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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

New in Downtown Palm Springs: Moxie Palm Springs

For several years, Grind Brgr Bar languished on the second floor at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs. I went to the Kaiser Restaurant Group-owned restaurant fairly frequently, because the burgers were good, and I loved the view. However, the place seemed constantly understaffed, and there was no vibe whatsoever.

Well, Grind is gone, as is its downstairs sister restaurant, The Chop House. In Grind’s place is Moxie Palm Springs—and it appears the charming second-story space (above what is now the Broken Yolk Café) is finally getting the treatment it deserves.

Don’t go to Moxie expecting a big, honking meal; instead, you’ll find salads, $4 bar bites (such as a single slider or a jicama shrimp taco) and “sharables” such as papas bravas ($8) and a charcuterie platter ($15). On the drink side, Moxie offers an innovative selection of “crafty cocktails” and “classy cocktails” for $11, and well drinks for $6—and you can knock a buck or two off those prices during happy hour, between 4 and 7 p.m.

Just as exciting as the food and drink, however, is the list of special events: A quick gander at Moxie’s Facebook page shows goings-on such as wine-tastings and live entertainment.

Moxie is open at 4 p.m. daily, and closes no later than midnight. For more information, call 760-318-9900, or visit www.facebook.com/moxiepalmsprings.


The Ace Looks to Taco Maria to Spice Up King's Highway Offerings

Forgive me if you’ve heard this before: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has enlisted the aid of a highly regarded out-of-town restaurant to improve the food offerings at the King’s Highway restaurant.

This time, the help is coming from Taco Maria, the Costa Mesa restaurant that’s earned chef Carlos Salgado many awards; in fact, our friends at the OC Weekly have named it the best Orange County restaurant three years in a row.

It was just two years ago that I was telling you that the Ace had brought in Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant Five Leaves to shore up the King’s Highway menu. Some of those changes were great—the Five Leaves burger was tasty, while the buttermilk fried Jidori earned a coveted Indy Endorsement from the rag you’re reading right now.

Despite these bright points, however, I’ve never really enjoyed eating at King’s Highway all that much—even though I would definitely qualify as an Ace regular. What came out of the kitchen over the last couple of years was inconsistent, while some of the prices were simply outrageous: Chips and salsa will set you back $9 in the Amigo Room. If you want the add “crushed avocado,” your total tab is $15. Really?!

So far, the changes I’ve seen to the menu have been encouraging. I’ll be curious to see what Salgado ultimately does as part of this culinary partnership. (Here’s hoping more-reasonable prices are among the changes!)

Visit www.kingshighwaydiner.com for more information.


In Brief

If you 1) love great food, 2) love great beer, 3) love a gorgeous restaurant atmosphere and 4) are reading this column fairly early, take note: You’ll want to be at the Purple Palm Restaurant, at the Colony Palms Hotel at 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, for the Winter Food and Beer Fest. According to this here news release, Purple Palm executive chef Nick Tall “has created a festive dinner of shared plates, all expertly paired with beer” from Coachella Valley Brewing Co. The evening—which starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and is followed by a sit-down dinner—costs $70. Call 760-969-1818 for reservations or more information. … Breakfast is becoming big in down Palm Springs: We recently heard a rumor that a veeeeery popular Palm Desert-area breakfast/brunch joint may be soon moving into the second-story space that The Falls Steakhouse used to call home, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive. We have not confirmed the rumor, so we won’t share any further details, but keep your eyes open and your fingers crossed. … Frenchy’s Sports Bar and Grill is now open at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in north Palm Springs, in the space the late, lamented Dickie O’Neal’s used to call home. Live entertainment and karaoke are in the mix along with the food and sports. Call 760-424-8765, or visit www.facebook.com/FrenchysPalmSprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The Buttermilk Fried Jidori Chicken

Where: King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $24

Contact: 760-866-6180; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings/kings-highway

Why: It’s a mouth-watering, nuanced delight.

And now, here’s a little glimpse at how the sausage is made. (“The sausage,” in this case, means “food journalism.”)

