PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATE ABBOTT
The first thing guests notice about the newest eatery from husband-and-wife restauranteurs Chris and Anita Chmielak is its name: RD RNNR. While the couple was scouting potential locations at Old Town La Quinta, a roadrunner darted across their path. Chris recalls Anita saying, “‘Let’s call it RD RNNR’ … She had a vision of it reading like a license plate. She drew the logo on a napkin and that was that."
RD RNNR Libations, Pints, and Plates quickly established itself as a popular dining destination and earned a five-star Yelp rating over the four months it was open before the coronavirus pandemic hit and shuttered many restaurants.
That’s when Chris had his own epiphany: “I met with my mentor,” he says. “He told me to take care of my community. Do as much good as you can.”
This advice became the Chmielaks’ guiding philosophy and the impetus for RD RNNR to become one of the Coachella Valley’s most prominent suppliers of free meals to first responders, hospital workers, and even postal employees. The restaurant set up a GoFundMe account, and ultimately RD RNNR delivered more than 27,000 free meals to people during the height of the pandemic. This sacrifice didn’t go unnoticed. When restaurants reopened, business increased with many diners mentioning they’d followed the RD RNNR’s journey during those dark days.
The Chmielaks aspired to create a refreshing experience to and a distinctive space and menu, which includes their ahi tuna nachos and dirty fries (piled with veggies, proteins, and Gouda cheese gravy).
“We know the names of our customers and know what they drink,” says Chris, who pushes the restaurant’s “Clawtails,” a specialty spin on the ubiquitous White Claw hard seltzer beverages.
The place also plays killer music. It’s no shock that a venue in the desert plays oldies, but Chris is especially proud of his esoteric playlists, which come through the state-of-the-arts speakers. “Table four will ask what’s that playlist?” he confesses. “It’s Sophie Tucker!” They always love it, he adds.
“There are plenty of restaurants in La Quinta,” he says. “Everyone’s got good food and cold beer and we strive to be better than that.” roadrunnerlq.com
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