dining-al-fresco-palm-springs

Best Alfresco Dining in the Desert

Enjoy mountain views and California’s dreamy sunsets while dining on these exquisite patios.

Tiffany Carter Current Digital, Restaurants

dining-al-fresco-palm-springs
Escena Golf Club grill excels in California-fusion cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARTHUR COLEMAN

Some of the best dining moments in Greater Palm Springs occur when the desert’s beauty becomes part of the culinary experience. From stunning sunset and mountain views to laid-back garden and rocky settings, these restaurants give guests good reason to take their meal outdoors.

Vue Grille & Bar, Indian Wells

Comfort food like lobster mac ’n’ cheese and an award-winning lamb chili are favorites off the dinner menu at this Indian Wells Golf Resort establishment. Hit the happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. for a refreshing Natural Mystic vodka cocktail and a decadent short-rib grilled cheese or visit for brunch to drink your breakfast — the loaded bloody mary is stuffed with shrimp, bacon, a pickle spear, and more. “Vue Grille & Bar has 360-degree mountain and golf course views, which of course, are always included with your dining experience,” says Scott Winant, director of food and beverage. indianwellsgolfresort.com

Escena Lounge & Grill,
Palm Springs

A trifecta of blue skies, golf course views, and native plants, and acres of green fairway, this Escena Golf Club grill excels in California-fusion cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “Midcentury style, a spacious patio, and great food make Escena one of the most popular outdoor dining venues in Palm Springs, dawn till dusk,” Escena COO John Fitzpatrick says. Regular live entertainment and an enticing happy hour add to its appeal. The patio is best enjoyed at sunset, when those pink and orange hues fill the sky and create a sense of magic — or is that just the truffle martini? escenagolf.com

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PHOTOGRAPH BY ARTHUR COLEMAN

Copley’s on Palm Canyon, Palm Springs

Part of Cary Grant’s former estate, Copley’s is equal parts glamour and rustic-chic. Sitting fireside on the patio, one can imagine Grant basking beneath the night sky with his Tinseltown cohorts many moons ago. Today, chef and co-owner Andrew Copley employs the deftness of an award-winning 20-year culinary career to create inspiring dishes like Australian barramundi with asparagus, sweet-corn broth, and a crab-and-green-onion salad. “Our outdoor patios are especially comfortable,” says co-owner and restaurant manager Greg Butterfield. His favorite elements: “Our stunning mountain views, numerous heaters, and the blazing fire pit in our garden area.” copleyspalmsprings.com

Spencer’s Restaurant,
Palm Springs

The elegant outdoor furnishings, glowing fire pit, and luminescent globe lanterns hanging from towering ficus trees at Spencer’s, named after owner Harold Matzner’s dog, create an idyllic setting to enjoy four-star dishes like porcini black Angus filet mignon and New Zealand rack of lamb. Weekend warriors will love the Sunday prix fixe brunch menu — pair the included mimosa with a lobster omelet drizzled in hollandaise sauce.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SPENCER’S RESTAURANT

The outdoor dining area at Spencer’s transforms from garden fantasy to romantic rendezvous with the onset of sunlight to moonlight. 

“Spencer’s ambience is the perfect blend of stylish elegance and comfortable informality,” Matzner says, “and we feel that we offer the best alfresco dining experience in the desert.” spencersrestaurant.com

La Quinta Cliffhouse, La Quinta

If you’ve been staring at the mountain vistas imagining what it might be like to dine amid the jagged granite rocks, it’s time for a reservation at Cliffhouse. A waterfall greets guests as they ascend (by stairway or elevator) to the second-level front patio, sited amid a rocky outcropping. The scenic setting is only rivaled by this restaurant’s eats — think spicy ahi tuna cones and shareable cheese and charcuterie spreads that pair well with a chilled glass of pinot grigio. Beer drinkers will appreciate the rotating selection of craft brews on tap. laquintacliffhouse.com

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PHOTOGRAPH BY AUDREY MA

The ideal night to enjoy the outdoors at Birba is Thursday night when they invite local musicians to play. The vibrant outdoor space is like your own personal wonderland and the perfect place to enjoy some of the best pizza in the desert. 

Birba, Palm Springs

Locals and tourists come to Birba for the delicious pizza, and they stay for the ethereal surrounds. Hidden away from the busy streets by walls of hedges and decked in string lights, the trendy eatery encapsulates the escapist allure that has drawn luminaries to this area since Palm Springs’ old Hollywood heyday. Thursday nights, Birba turns the patio vibes up a notch with live entertainment by local musicians spanning genres. The stone-hearth-fired pizza takes center stage — try the vegetarian Verde pie, made with broccoli raab, Castelvetrano olives, serrano chilis, and walnut pesto. birbaps.com

Las Casuelas Nuevas,
Rancho Mirage

The outdoor patio at this family-owned Mexican restaurant is so large that it is split into different sections — La Madonna, the ’50s patio, and the main patio. All three stoke a convivial mood at nightfall, when the string lights illuminate amid the tall ficus trees. “Our patio is escapism at its best,” says owner Nicolas Delgado. “The architecture, trees, and live music take the diner to a fabulous vacation moment in Mexico.” Those design elements, like terracotta flooring and hand-carved fountains, speak to the family’s roots in Mazatlán, and the mariachi band seals the deal. lascasuelasnuevas.com

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY LAS CASUELAS NUEVAS