Not too long ago, the King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club invited media folks to a family-style tasting of a bunch of stuff on the restaurant’s new menu, which was developed with the help of the people at the renowned Five Leaves restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The food, as one would expect, was tasty across the board. (After all, the kitchen is most definitely going to be on its “A” game when feeding a bunch of writers and reporters.) However, two dishes really got my attention: The shepherd’s pie, and the fried chicken. Well, on subsequent visits to the Ace (the Independent has a contingent there most Monday nights for trivia, for the record), I decided see if the food I received as a regular ol’ customer matched the food I received as a vaunted member of the media. (Please, no snickering at that last statement.)

Upon further review, the shepherd’s pie was indeed very good—but the fried chicken was out of freaking sight.

I want this fried chicken all the time now. Jidori chickens are a trendy, free-range sort of bird known for their yumminess—and this chicken is indeed juicy and delicious. However, the coating/skin is important, too: It’s sweet from honey, spicy from habañero, and splendidly crispy as a result of the talents of the folks in the King’s Highway kitchen.

My mouth is watering as I write this. Your mouth should be watering as you read this. This chicken is that good.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Top Chef Comes to Palm Springs

During its 12 seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has spent time in great food cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and, most recently, Boston.

Now we can add Palm Springs to the list … sort of.

For the show’s 13th season, producers decided to mix things up by returning to California—but hopping around, with stops in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the Coachella Valley.

While not a lot of details on the Palm Springs stop have been released, here’s what we do know: On Wednesday, May 20, the chef-testants were tasked with cooking for a mass same-sex wedding/renewal-of-vows ceremony. We also know that Over the Rainbow’s Roman Blas was asked to make a wedding cake for the show. (He shared that tidbit on Facebook.)

If any more Top Chef news makes its way to our desk, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Johannes Stops Offering Tap Water in Favor of Bottles ... to ‘Preserve the Environment’?

OK, we’re confused here.

Johannes Restaurant—for my money, one of the top restaurants in the valley—has announced that as of June 15, it will no longer serve tap water, and will instead offer bottled water from New Zealand.

Why, you ask? It’s being done in an effort to “preserve the environment.” Yeah, we don’t get it, either.

Here’s the scoop, straight from the news release:

“The restaurant will offer Waiwera Organic Artesian Still Water, a New Zealand treasure for centuries, for $1. Waiwera water is carbon neutral and bottled at the source in BPA-free PET bottles. If a guest doesn’t finish the bottle of water, they can take it with them.

“Serving tap water with ice has become wasteful, and in order to conserve water, Johannes has made this decision to convert to a new concept. Restaurants in other cities are adopting this same concept. During the course of a year, the restaurant uses over 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of ice and 15,000 gallons of water, which converts to an average of over 75,000 glasses of water and ice per year.”

The news release goes on to say: “We hope more restaurants in the Coachella Valley will consider doing the same and that our guests will understand and support our concept.”

OK. We understand that less water will be coming out of California’s aquifers as a result of this move, perhaps … but shipping water all the way in from New Zealand!?

If we figure out how that works, we’ll let you know. For more information, visit www.johannesrestaurants.com.

Babe's Joins Forces With The Venue for a Special Dinner

It’s being touted as “the desert’s first five-course sushi and craft beer pairing dinner.”

It is taking place at The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 3. The Venue’s sushi will be combined with the great beer—and a little bit of the barbecue—from Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage. The dinner starts with tempura-style stuffed zucchini blossoms (with spicy tuna!) being paired with Babe’s Honey Blond Ale—and it goes from there. As for the third course: We’re dying to find out what hickory-smoked tri-tip sashimi is! It’s being paired with Babe’s Bin 1214 Imperial Red Ale.

The dinner is $65 per person. For reservations or more details, call 760-346-1500.

