top choice for a special night to dine under the stars in the glow of the fireplace and with the tinkling of piano keys in the background.
385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs 1-760-325-5059