Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani has agreed to partner with Morongo for at least one so-far unnamed venture.

Local Restaurants Prepare for an Atypically Busy Coachella Valley Summer

This time of year usually sees the Coachella Valley transitioning from a bustling tourist destination into a much-quieter place: Rising temperatures keep many tourists away, while locals rejoice in the lack of traffic, more accessible parking, and the ability to nab reservations at our favorite restaurants—all while we complain about the 110-degree heat.

But this year … things are looking quite different. The tourists keep coming, filling vacation rentals and hotels—and local restaurants are booming, in some cases getting as much business as they normally do during the height of season.

Meanwhile, a big change is coming: The state intends to drop the county tier system on June 15, assuming COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates remain low. That means that for the first time in 15 months, establishments will have no COVID-related capacity restrictions.

One hiccup: Restaurant owners keep reporting that they are having a hard time hiring. We know of some service-industry workers who have left the valley, pushed out by ever-rising housing costs. Whatever the reason, restaurants owners are being forced to pay more to the employees they can find (higher pay that’s much-deserved, by the way)—so expect to see higher prices at local restaurants, if you’re not already.

Of course, this all could change in a heartbeat if COVID-19 rates start to rise. So, please: Continue to wear your mask (even though the CDC has changed its guidelines for vaccinated individuals). Keep washing your hands and social distancing. In a community as close-knit as ours often is, it can be challenging to remember to keep up the good habits we acquired during this last year. Please keep your guard up for everyone’s safety and security.

Oh, and one more thing: Do NOT hassle the servers, hosts and restauranteurs who are doing their best to follow the constantly changing guidelines as they navigate through these undeniably weird times.

In Brief

Fabio Viviani, a fan favorite from Bravo’s Top Chef—as well as a cookbook author and an international restaurateur—will bring his culinary vision to Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Viviani has opened 41 restaurants in his lifetime, according to a news release; the name and details of his venture(s) at Morongo have not yet been announced. Watch … Craving sweets in La Quinta? Tiffany’s Sweet Spot has settled into new digs at 78590 Highway 111. Fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, churro cupcakes and cookies for any occasion are on offer, as are gluten-free and vegan offerings. Call 760-360-1329, or visit to learn more. … The Wrap Shack, a Mediterranean falafel and gyro restaurant, recently opened in Bermuda Dunes, at 40100 Washington St., Suite 109. The menu features healthy eating—with a side of French fries—and the restaurant offers mint lemonade, one of my personal faves, which is perfect for cooling one down on the hot summer days ahead. Call 760-360-8178, or visit … The Atrium in Rancho Mirage, at 69930 Highway 111, is home to a new restaurant. Pangea has an eclectic menu befitting its name, featuring everything from fish tacos to chicken pesto pasta. It’s in a space that has been difficult spot for restaurants in the past, so stop by and show some love; 760-832-7246; … Lee and Joel Lovitt, who have owned AJ’s on the Green, 36200 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, for four years, have announced the restaurant is being sold to a new owner. It remains open through the transition, and we have no word on the new owner’s plans; watch … Also changing hands: Copa Nightclub, at 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. The venue, which had yet to reopen as of this writing, was a sister property to The Tropicale, which sits right next door, and served food from Tropicale’s kitchen. Follow for updates. … The owners of Chill Bar Palm Springs, at 217 E. Arenas Road, have plans to open Reforma, a restaurant, nightclub and cocktail lounge, next to BevMo at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Although it is still early in the process, we hear the owners are concerned about delays caused by the nationwide shortage of building materials. Watch this space for updates. … La Quinta’s Torakichi Ramen, at 79775 Highway 111, is set to open a Palm Springs location in mid-June at 5001 E. Ramon Road. To our knowledge, this would be the first ramen-focused restaurant to open in Palm Springs. Visit for more. … Finally, many of the local farmers’ markets are beginning to transition into their summer plans. After taking June 5 off, the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market will move indoors into the Palm Springs Pavilion, at 401 S. Pavilion Way, on June 12. The Indian Wells market is rumored to be moving indoors for the summer as well, although the organizer has not yet responded to our inquiries. Most of the valley’s other markets are going on hiatus until October.

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Charles Drabkin is a native of McMinnville, Ore., the heart of the Oregon Wine Country, where the relationship between food and people was instilled in him at an early age. After working his way around...