willies modern fare rancho mirage california

Eat, Drink, and Give Back

The Taste of Rancho Mirage offers a chance to try an array of palate-pleasing foodie spots through Aug. 12 while raising much-needed dollars for local charities.

Julie Pendray Current Digital, Restaurants

willies modern fare rancho mirage california

Dig in to the cider planked salmon featuring organic sugar spiced rub with smoked paprika and killer bee honey, fingerling potatoes and haircot verts.

What’s in a name? With his first two restaurants, Willie Rhine incorporated the numerical location into naming the establishments: Eight4Nine with John Paschal and 1501 Uptown Gastropub with Chad Gardner — both in Palm Springs.

When Gardner came knocking again with a restaurant proposition in Rancho Mirage during the midpoint of the pandemic, Rhine saw an opportunity to forge a new direction with the name, Willie’s Modern Fare. “So far, it has paid off nicely,” Rhine says of using his name as a drawing card.

But the real reason? “My other restaurants have numbers (in their name) but 69830 (Highway 111) is simply too long ,” Rhine says, laughing.

As for launching Willie’s Fare during a pandemic, Rhine says Gardner gets the credit. “He came to me with an offer too good to pass up. I had always considered Rancho Mirage a good location for a restaurant because many people have recently moved there. The timing, pricing, and location were just perfect.”

Willie's Modern Fare opened during the pandemic, and makes its first appearance in Taste of Rancho Mirage.

Willie’s Modern Fare joins a list of 20 participating restaurants in Taste of Rancho Mirage, which runs now through Aug. 12. From poke to pavlova, Tuscan salmon to boba and ice cream, foodies can once again delight in a variety of experiences after the event underwent two years of creative modifications due to Covid. About 20 local charities, such as Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Shay’s Warriors (Life after Cancer), and Coachella Horse Rescue, will benefit.

In 2019, the event raised nearly $9,000 for all participating non-profits, says Katie Stice, president/CEO of Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce. In 2020 and 2021, organizers showcased take-out options and family-style take home and baked dinners to stay viable while residents were staying socially distant.

“We’re thrilled to be back to business,” Stice said. “It is a true economic driver for restaurants and non-profit organizations. The community loves to visit their favorite spots and try new establishments. There’s a great variety of food, drinks, and dessert specials by a great group of local businesses.”

To qualify for the specials, purchase a $10 wristbands on the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce website. They need to be picked up at the office, 71905 Highway 111, Suite H, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are also available at participating charities. The chamber suggests calling ahead if you are going there, to make sure staff are in the office, as they are sometimes attending events.

Though daytime triple digits sometimes deter out-of-town visitors during the so-called “dog days of summer” in the desert, it’s easy to stay inside with air conditioning and then enjoy a balmy stroll at dinner time among indigo mountain views.

“I very much appreciate all the diners who choose to eat out during the slow summer months,” adds Rhine, whose menu at Willie’s Modern Fare features beef stroganoff, wagyu short ribs, and lobster “cappuccino” among several options. For Taste of Summer, they will offer half-priced desserts, with purchase of an entrée.

Pinzimini at the Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort and Spa offers Tuscan Skuna Bay salmon and calamari vegetable fritt. Be sure to take an after-dinner stroll among the arched architecture overlooking green expanses to unwind from the stress of the world.

There are less expensive and smaller treats to try as well. Check out contributions from Brandini Toffee, Krispy Kreme, Ben & Jerry’s and Dragon Lili’s Boba Bar.

• READ NEXT: 26 Spots to Enjoy a Taste of Summer in the Desert.