In Brief

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge is closed—again. After getting back on its figurative feet after two recent fires, the restaurant, at 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, quite suddenly shut its doors on May 17. We’re told that serious maintenance issues within the building could not wait any longer to be fixed, so management decided to bite the bullet and address them, all while keeping fingers crossed for an Aug. 1 reopening. Here’s hoping that’s the case, as we’re already hankering for a bowl of Twin Palms’ amazing gumbo. Watch www.facebook.com/twinpalmsbistro for updates. ... Jersey Mike’s Subs is now open at 79174 Highway 111, in La Quinta. It’s the second Jersey Mike’s in the valley; there’s already one on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and a third is supposedly coming to Palm Springs. … Wasabi, a Japanese/sushi joint that had for years been located at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has closed, and an Italian restaurant is taking its place. More details to come. … The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has again tweaked its menus with help from Five Leaves restaurant out of Brooklyn, N.Y. We recently joined other media folks at a tasting of the new fare at the Ace’s King’s Highway, and found the food to be quite tasty. In particular, we were blown away by the shepherd’s pie! We’re also intrigued by the fact that the Ace is now serving some special cocktails out of taps and bottles. We’ll share more boozy details when we get ’em; in the meantime, head to www.acehotel.com/palmsprings to check out the new menus.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Mark Your Calendars: Dining Out for Life Is on Thursday, April 30

Every year, dozens of area restaurants agree to give a chunk of one special day’s proceeds to the Desert AIDS Project, and that sacrifice makes a big financial difference: Last year, more than $175,000 was raised for DAP’s client services, thanks to about 10,000 diners and 43 participating restaurants.

This year, DAP has even higher hopes for Dining Out for Life, which will take place on Thursday, April 30: As of this writing, 47 restaurants had pledged to participate, with each giving at least 33 percent of the day’s proceeds to DAP.

That’s fantastic. Even better: Two restaurants have committed to giving 100 percent of the day’s take to DAP: Ristretto (500 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) and Pho 533 (1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625, Palm Springs; more on Pho 533 later).

By the way: The Independent is a sponsor of Dining Out for Life, and we have agreed to “adopt” three restaurants during the day; follow us on Facebook to watch as we eat breakfast at King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), lunch at Alicante (140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), and dinner at Bar (340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs). Or better yet—join us at these great restaurants; have a great meal; and help the Desert AIDS Project surpass last year’s $175,000 take.

Go out and eat for a good cause; it’s literally the least you can do!

For more information, including a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings.

Dash and a Handful Owner Buys Pho 533

Chad Gardner, the brains (and the culinary talent) behind the Dash and a Handful catering company, is in the process of buying Pho 533, the Vietnamese restaurant that calls the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center in Palm Springs home.

In a news release, Gardner said he had no immediate plans to make big changes at the restaurant; in fact, he said he is a longtime fan of Pho 533.

“I’m extremely excited to take the reins of this great restaurant and its loyal following that has been lovingly cultivated by its current ownership,” Gardner said, in the type of awkward quote that could only be found in a press release. He continued: “You may see some new specials introduced here and there, but the current menu will remain virtually intact.”

According to that news release, Gardner has long wanted to own a restaurant. “I started my career in restaurants, and I love all types of Asian food, but since I was trained as a French chef, I particularly love Vietnamese food,” he said.

Escrow is expected to close sometime in early April.

Congratulations to Gardner! Watch pho533palmsprings.com for updates.

In Brief

Serious Food and Drink has moved in to the space at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive that was the longtime home of Hamburger Mary’s. The restaurant’s website describes Serious as a “new American restaurant with a fun, relaxed atmosphere that is great for all occasions,” and there is some serious talent behind the place. Expect compelling appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrées for lunch, while dinner brings a lot of tasty stuff—with price tags topping out at $28. I personally can’t wait to try out the Quack Stack appetizer ($13.95): Take duck fat fries, and add shredded duck confit and duck-egg hollandaise. I gained four pounds just reading that—but my mouth is watering. Learn more at seriousfoodanddrink.com. … With the change in seasons comes changes in menus—and such is the case at Simon Kitchen + Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. On Monday, March 30, the restaurant—which carries the name of celebrity chef Kerry Simon, and is led by executive chef Jeremy Saccardi—added new “social plates” (read: appetizers) that include veal meatballs Parmigana with rapini and burrata; and wok-charred edamame with togarashi. That sounds good, but it was the steak addition that got our attention: a 22- or 36-ounce bone-in rib eye prepared with marrow butter and special steak sauce. Yes, marrow butter. More info at www.hrhpalmsprings.com/simon.htm. … Finally, sad news: Michael Farber, the proprietor at Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub, at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, passed away due to heart problems. Following his death, Dickie O’Neal’s closed its doors indefinitely. Both Farber and Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub will be greatly missed.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Out of the Ashes: Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club Begins Rebuilding Process

At Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, it was supposed to be a Christmas day to celebrate. The year-old restaurant, located at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, had dinner reservations for 170 people on the books.

