Superior Farm roasted domestic rack of lamb.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMON
Take your seat at this swanky Steve Chase–designed restaurant, and the staff won’t greet you with the dinner menu. Rather, you’re invited to settle in, sip a top-shelf martini, and savor the company and conversation at your table. At Wally’s Desert Turtle, time slows down.
“We try to create an experience,” says third-generation owner Madalyn Botello, who grew up working at the Rancho Mirage restaurant that her grandfather, Wally, founded in 1978. Botello, a Cornell University hospitality school alum, has enlivened offerings with her fresh perspective — bringing in boutique wines and adding creative twists to the nightly live music. What remains the same are Wally’s formal service standards, harking back to a glamorous, bygone era, and the elegant California cuisine that has developed a loyal patronage over decades.
Rather than one server, an entire service team takes care of your table. “After you receive your cocktails or wine, you’re greeted by the captain of the team, who introduces you to our menu,” Botello explains. Beloved dishes such as tender rack of lamb, scallops with sea bass, and flavorful Dover sole pair with sweet finishes from pastry chef Darcy Mass, including Wally’s signature Grand Marnier soufflé and a rich chocolate lava cake. Of course, the Golden Osetra caviar service is a dessert unto itself.
Minterbrook oysters and jumbo shrimp cocktail; interior dining area.
When you’re here, you will feel like the most important person in the room — as you should in one of the desert’s poshest restaurants.
“Fine dining is a lost art in a day when everyone is always moving fast,” Botello says. “We’re not trying to be a modern restaurant. We want people to feel they have stepped back in time and experience something different.”
ASK A LOCAL
Wally's Desert Turtle Owner
1. Keeping family traditions alive: My grandfather and father used to go to every table and check on the customers while they were dining to make sure they were having a great experience. I carry on the same tradition. As a family business, every customer is important, and we truly want them to feel that.
2. Great ingredients matter because: We have to care about what we put in our body. We strive to provide the highest-quality ingredients for ourselves and also for our guests.
3. The best part about desert life: I love the mountains and scenery. It’s so peaceful and beautiful here. I love to hike, and we have so many amazing trails in the valley. I also love the community. Everyone is very supportive and always willing to connect and help each other.