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23 Feb 2017

Restaurant News Bites: Chop House Returns, Inside Jackalope Ranch; Local Joints Earn Big Honors; and Tons More!

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Chop House owner Lee Morcus has big plans for his Jackalope Ranch complex. Chop House owner Lee Morcus has big plans for his Jackalope Ranch complex.

New: Chop House at Jackalope Ranch

I must confess: Before I walked into the new Chop House for a media preview dinner on Jan. 31, I thought the move by Lee Morcus and his Kaiser Restaurant Group to re-open the steakhouse inside of Jackalope Ranch was a gimmick.

I am a big fan of the Chop House. If memory serves, the first meal I ever ate in the Coachella Valley was at the old Palm Desert Chop House (which is now a Kaiser Grille), and I had many special meals at the downtown Palm Springs Chop House before it closed last year. I was sad to see the Chop House go, and I feared Morcus and co. were simply taking a room inside the sprawling, 660-seat Jackalope Ranch; calling it “Chop House”; throwing some old Chop House items on the menu; and calling it a day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only did Morcus revamp and bring back the full Chop House menu; he completely renovated one of the spaces inside the Jackalope Ranch complex, and created a new, dedicated kitchen specifically for the Chop House. He’s treating the restaurants as separate entities: A special occasion here or there aside, diners can only get the Chop House menu in the Chop House area, and can only get the Jackalope Ranch menu in the other areas.

I liked what I saw and tasted. The ahi tuna tartare ($16) was amazingly fresh, and the heirloom tomato and buratta salad ($12) was excellent. Unfortunately, I had to leave early due to other commitments, so I didn’t get to sample any of the main courses, like the 36-ounce Tomahawk rib chop for two ($98, with two sides).

Morcus is clearly taking the new Chop House seriously. He spoke at great length about all of the work he and his team have put into the new space, and talked passionately about the quality of meat he serves—aged at least 28 days, and never pre-sliced.

He also hinted at future plans for the Jackalope Ranch complex: He mentioned the possibility of a separate microbrewery/restaurant concept taking over a third kitchen in the building, and noted that Indio could perhaps use a hotel on some of the adjacent vacant land.

The Chop House at Jackalope Ranch is located at 80400 Highway 111, in Indio. For more information, call 760-342-1999, or visit www.thejackaloperanch.com/chop-house.


In Brief

Do you have your tickets yet for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival? If not, now is the time: The foodie-dream weekend takes place Friday, March 24, through Sunday, March 26. Chefs’ demonstrations, wine dinners and other special events are on the schedule, along with the Grand Tasting main event. Grand Tasting tickets start at $100. Get them and more info at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … If you have not yet tried the new menu at the Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, do so. PR goddess Chris Martelo invited me to lunch there one recent weekday, and I was impressed by chef George Gonzalez’s food. The menu offers entrées from locales world-round, and my mouth now waters whenever I think of the fantastic gorgonzola, chicken and pear salad. Mere bar food, this ain’t. Visit palmspringsvillagepub.com for more info. … The downtown Palm Springs Pho Vu is no more. The restaurant, at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has changed ownership and is now called Fuzion Five Vietnamese and Lao Cuisine. We’ll share more details after we check the place out; in the meantime, visit www.facebook.com/fuzionfive. … Congratulations to La Quinta Brewing Co., which nabbed two medals in the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore.: a gold for the Heatwave Amber Ale, and a silver for the Tan Line Brown Ale. … Congratulations are also in order for two beloved local restaurants which are among Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2017: Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar came in at No. 78, while Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli is No. 5. Amazing! … Happy Sushi Ro Ba Ta, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has seen a change in focus in recent years—and now, it has a different name, too. Kaikou highlights ramen and poke in addition to sushi offerings; more info at www.facebook.com/KaikouRamenPokeSushi. ... Speaking of sushi: You can now get more of it in Desert Hot Springs, thanks to the debut of Best Sushi and Grill. It’s located at 13525 Palm Drive, No. 3. Visit www.bestsushigrill.com for a menu and more info. … At long last, the relocated Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club is open, at 69830 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. More info at bernies.club. … After closing rather suddenly back in September due to the death of the owner, Morongo Valley’s Willie Boys appears to be on the path toward reopening: The restaurant’s Facebook page says the restaurant is hiring for all positions. More info at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon.

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