Palm Springs has a reputation of being a nice resort town, and I tend to associate it with a higher standard for shopping and dining. So when we recently spent the weekend there, we had high expectations when we ate out. Since we had our kids with us, we were not looking for fancy or expensive, but still figured the quality of the dining would be high. Overall, it seemed to be a mixed bag: some meals were fantastic and some were just okay. Here is a quick rundown of the restaurants we tried.
Our first meal was at Bill’s Pizza, and it was wonderful! This is a small restaurant on South Indian Canyon Drive, just a block away from downtown Palm Spring’s main drag. They don’t take credit cards, so be prepared with cash or an ATM card. And be ready to wait if you get there during the dinner rush–this place gets packed!
The atmosphere is very casual with red checkered table cloths and colorful plates. It is also markedly Palm Springs with pop art of 1950’s icons such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean covering the walls.
But what really matters is the food, right? And it was great! We ordered a pepperoni pizza and Christine’s Rocker Pizza. Both were thin crust, a little top-heavy with toppings, and delicious! I am not ashamed to say that we easily polished off our two 10-inch pizzas in one sitting! I would definitely visit Bill’s Pizza again for a casual dinner in Palm Springs!
Pinocchio in the Desert
Our second meal was at Pinocchio in the Desert. I had passed this popular brunch destination a few times before, and it was always packed. So, when Saturday morning came around and our stomachs were rumbling, we naturally headed over to see what all the fuss was about. And, well, errr… I just can’t tell ya! I hate to say that this restaurant was a total miss for us.
On the plus side, Pinocchio’s is very colorful and unique. There is a statue of Marilyn Monroe, as well as about a hundred pictures of her on the wall. Brightly colored birds hang inside, and of course Pinocchio himself adorns the wall. The servers were extremely prompt, friendly, and accommodating. The only thing that was missing was the food quality. Everything came out quickly and looked pretty good, but sadly, we just found it mediocre.
The next morning we walked by Pinocchio’s again and it was packed with loud and happy diners–there was even a line! Maybe it was because it was later in the morning and the brunch crowd had come out. Maybe it was because a lady in a tiara was dancing through the restaurant to a catchy tune. Maybe it was because of the $5 bottomless champagne. Whatever the reason, people were loving it! I am a little sad this was not the experience we had, but such is the life of 7am breakfast eaters, I suppose! 😉 I don’t know that we would ever return, as there are so many new places to try, but I would definitely recommend people to make their own call on this popular brunch destination.
Las Casuelas Terraza
Our next meal was at Las Casuelas Terraza, a lively little Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Palm Springs.
Las Casuelas was our refuge when we were were approaching the point of no return with feeding
me our children lunch. Feed me them NOW or pay the price! We figured that Mexican food is always a safe bet, so we made the short trek from our hotel to the restaurant.
Okay, so first the good stuff: This place has great atmosphere. The location is perfect, the patio is charming, and the restaurant is filled with pictures and knick knacks to bring you back to the old days of ranchos and vaqueros. Chips and salsa came quickly (thank goodness!) and our server was great.
Unfortunately, we thought that the food was just average, nothing to set it apart from the plethora of Mexican food restaurants in Southern California. We had no real complaints, but I think we just expected a little more from a popular restaurant in Palm Springs. Would I go back again? Possibly. I really did enjoy the atmosphere and location quite a bit, and I’d like to think Las Casuelas would redeem itself on a second visit!
Ruben and Ozzy’s
We originally had dinner reservations at a restaurant called Trio, but we got lazy and decided to eat at one of the restaurants within walking distance. Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar was always packed and seemed ideal since it was just a hop, skip, and jump from our hotel.
We got there early (ah, the joys of eating with little ones!) and got prime seating on the patio with great people-watching potential and a lovely view of the mountains. We are not big oyster eaters, so we ended up ordering a cajun pasta and fish tacos. The kids had chicken strips with pasta and rice.
All and all, I thought Ruben and Ozzy’s was a nice place for dinner. Service was great, the food was good, and the prices were very reasonable!
Our final meal in Palm Springs was Sunday breakfast at Cheeky’s. This was the one I was most looking forward to, as the restaurant is highly rated and the menu looked terrific. And, if I am going to be completely honest, I should just admit that 99% of the decision to eat at this popular breakfast spot was based on their bacon flight. That’s right, A BACON FLIGHT! Some restaurants offer wine flights, but Cheeky’s has transcended beyond wine to the upper echelons of culinary greatness: bacon!
Before I go on raving about this restaurant, I should mention that it is a very popular place for breakfast. It opens at 8:00am and when we sauntered up at 8:03, we found ourselves at the end of a pretty good line. We promptly signed in, and still did not get seated for an hour. But good things come to those who wait (or something like that, I think) and it turned out that our breakfast at Cheeky’s was well worth the
hour of glaring at the people being seated ahead of us as we wrangled our hungry kiddos on the sidewalk wait. Once seated, the service was efficient and the food came fairly quickly. Everything we ordered was delicious and we were plied with coffee throughout the meal.
In case you are interested in all the details, let me tell you: Our 5-year-old ordered the waffle “with 5 strawberries and whipped cream.” (Got to love the specificity in his order! 😛 ) My little guy had a blueberry and corn pancake. Weird, right? But tasty! I had the brioche French toast with rhubarb, strawberry, and vanilla yogurt. My hubby (Mr. TravelNerd, to you! 😉 ) ordered the chilaquiles. Let me tell you that every single thing we ordered was delicious and we would gladly order again. And the chilaquiles–maybe the best I have had anywhere!
Would I go back to Cheeky’s? 100% Yes! I will certainly return to enjoy some more of their delightful breakfast offerings. I also want to try their French-pressed coffee. I am so sad to say that I somehow missed it on the menu. I think this oversight may possibly be due to the fact that my eyes were glazed over with hunger and caffeine withdrawal. Also, I believe I was begging our server to, “bring me the biggest vat of coffee you have!” before I even glanced at the menu. Oh well, next time! 🙂
Lulu California Bistro
We did not get a chance to eat at Lulu, but it is another well-reviewed breakfast hot spot that is on my Palm Springs to-do list. Passing by, we found the restaurant instantly appealing. At fist glance, you notice the iridescent tiled walls, and LULU popping off the wall in colorful block letters. Then you see the happy diners filling the patio. If that is not enough, a friend who was recently in Palm Springs said the food was great. Next time we are in the desert, I think we’ll be heading to Lulu California Bistro!
Tips and Lessons Learned:
- If you ever come across the words “bacon flight” on a menu, order it for goodness sake! 😛
- If you are in any way a picky eater, be sure to do your research before picking a restaurant. We were reminded of that during this trip, as the two restaurants that were our least favorites were picked in a rush and based on crowds rather than reviews.
- When going to a restaurant that is popular, be prepared for a wait. We were somewhat caught off guard by the wait at Cheeky’s, and that is never a scenario you want to find yourself in–especially with two hungry kids in tow!! Next time we will bring some coloring books or games along!
The Living Desert