Love Bites

Romance reigns at these desert restaurants

Carolyn Patten Restaurants 0 Comments

A fine restaurant — where the service, music, lighting, and food blend into one powerful aphrodisiac — is the perfect stage to celebrate the relationship milestone called “special occasion.” Whether it’s to mark the romance and bravado of a first date or the mellow affection of a long partnership, the desert has your table.

Sip a martini to the sound of live jazz in the Starlite Lounge to set the mood at Circa 59’s slick, sultry art deco space, which oozes urban sophistication with an overlay of retro Las Vegas. Ask for a table in the pool area for a romantic dinner illuminated by candles and twinkle lights. Menus feature American classics with a modern twist and an impressive wine list. Riviera Palm Springs Resort & Spa, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-778-6659;

Nestled against the mountains in the historic Tennis Club, Spencer’s Restaurant has reimagined the Bougainvillea Room as a darkly elegant space with a classic yet contemporary décor of stone and wood. Choose a quiet corner or dine under the stars on the patio, cossetted with live piano music, American cuisine with a French–Pacific Rim influence, and an award-winning wine list. 701 W. Baristo Rd., Palm Springs. 760-327-3446;

A bustling spot with soft lighting, live music, and a young, well-dressed crowd, Mastro’s Steakhouse is an upscale take on the classic steakhouse — with contemporary décor and much more than steak on the menu. This is an impressive choice for creating memories. 73405 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-776-6777;

Cuistot, a re-creation of a French manor house, radiates an atmosphere of sumptuous ease with one airy dining room set off by floor-to-ceiling windows and another with a huge fireplace, rock walls, and massive chandeliers. Both are invitations to indulge and savor rich, classic French cuisine, impeccable service, and intelligent wine pairing. 72595 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-340-1000;

George Roberson, son of Palm Springs pioneer Nellie Coffman, built this lovely home, which has housed the highly rated Le Vallauris for decades. Flemish tapestries, Louis XV furniture, a warmly professional staff, and inspired French-Mediterranean cuisine make for an enchanted evening. Dine on the patio sheltered by huge ficus trees sprinkled with twinkling lights or in one of the intimate dining rooms near the fireplace. If all goes well … weddings here are especially lovely. 385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-5059;

The elegant Ristorante Mamma Gina has been romancing locals at its El Paseo location since 1986. Dozens of classic Florentine dishes and an exceptional wine selection make it a consistently pleasing choice. Dine in the quiet, formal dining room or arrive early for the famous happy hour, then window shop at the street’s many art galleries. 73705 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-568-9898;

Wally’s Desert Turtle is as famous for its food as it is for its ultra-glam décor — beveled mirrored ceilings, Peruvian artifacts, and hand-painted murals. It’s been at the top of the list for special occasions since 1978, with consistently stellar service and gentle piano music. Chef Richard Pelz has refreshed the menu this season, emphasizing classic cooking techniques with fresh and seasonal foods. 71775 Hwy. 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-568-9321;

In the Uptown Design District in part of the former Cary Grant estate, the unpretentious Copley’s on Palm Canyon has been remodeled to perfection with hardwood floors and clean, rustic touches inside. Out back, the festive, torch-lined garden facing the mountains re-creates the glamour of old Palm Springs. 621 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-327-9555;

Winner of AAA’s Four Diamond ranking for 10 years in a row, Europa’s antique-filled dining room and intimate patio are tucked away in the heart of the Villa Royale Inn. Flowers, candles in hanging lanterns, and twinkling lights on the trees cast a lovely glow and invite lovers to savor the moment. After dinner, move to the sunken outdoor living room by the pool and relish the mountain views. 1620 S. Indian Tr., Palm Springs. 760-327-2314;

Pomme Frite feels like a café in Paris or Brussels — tiny tables, a patio facing Palm Canyon Drive, and moody French music. French country dishes, Belgian beers, and fine wines add to the feeling of old Europe. Reserve a patio table on any Thursday night, when VillageFest is in full swing and the café’s accordion player serenades diners from the sidewalk. 256 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 760-778-3727;

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