However, on the morning of Dec. 25, while a couple of employees began preparing in the kitchen for the busy night, something went terribly wrong: An electrical fire began in the ceiling over the dining room.

Within a couple hours, the restaurant had burned to the ground. Bernie’s owners Rand Howell and Geoff McIntosh, while in shock, scrambled to find new reservations for their customers, and new jobs for their employees.

The only saving grace: The two employees made it out of the building unharmed.

“Initially, it was very devastating,” McIntosh said.

One month later, the feelings of devastation have largely faded, McIntosh said, and the owners are now working on the rebuilding process. There’s also another silver lining in the dark cloud.

“Everybody who wanted a job was able to find one within two to three weeks,” McIntosh said, praising his fellow local restaurateurs who stepped in to help his staffers.

At first, McIntosh and Howell looked into reopening Bernie’s in an existing building at another location. However, those plans fell through.

“We just couldn’t put it together,” he said.

McIntosh and Howell are now planning on rebuilding Bernie’s in the same location, which they own, he said. There’s another, smaller building on their property that they may demolish to build a new Bernie’s that’s bigger and better than ever.

“We had outgrown our space by the second month we were open,” McIntosh laughed.

McIntosh said the current plan is to expand both the lounge and dining areas just a bit. The biggest changes, though, will involve improving the traffic flow by widening aisles and fixing the fact that in the old building, there was only one, hard-to-access door in and out of the kitchen—which led to constant traffic jams.

When can customers expect the new Bernie’s to rise from the ashes? McIntosh said that optimistic estimates say the new building’s doors could open within seven or eight months, but he thinks a year is more realistic.

“All the layers of government approval we’ll need will take two to three months, probably, by themselves,” he said.

McIntosh praised the restaurant’s insurance company, Farmers Insurance, for moving quickly thus far. In fact, the business-interruption insurance is paying key management employees to stay on while the restaurant is rebuilt, McIntosh said.

Keep your fingers crossed for the good people at Bernie’s. Follow the rebuilding progress, and get updates on former Bernie’s employees, at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans.

In Brief

Bontá Restaurant and Bar is now open and serving modern European and Latin fare at 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, in the spot formerly occupied by Picanha Churrascaria. More info at bontarestaurant.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill opened in January at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, near World Gym in Palm Springs. The restaurant’s website promises “one of a kind, authentic Mexican cuisine” that is “made with the freshest ingredients possible.” Visit that website, mylococharlies.com, for more info. … King’s Highway, the diner at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, launched all-new, expanded menus in mid-January. The restaurant is following in the footsteps of the Ace Hotel L.A., which recently revamped its restaurant with the help of the folks behind Five Leaves in Brooklyn, N.Y.—meaning Five Leaves influences can be found on the Palm Springs menus, too. Highlights include the avocado toast for breakfast, and the Five Leaves burger (including grilled pineapple, pickled beets and a sunny-side-up egg) for lunch and dinner. … Want to get out of the house to enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22? Trio Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is hosting its annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party, to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program. Get tickets, starting at $125, at aidsassistance.org. If you’re closer to Indian Wells, consider the Red Carpet Oscar Party at Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive. Tickets are $85, and the event benefits Variety—The Children's Charity of the Desert. Call 760-345-9770 to reserve. … Congrats to Shanghai Reds, the popular back-area bar and restaurant at Palm Springs’ Fisherman’s Market and Grill, located at 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, for completing an expansion of the patio. There’s now more seating and a better music stage. ... If you haven’t heard already: The Asian-cuisine scene of the Coachella Valley is now worse off due to the apparent closing of Jiao, the Foundation 10-owned restaurant that was located at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News