ocaines irish pub

9 Bars to Make New Friends in the Desert

Walk in, sit down, and engage with your neighbors while taking in the ambiance and amenities at these Coachella Valley bars.

Kay Kudukis Current Digital, Restaurants

ocaines irish pub
You'll be struck by the enormity of the bar at O'Caines Irish Pub in Rancho Mirage, but it's a good crowd to engage.
Cathedral City

Piazza Trilussa Ristorante. Make like the locals and abandon this spot’s mouthful of a name. Most simply call it Trilussa. The bar is unusually shaped with a corner area that makes for easy conversation. Longtime local patrons fill up the seats from 4 to 7 p.m. for happy hour, and they love to chat. They also have terrific bites at reasonable prices during happy hour. Artists, club owners, and tour guides converge here, and the crowd is older — which is a bonus. They come from all over the valley and have endless stories about their fascinating lives. trilussarestaurant.com

Rancho Mirage

Enzo. This bar/restaurant in Rancho Mirage has had many different incarnations: first The Crab Pot, then Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, and now it’s taken the same name as its La Quinta sister. The bar is long and curvy, the bartenders are extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and the patrons love to chat. When they first opened, traffic was light, but now that word has gotten out, the parking lot and bar are always packed. You might even meet someone quasi-famous — local NewsChannel 3 meterologist Patrick Evans has been spotted here from time to time. Happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m. daily with delicious eats and house wines. Feeling something fancy? Order a Manhattan with a Luxardo cherry. Yum. enzosbistroandbarranchomirage.com

O’Caine’s Irish Pub. It’s large, but it’s not intimidating; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Light wood floors and thick brick columns complement a variety of seating configurations on the way to the gorgeous bar. It is linear (not our favorite for making new friends); however, there’s a mirror behind it and people have been known to make eye contact and strike up a Through the Looking Glass–style back-and-forth. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. with reasonably priced drinks, good food, and darts. Friendly patrons make starting conversations a breeze, but if you need some liquid courage, opt for a dram from their killer whiskey list. ocainesirishpub.com

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The bar area at Cafe Des Beaux-Arts is laid out perfectly to break the ice between you and your next door patron.

Palm Desert

Cafe Des Beaux-Arts. Most people go here for the excellent French cuisine, but they also have “Le Bar”. Its clever square shape gives you an opportunity to chat with everyone around and across from you. During tourist season they have music from 6 to 9 p.m. but that won’t start back up until November. However, happy hour is happily 4:30 p.m. until close, and the small bites are “le bomb”. Note, the restaurant is closed until Aug, 30. cafedesbeauxarts.com

Desert Fox. Just off the beaten path, this little dive bar has a lot of class. It’s small and neighborhood-y, but with its neon martini decorations and well-heeled bartenders, the effect is charmingly “Rat Pack lite”. The bar itself has that little curve at the end that makes all the difference, and it’s where you’ll often find the charming owner, Mark, who will likely be up to shooting the breeze. Those occupying the other barstools are an eclectic and interesting bunch, and it’s a very different vibe from the rowdy bars around the corner. Happy hour is daily from 4 to 6 p.m. and, on specified nights, there’s entertainment. Hit up the website for details. desertfoxbar.com

La Quinta

The Grill on Main. It’s loud, but not raucous. It has class. It also has the perfect horseshoe bar, a friendly and professional staff, and opportunities for eye contact all around you. Pair one of their 11 craft cocktails with delicious bites that won’t thin out your wallet. The Grill’s not so upscale that you’ll feel out of place in shorts and a T-shirt, but it definitely has a more cosmopolitan feel without being smug. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. with food and drink deals. thegrillonmainlq.com

The Cliffhouse. It requires some climbing even after you take an elevator up, but once the bar reveals itself it’s absolutely stunning. It’s huge, square, and backlit by sunshine. Thoughtful lighting keeps things bright even as evening falls. Everyone not only gets a good look at each other, but also a magnificent view beyond the cliff. Happy hour is all night, every night through Aug. 31, and while their prices are a bit more than our other options, the chances of having a barside chat are higher, too. After all, it’s a busy joint. laquintacliffhouse.com


Eureka. This franchise breaks all of our rules. The bar is as straight and long as a bowling alley, and it’s very “L.A.” by design, but “stuck-up” is the last term anyone would use to describe the bartenders — better words would be knowledgeable and friendly. They pour a good drink and will cheerfully chat you up about their crazy-big whiskey selection and the multitude of beer options (tap and bottles). Still can’t decide? Get a flight. Eureka also carries a terrific selection of wines. Appetizers and full meals are available at the bar. eurekarestaurantgroup.com


Neil’s Lounge. It’s all cowboy, and it’s big, with a nice curved bar and welcoming patrons. They have karaoke every night, two pool tables, and a terrific sense of humor. People are wandering in and out all the time, and everyone seems to know everyone else. It’s completely non-judgy, unless you’re wearing a suit. Then there might be a few side-eyes. It’s that kind of bar — in the very best way. fb.com/GoodTimesatNeilsLounge