felipes palm springs

Fantasy of Flavors

Felipe’s in Palm Springs has the recognizable items for a Mexican restaurant, but give your taste buds a chance to be adventurous here.

Kay Kudukis Current Digital, Restaurants

felipes palm springs
Octopus Ceviche (foreground) and Filete Empanizado are two popular dishes at Felipe's in Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY COLBY TARSITANO

It’s only been open for three years, but Felipe’s is already on the radar for frequent flyers and in-the-know locals for authentic Mexican food. Located by the Palm Springs International Airport, it’s becoming a hot spot for flyers from around the world. It’s one of the things that co-owner Felipe Delatorre is most proud of: “Egyptians, Eastern Indians, Chinese … they are all frequent customers when they are in town.”

It was previously El Cielo Bakery when Delatorre was asked to help hang a sign for the new owner, changing the name of the beloved pastry spot to Star Bakery. That sign was not only short-lived but proved to be “a sign” for Delatorre and his family’s future.

“I had wanted to open my own business for some time. I was in foodservice at fine dining spots for more than 20 years, but I also had a side job in the car detailing business, so I was thinking about buying a car wash,” says Delatorre.



 

Felipe’s Fine Mexican Restaurant

Authentic Mexican (Guatemalan) family food without any fanfare. Indoor and outdoor dining, where dogs are welcome on the patio. The food is above-standard in creative and execution, and the home-made sour mix makes for fabulous margaritas. Happy hour Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Taco Tuesdays are advertised.

Location: 400 S. El Cielo Road #8, Palm Springs; 760-318-9277; Felipe’s on Facebook.

Prices: $ nothing over $17. Reasonable drinks with $8 margaritas. Full bar.

Recommended dishes: Pollo a la Pasilla, Enchiladas de Cameron, and Carne en su jugo.


But when the new owner of the bakery decided the business wasn’t for him, long-time foodie Delatorre and his brother-in-law and best friend, Felipe Sanchez, realized this was an amazing opportunity.

Everything in the restaurant is a product of a family member’s favorite dish. Delatorre himself contributed the Torta Cubana, a pulled-pork sandwich. But the majority of the menu was created by Delatorre’s wife, who is also Sanchez’s sister. From the age of 13, Mercedes did the cooking for the family while her mother worked two jobs.

 felipespalmspringsdrinks

A colorful array of tempting drinks (from left) include Hibiscus Margarita, Cadillac Margarita, and Rumchata.

Delatorre says there was something about the way she put ingredients together, with whatever was available at the market or in the house, that elevated her food from ordinary to extraordinary. By the time she was 15, Mercedes was the go-to person for “catering” family events.

The dinner menu is not your normal, local Mexican menu which Delatorre says is really Tex-Mex. It’s not a judgment, it’s just not what he grew up eating in Guadalajara. Seafood, he says, is a staple on their menus, but there aren’t many Mexican restaurants that offer octopus ceviche or any of the other tantalizing dishes de la mer. There are still more recognized items on the menu for those a little less adventurous, but try spicing up your go-to with one of the nine homemade sauces available to enjoy an old favorite with a twist. Ask your server; they’re likely a family member and know what sauce to match your dish with.

The fajitas are always a crowd favorite, as much for pleasure of the sizzle and aroma for adjacent diners, as for the bright flavor on the plate for the wiser recipient. If you’re a fan of beans and rice, Felipe’s uses white beans and if you’ve never had them, they’re everything. Don’t get put off by the white rice, it’s still as flavorful as any rice you’re used to getting on the plate.

“Our salsa fresca is made from scratch every 45 minutes. It’s our first impression, so it has to be fresh and good” Delatorre says. He smiles, clearly delighted. “Yesterday I saw a girl eating the salsa with a spoon!”

Nothing goes better with homemade chips and fresh salsa than a margarita, and Felipe’s makes an especially good one. There are no store-bought mixers. The sour mix is made in-house and there are plenty of flavors from which to choose, including a hibiscus margarita. There is even a small six-person bar in case happy hour (Monday through Thursday from 3–6 p.m.) is the order of the day, when margaritas are $3.99 and smaller plates are available at lower prices. Stop by on Taco Tuesday for a variety of inventive street tacos.

Just when it looks like nothing can make Felipe’s any better, they offer carryout, and are open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with nothing on the menu over $17.

salsafresca

The salsa is made from scratch every 45 minutes.

While the food is up to the standards of an elevated meal experience, the restaurant is more like that first neighborhood Italian restaurant that opened in your midwest town without any flare, stark in style, but huge in flavor. That’s Felipe’s. But that is going to change this summer when they plan to expand the patio and the bar to wrap around their entire space. Not only will there be more al fresco dining space under the stars, the bar will be increased to seat 20.