mexican food palm springs

Mexican Food We Love

We tasted classic dishes at restaurants across the Coachella Valley. These are the places and flavors we recommend.

Catherine Downes Current PSL, Restaurants

mexican food palm springs

Armando’s Dakota Bar & Grill in Palm Desert.

The kitchen at El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel in Palm Springs is relatively calm. It’s a Thursday afternoon during a lull between the lunch and dinner rushes, and the cooks have only a handful of orders to prepare.

Lisbet Castañeda stands over the prep station, which is lined with stainless steel pans teeming with crimson sauces, diced vegetables, and rice. She pulls a piece of soft masa from a metal bowl on the countertop next to her and rolls it between her palms. The corn dough quickly transforms from an unshapely lump into a sphere. She extends her arm and presents the ball, resting in the base of her hand, as an example of what masa should look like before it’s flattened into a tortilla.

“There’s a science to cooking a tortilla,” Castañeda says. “There’s more to it than putting it on the grill and flipping it. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

She demonstrates the next step without the aid of any kitchen gadgets — mashing the dough back and forth in her hands until it stretches into a flattened oval — then places it across the flat-top grill.

“This is the traditional way,” she says.

Castañeda rolls a second ball and then makes another, only this time with a cast-iron tortilla press (the preferred way to form tortillas if you run a busy restaurant).

The co-owner of El Mirasol has been making and serving tortillas since arriving at the restaurant in 1991. Her husband, Felipe, opened the first location on East Palm Canyon Drive in South Palm Springs in April 1985. They now operate two locations.

“The secret to delicious corn tortillas is nixtamal,” Castañeda explains. “It’s very important — from selecting the corn to cooking the corn and then forming the masa.”

“It takes two minutes for a tortilla to be done. You cook it for about a minute on each side. If you flip it too many times, you’ll end up with a tostada.”
— Lisbet Castañeda, El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel

Nixtamalization is the method of soaking dried corn in an alkaline solution, like calcium hydroxide (also known as cal), to break it down. Once the corn goes through this process, it can be turned into masa, rolled into a ball, flattened, and tossed onto the grill.

“It takes two minutes for a tortilla to be done,” she says. “You cook it for about a minute on each side. If you flip it too many times, you’ll end up with a tostada. Also, it has to puff.” When steam becomes trapped inside of a tortilla, the masa inflates like a delicious balloon. This is important to the process because it means the dough is cooking internally as well.

There is folklore surrounding “the puff.”

“In Tepechitlán, where I grew up, if you’re making tortillas and it puffs, it’s a sign that you’re ready to get married,” she says. Whether one subscribes to this lore is personal. What’s unquestionable, however, is that the puff means that you’re in for a taste of corazón — the heart and soul of Mexican cuisine.

Castañeda applies this loving spirit to the entire menu.

Tamales: “The secret to making tamales is how well you mix the masa, salt, and lard. Possible tamale fillings are endless, and every town in Mexico makes its own signature tamales. The ones I grew up cooking and eating in Tepechitlán were filled with chicken or pork.”

Salsa: “When it comes to salsa, everything must be fresh. It has to start with good, ripe tomatoes. Also, different tomatoes give the salsa different flavors. Then add fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, cilantro, and onions. If you want to make it spicy, roll the jalapeños on the counter before you add them. This doesn’t work for all of them, but most of them.”


El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel. Tostadas at Olga’s Tacos.


Mole: “I started making the mole for El Mirasol 31 years ago. The secret to a great mole is the ingredients. Don’t cut corners, don’t use fillers. The mole has breadcrumbs, but it’s only 5 percent of all the ingredients. If you add more, you don’t have to use as many almonds or pumpkin seeds, but then it’s a filler. Mine uses 17 to 18 ingredients.”

Sauces: “Red sauce for enchiladas is made with dried chiles, guajillo chiles, and California chiles. Dried ingredients make it more of a winter sauce. Green is more of a summer sauce, since you have fresh tomatillos, which are traditionally seasonal. But now we have access to ingredients year-round, so, you can make it anytime. For me, the red sauce is more traditional for the enchiladas. Green came later, when we added spinach enchiladas to the menu.”

