There are plenty of choices in the desert for good food and drinks, lively ambiance, and incredible service. However, when you have guests from out of town, you want to wow them with something more — places that also offer a bit of history, nostalgia, fun, scenic views, and adventure.
Lulu California Bistro
If you haven’t added Lulu to your “I must take my out-of-town guests here list” then your ho-hum list needs a pick-me-up. Rarely will you find a quiet night at this restaurant, which is always bustling with locals and tourists alike. The tasty menu and affordable prices make it a win-win, and the happy-hour menu is all day and all night long (sing it Lionel Richie), from 11a.m. until closing.
In addition to making day drinking cost-efficient, Lulu is a pioneer at creating inventive dishes with fresh ingredients and bakes its bread and desserts in-house.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY LULU CALIFORNIA BISTRO
Al fresco dining also allows for people-watching in downtown Palm Springs.
The various levels of seating give your guests the opportunity to take in Palm Springs dining from several points of view: up high overlooking the main floor, people-watching on the patio, or catching all the good vibes from a seat at the bar.
Who to take: Your sister who always says “I’m bored,” the fun uncle with the jolly laugh, your long-lost drinking buddy, your high school/college BFF whose life revolves around brunch, that out-of-town date you just met on Tinder.
Peaks Restaurant/Pine’s Cafe
Without catching the attention of PETA, the best way to kill two birds with one stone is to take your visitors to dine above the clouds via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The adventure begins the second you step onto the world’s largest rotating tramcar and travel two and a half miles (a 10-minute journey) up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
Depending on the season, you might even treat your guests to the magic of a wintery snowfall.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
Here is a two-fer. A great view from 8,500 feet and fine dining.
Peak’s Restaurant offers a fine dining experience with breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley. The seasonal menu rotates, but expect mouth-watering Angus burgers and succulent salmon and chicken dishes. Architectural Digest recently named it one of the best cliffside restaurants. Pines Café is a casual, cafeteria-style restaurant that features grab-and-go food and a ride-and-dine menu that pairs tramway ticket and dining. After the meal, you and your guests can check out the scenic observation decks, take in the fresh air on one of the many hiking trails, or go back in time at the natural history museum.
Who to take: Your adventurous friend who isn’t afraid of heights; your mom, who “needs to get out of the house”; your friend who likes to take selfies; the nature lover who’s always hungry and always up for a hike.
It’s an understatement to say that you’ll be living life on the edge at this inspiring location 650 feet above the desert floor. The Edge restaurant inside the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage offers not only breathtaking panoramic views but a chef’s menu that is sure to thrill your guests’ sophisticated palates.
PHOTOS COURTESY THE EDGE
The sea bass at The Edge coupled with this kind of view is a great combination.
Offering cross-cultural dishes like Atlantic scallops with red pepper risotto and chicken under a brick with grits and pickled okra, this place has a little bit of something for everyone’s food mood. There’s even a dry-aging room where steaks are prepped for 21 to 65 days.
Who to take: The guest who’s hard to impress, oenophiles, your “steak and potatoes” dad, or your friend whose favorite hashtag is #sunset.
Drop the line “Frank Sinatra dined there,” and before you’ve closed your mouth, your guests will order the Uber to take them straight to Melvyn’s, the ultimate in retro dining. This restaurant, once a private home, is part of the chic, Spanish-modern Ingleside Inn. Melvyn’s was once the dining room of the house but now features a bar, indoor/outdoor dining rooms, and a corner with lounge seating and live music.
PHOTOS COURTESY MELVYN’S
Melvyn’s is one of the few restaurants in Southern California that still offers tableside service in its formal dining room.
Park yourself at booth No. 50, Sinatra’s table, and check out the classic black-and-white photos of starlets and heartthrobs who used to frequent this hotspot. If these walls could talk … oh, the stories! But just ask Matt, the maitre’d who has been there since opening night, to tell you a tale of old Hollywood — he has plenty up his sleeve.
Melvyn’s is one of the few restaurants in Southern California that still offers tableside service in its formal dining room — you can catch the “show” when you order steak Diane, steak au poivre, wilted spinach salad, or bananas foster. There is a light dress code in the dining room, so make sure your guests wear shirt with collars and leave their tank tops and shorts at home.
The enclosed patio (no formal dress code here) offers a more casual but still sophisticated experience.
Who to take: Your friend with the old soul and drop-dead vintage wardrobe; the L.A. hipster who lives for live music in retro places; your cool grandparents; and your mom, who says dad never takes her anyplace nice.
Las Casuelas Terraza
This place had me at 75 varieties of tequila. Las Casuelas is the gold standard in the desert for a good time, good food, and yes, amazing margaritas. Naturally, this location of the mini-empire has two terraces — one for the romantics and the other to let loose on the dance floor, where there’s live music and an outdoor bar.
This Las Casuelas was built in 1979 inside a casita dating back to the 1920s; the original outpost, from 1958, is just a few blocks up, close enough to take your guests to see a bit of restaurant history in downtown Palm Springs. Good to note: Las Casuelas serves brunch daily until 4 p.m., so let your guests sleep in, and wake them up in time for huevos rancheros and a banana margarita.
Who to take: Your college roommate who can drink you under the table; the ex you’re still in love with; your friend who craves Mexican food; and the family reunion (you’ll need the extra-large table and pitchers of margaritas).