What: Willie’s shepherds pie
Where: 1501 Uptown Gastropub, 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
How much: $28
Contact: 760-320-1501; www.1501uptown.com
Why: It’s comforting and delicious.
When I heard that Willie Rhine and Chad Gardner had decided to open a new restaurant at this particular moment in our history, I was stunned.
Rhine and Gardner aren’t dummies; they’re two of Palm Springs most-accomplished restaurateurs, after all. But … the opening was announced in the middle of the worst spike of the pandemic thus far. (We really, really hope “thus far” can eventually be deleted from that sentence.) And who knows how long it’ll be before at-capacity indoor dining is allowed again? Had they lost their figurative marbles?
Nope. These two smarty-pantses knew exactly what they were doing.
While the Chris Pardo-designed building that now houses 1501 Uptown Gastropub is quite nice, the restaurant is mostly a series of big patios—perfect for outdoor, socially distanced dining. And the 1501 menu may be Gardner’s best yet. His spin on the gastropub concept includes small plates (including a fantastic sourdough pretzel), soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers and 10 or so “big plates,” such as braised Kobe short ribs, lobster claw and blue crab mac and beer cheese, and the star of the show: Willie’s shepherds pie.
The menu description sounds pretty darned simple: “slow braised grass fed filet mignon, sherry, mirepoix, caramelized mashed red potatoes, English peas, cave aged cheddar.” But that simplicity belies the delicious flavor therein.
The beef—so tender, so rich—is the star of the dish, with the cheese-coated mashed potatoes almost worthy of equal star billing. But combine the two … and wow. So, so good. This dish is a perfect example of the gastropub concept: It’s seemingly simple food that’s been substantially elevated.
Get thee to 1501 to try it—but you’d best make reservations, as the place is now the hottest restaurant in the valley. Smarty-pantses, indeed.