The Coachella Valley has a deep and rich tradition of authentic Mexican food that reflects the large (and largely Mexican) Latino population, which accounts for half of the residents in the valley’s nine cities, according to U.S. census statistics. In the city of Coachella, 96.4 percent of the population of 40,421 identifies as Latino or Hispanic. And three other valley cities’ populations are more than half Latino: neighboring Indio (69 percent), Desert Hot Springs (61.2 percent), and Cathedral City (60 percent). Fortunately, many families put their generational recipes to work in a countless number of Mexican restaurants, food trucks, and pop-up establishments.

Armed with newfound knowledge and inspiration from Castañeda, we set out to identify the tastiest classic Mexican dishes at restaurants, taco shops, and pop-up kitchens from Palm Springs to Coachella. After two months undercover — and with very full and happy bellies — we are pleased to present our favorites from across the Coachella Valley.

Here we go!

El Mirasol has two locations in Palm Springs.

El Mirasol
140 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

With two locations, this family-owned restaurant serves top-notch margaritas and a bevy of Mexican dishes. Aside from the enchiladas, tamales, and Castañeda’s mole, one standout is the ultra-spicy Shrimp Doña Diabla. Beware: It’s not for the faint of heart — or stomach.

461 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

Options may be limited at this pop-up, but everything on the menu — from the red tacos to the burrito — is worthy of your attention. Remember to load up on homemade salsas; you’ll want to try them all. Tacon’Todo turns up every Thursday on the back patio of Las Palmas Brewing in downtown Palm Springs.

Enjoy some of the best street tacos from Olga's Tacos.

Olga’s Tacos
3700 E. Vista Chino, Palm Springs

Some of the best street tacos in the desert can be found under the florescent lights at the Fiesta Market & Liquor store at the corner of East Vista Chino and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. Here, corn tortillas are topped with tender chorizo, buche (pork stomach), and more.

Hoja Blanca

Chef Omar Limon takes a modern approach to Mexican food with dishes like hamachi tostadas and maple-habañero sausage breakfast burritos. While he’s been serving his inventive fare around town in a pop-up space, his goal is to open a brick-and-mortar in Palm Springs within the next year or so.

Las Casuelas Original
368 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

This downtown Palm Springs staple is well-known among locals and tourists and has been serving Delgado family recipes for four generations. While there are multiple Las Casuelas locations, the original is preferred for its charm and service.

El Patio
139 E. Andreas Road, Palm Springs

The family behind popular Mexican restaurant Felipe’s (also in Palm Springs) opened this downtown location in 2021 as an extension of their thriving business. Hanging lanterns illuminate trees on the patio and create a dreamy backdrop for octopus ceviche and enchiladas verdes.

El Patio in Palm Springs.

415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

This chic and modern Spanish-style bungalow in downtown Palm Springs is known for its tacos and tequila — but not the classics. Instead, guests bite into loaded short rib, avocado tempura, or ceviche tacos and wash them down with intricate yet balanced agave-based drinks.

Taqueria Tlaquepaque
362 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

There’s nothing elaborate about this restaurant, but the staff is friendly, the portions are generous, and the food is honest and delicious. Come for breakfast and order the huevos a la Mexicana. Top your eggs with complimentary salsa before wrapping them in soft tortillas.


Pollo con mole at La Tablita.


Salsa’s Restaurant
69020 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City

This bustling, no-frills restaurant located across the street from Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City is busy on most days. Once seated, you’re in for a treat. We recommend the torta ahogada, or "drowned sandwich." Be sure to ask for extra napkins.

La Tablita Mexican Cuisine
68369 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City

The mole at this restaurant is some of the best you’ll find in the Coachella Valley. Tender chicken breast is smothered in rich, thick, subtly spicy chocolate sauce. Sop it up with fresh tortillas and wash it down with a paloma.

“The secret to a great mole is the ingredients. Don’t cut corners, don’t use fillers. Mine uses 17 to 18 ingredients.”
— Lisbet Castañeda, El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel
Armando's Dakota Bar & Grill.

