What: The crab cakes

Where: Shame on the Moon, 69950 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage

How much: $14

Contact: 760-324-5515; www.shameonthemoon.com

Why: The acidity of the slaw brings it all together.

A good friend’s birthday arrived during the dark, early days of the pandemic. We didn’t want his special day to go uncelebrated, so we threw him what has to be the dumbest birthday party ever: About 10 of us met at a park, and everyone stayed at least six feet apart, wearing masks, the entire time—except for when we ate our pieces of cake, which had been cut out of a sheet cake sitting on a thoroughly sanitized folding table by a glove-wearing friend. As we ate, we stayed at least 10 feet apart.

I pondered this as we celebrated another friend’s birthday a few days ago at Shame on the Moon. What a different occasion this was: We were close together at a table, eating real food, at a real restaurant.

Shame on the Moon is one of several places in the Coachella Valley that acts as a sort of culinary time machine: The second you walk in the door, it feels like you’ve been transported back 40 years. (The restaurant opened in this location in 1995, yet somehow, it feels older than that.) Tablecloths, waiters dressed in their finest, and martinis that are large and strong—the vibe is all there.

This classic feel extends to the menu, where you’ll find old-school dishes like shrimp scampi, Caesar salad, lots of steaks and even sautéed calf’s liver. (The surprising outlier: the gluten-free chicken ravioli with kale. Alas, they were out of it when we were there.) The highlight of this wonderful meal was also a classic: the crab cakes.

The nice-sized cakes were flawless—so many crab cakes have too much filler, but not these—and the lemon-dill sauce was tasty. However, the element that pushed this dish over the top was the tart, vinegary slaw. The menu calls it “celery root and cucumber salad,” but there was a lot more going on than that. It was perfectly dressed, and crunchy—but not too crunchy.

It’s so nice to be able to properly celebrate special occasions again. Cheers to Shame on the Moon.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...