Tis the season for spectating. Whether you’re courtside at the BNP Paribas Open or you’ve snagged a front-row spot at Fashion Week El Paseo, watching amazing athletes and flawless models killing it all day can be exhausting … and hunger-inducing. But if you’re not quite up for a full-fledged dinner, take your group to one of these down valley restaurants for a bite at the bar. Here are some dishes to dive into.
Filet Wellington Bites
For a taste of steak without committing to a full cut, try these miniature beef Wellington bites, a whimsical play on the classic. Puff pastry rounds are baked with bacon duxelles, topped with thinly sliced filet mignon, and finished with a decadent béarnaise. sullivanssteakhouse.com
When you want a burger without the guilt of eating an entire burger, what do you do? Split some sliders, of course. These Kobe-based babies come with indulgent add-ons of Roquefort, caramelized onions, and bacon. lavenderbistro.com
AC3 restaurant + bar
Lobster Mac ’N Cheese
The buzzy eatery inside Hotel Paseo serves a grown-up macaroni and cheese made with cone-shaped campanelle pasta and fresh Maine lobster. “We’re giving the dish a twist,” explains chef Andrew Copley. “It’s got a real smoky flavor and velvety texture.” Copley tops the mac with a breadcrumb crumble and hit of Tabasco before baking for a welcome hint of crunch and heat.
Cork & Fork
Goat Cheese Bruschetta
In this dish, chef and owner Andie Hubka layers toasted ciabatta with goat cheese, truffle honey, roasted tomatoes, pesto, balsamic glaze, pistachios, and flaky sea salt. “It’s been on the menu since we opened five years ago,” Hubka explains. “When people find out I own Cork & Fork, it’s the first thing they want to talk to me about!” corkandforkwinebar.com
Cork & Fork’s bruschetta.
Vicky’s of Santa Fe
It seems simple, but steaming an artichoke to perfection isn’t easy. Vicky’s gets it right, serving it with an aioli sauce for luscious dipping. Enjoy it in the dining room or the swanky lounge, which boasts top-notch musicians nightly. vickysofsantafe.com
Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant
Arnie’s Pub Chips
Can anyone deny a plate of house-made waffle-cut potato chips served with a chunky blue-cheese dipping sauce? You’ll find this favorite on the pub menu at Palmer’s, a fine-dining spot filled with a lifetime of the golf legend’s memorabilia. arnoldpalmersrestaurant.com
Crater Lake Vodka Gravlax
Chef Emmanuel Janin cures salmon in-house for a full 24 hours. “We use salt, sugar, vodka, and the zest of lemon, lime, and orange, and the salmon really picks up the citrus flavors,” he says. The plate gets smeared with a whole-grain mustard emulsion and finished with a dollop of house-made horseradish cream. With four pieces to an order, it’s one of the French restaurant’s more popular passable plates … you might consider ordering two. labrasserielaquinta.com
Gravlax at La Brasserie.
Don Diego’s of Indian Wells
Macho Gabacho Nachos
Yes, nachos are the ultimate bar food on menus everywhere, but this lively restaurant’s supersize version is worth the splurge. Tortilla chips are piled high with refried beans, ranchero sauce, queso fresco, sour cream, pico de gallo, and freshly prepared guacamole. Don Diego’s warns it should be shared among three or four people. dondiegoiw.com
Mitch’s on El Paseo
Before you relegate jalapeño poppers to the boring bar-food category, you’ve got to sample this one-of-a-kind take. Fresh jalapeños get stuffed with not just the usual cream cheese but also with crab and spicy tuna. Then the whole thing gets tempura-fried, sliced like a sushi roll, and topped with a soy-based kabayaki sauce and spicy aioli. mitchsonelpaseo.com
Mitch’s sushi-inspired Jalapeño Poppers.
Osso Bucco Riblets
Eureka may be best known for its burgers, but these braised pork riblets take comfort food to the next level. They’re soaked overnight in a mixture of jalapeños, garlic, sherry, beef stock, and beer before being oven-baked, followed by a quick dip in the deep fryer to crisp them up. Then the riblets are tossed with a zingy firecracker aioli. “It’s a new-age alternative to regular wings,” says chef Jason Hernandez. “And it’s the perfect dish to serve with a spicy IPA.” eurekarestaurantgroup.com
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
You could split one of many brick-oven Neapolitan pizzas, but for something different, go for a plate of these beautiful blossoms, stuffed with ricotta cheese then deep-fried, drizzled with honey, and piled into a personal cast-iron skillet, making for a sweet and savory sharable specialty. ppizzavino.com
Piero’s Fied Zucchini Blossoms.