Armando’s Dakota Bar & Grill
73260 El Paseo, Palm Desert

This popular neighborhood restaurant on El Paseo is known for having some of the strongest rocks margaritas around. It’s also known for a cozy atmosphere, generous portions, friendly staff, and excellent people watching.


Don Diego’s of Indian Wells
74969 Highway 111, Indian Wells

You can smell the food from the parking lot of this Indian Wells staple as you approach the front door. Grab a table on the patio near the enormous water fountain or inside the spacious dining room and gorge on tortilla soup, chimichangas, and the ever-popular shrimp and crab enchiladas.

El Ranchito Restaurant in La Quinta.

El Ranchito Restaurant
78039 Calle Estado, La Quinta

Since 1989, this family-run restaurant has been serving bountiful plates of Mexican food in Old Town La Quinta. Take a seat on the covered patio and order a combination plate. Make sure to include a chile relleno; they’re some of the best in the desert.

“When it comes to salsa, everything must be fresh. It has to start with good, ripe tomatoes.”
— Lisbet Castañeda, El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel

Arriola’s Tortilleria
82721 Wilson Ave., Indio

Herlindo and Eulalia Arriola started making tortillas in their Coachella Valley home in 1927. Then, in 1965, the family opened this modest tortilleria in Indio. Everything on the menu is prepared to go. Don’t be surprised to see people hunched over chile Colorado burritos, tamales, and nachos in their parked cars out front.

Pueblo Viejo Grill
81931 Highway 111, Indio

Wood paneling, florescent beer signs, and kitschy décor give this restaurant a homey, neighborhood vibe. The delicious scent of sizzling fajitas greets you like an old friend as you step inside (likely trapped in the carpeted floors forever). It adds to the charm.

Rincon Norteño in Indio.

Rincon Norteño
83011 Indio Blvd., Indio

The Flores family has been making and serving authentic Mexican cuisine for more than 50 years and moved to their current Indio location in 1979. Grab a seat at the counter and watch as the cooks prepare meal after meal. Order the beef soup, loaded with cabbage, large hunks of carrot, tender beef, and corn, for a taste of corazón.

El Mexical Café in Indio.

El Mexicali Café
82720 Indio Blvd., Indio

They’re known for their chiles gueritos rellenos de camarón here — banana peppers loaded with juicy shrimp and served alongside mayonnaise, soy sauce, and a lemon wedge. It might sound unusual, but it makes for a delightful flavor pairing. Sit in the small dining room or on the expansive patio and watch/feel as the trains pass by.

Jalisco Restaurant in Coachella.

Jalisco Restaurant
1605 Sixth St., Coachella

Some days, a mariachi band plays outside this charming, downtown Coachella restaurant. Grab a seat on the patio under a crimson umbrella if the weather permits and order the birria en su jugo, a rich and comforting soup loaded with succulent, slow-cooked goat meat.

“There’s a science to cooking a tortilla. There’s more to it than putting it on the grill and flipping it.”
— Lisbet Castañeda, El Mirasol at Los Arboles Hotel

El Pecado
48975 Grapefruit Blvd., Suite 3, Coachella

This casual and modern restaurant offers playful (and Instagrammable) twists on Mexican cuisine with dishes like a birria ramen, queso-coated fries, and a bacon-wrapped hot dog covered in salsa. Is it traditional? Absolutely not. But is it fun to eat? You betcha.

Mariscos El Capitan
52565 Cesar Chavez St., Coachella

Don’t let the fact that there’s sushi on this menu deter you from showing up for delicious Mexican cuisine. There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait for a table, but hang tight because the ceviche here is worth it. In fact, it’s some of the best you’ll find in the Coachella Valley.

Carnitas La Piedad in Coachella.

Carnitas La Piedad
49625 Cesar Chavez St., Coachella

If it isn’t obvious by the name, the carnitas tacos are the thing to order at this unassuming (yet charming) restaurant located in a Coachella strip mall. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a couple of complimentary chicharrones while you wait for your order.