Bongo Johnny’s Moving Into Former Café Europa Space; Antigua Opens in Former Gyoro-Gyoro Spot
When it comes to some restaurant spaces in downtown Palm Springs, the only constant is change.
Witness the second-floor space at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, across from the Hyatt. In recent years, it’s housed both Crave and Plate | Glass; about two years ago, restaurateur Mike Stoltz moved his popular Café Europa in there during the daytime, and introduced a bar/small-plates concept, jusTapas, for the nighttime.
The move turned out to be a mistake, it seems: Café Europa/jusTapas recently closed its doors. However, the space will not be vacant for long: Bongo Johnny’s, the Arenas Road mainstay which has been closed since a fire destroyed its kitchen back in March, is moving in, and could be open by January. Owner Robb Wirt had originally planned to remain in the space at 214 E. Arenas Road, but abandoned those plans, he says, due to a lack of responsiveness from his landlord.
Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, Antigua Kitchen and Bar has opened at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in the spot most recently occupied by Gyoro-Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise. It’s a new venture by the owners of L’Olivo Palm Springs—an Italian restaurant that’s called 333 N. Palm Canyon Drive home for years—offering “quality American dishes, with locally sourced ingredients and a casual desert dining vibe.” A recent visit revealed tasty food, a décor largely unchanged from Gyoro-Gyoro, and a bar only serving beer, wine and low-alcohol cocktails, since a full liquor license had not yet been obtained.
Oh, and adjacent to Antigua—in the space occupied for years by Starbucks before it moved into new, fancier digs across the street—El Patron Taqueria and Bar is supposed to be coming soon.
Got all that?
All of these changes and moves, naturally, lead to some questions about whether these restaurants can succeed where others have failed. I have no idea what will happen with El Patron—although I am discouraged by the fact that a sign has been up for weeks encouraging people to follow the restaurant’s progress on Instagram and Facebook pages that don’t seem to yet exist—but I am cautiously optimistic about the chances for Antigua and Bongo Johnny’s.
As for Antigua: Gyoro-Gyoro, despite a fantastic location, seemed to be poorly managed throughout its run—including an embarrassing and lengthy closure by the health department. Given the location, and the fact that the owners have a proven track record with L’Olivo, Antigua seems primed for success.
As for Bongo Johnny’s … I do have some concerns. The restaurant had a good, long run on Arenas, but it really flourished when Wirt deftly expanded the hours until 3 a.m. on weekends—taking advantage of its location in the midst of bars and clubs—and started offering delivery. Will he be able to duplicate that success in a location that’s blocks away from all those clubs? I am concerned … but optimistic.
The Shop Café, the family-owned restaurant located at the Aqua Soleil Hotel at 14500 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs, has closed. Management announced the closure on the restaurant’s social media on Nov. 19, but said the family would continue to offer catering services. … New to Palm Desert: Trattoria Mezzomondo, at 73850 Highway 111. Owner Elio Cavallari formerly owned Mezzomondo in Studio City; he closed it, moved to Palm Desert and opened the new place. Get details at mezzomondopd.com. … New to Palm Springs: Taka Shin Japanese Cuisine, at 641 N. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not yet been able to visit this authentic sushi joint ourselves, but our friend Miho Suma, the incredible owner of Shabu Shabu Zen, raves about the place—a worthy endorsement indeed. Call 760-600-5806 for more details. … New to Cathedral City: The Desert Queen, a café serving Southern fare at 35400 Date Palm Drive. All three meals are offered at this cute little place, and we can’t wait to try the homemade meatloaf, as well as the fried chicken … with cornbread! More info at thedesertqueen1.com. … New to La Quinta: The Roblero Pit, serving up “Santa Maria-style” barbecue, Napa Valley dishes and other fare at 79410 Highway 111. View the menu and get details at www.robleropit.com. … And now for something completely different: The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort, at 74855 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert, has opened T&T Innovation Kitchen. From a news release: “Dishes change daily, inspired by both time and temperature, encouraging the team to get creative with everything from their produce choices to their preparation process. Furthermore, there’s an unconventional entrance through the restaurant that takes guests through the massive resort kitchen and in through the back of the restaurant—a nod to the anticipation and mystery of speakeasy restaurants.” T&T offers five-course dinners every Friday and Saturday; learn more at www.facebook.com/timeandtemp.