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Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week, From June 1-17, Boasts 100-Plus Participants

Hey, foodies: That wonderful time of year known as Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is almost here!

From June 1-17—so, yeah, it’s more of a Greater Palm Springs Restaurant 2 1/2 Weeks—restaurants valley-wide will be offering special prix-fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner. Those lunch menus, with at least two courses, will cost $15, $20 or $25, while dinner menus, with at least three courses, will be $29, $39 or $49.

As of this writing, the Restaurant Week website listed a whopping 104 participants, from AC3 Restaurant + Bar to Zin American Bistro.

There are truly fine offers available at every price point for both lunch and dinner. However, because I earn a journalist’s salary (read: a half-step above “pauper”), I tend to focus on the $29 dinners—and, man, there are some great deals to be had. For example, we can go to Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine in Rancho Mirage and get the amazing paella (or one of five other main courses) and one of three first courses and one of two desserts for just $29. Or we can go to Jake’s in Palm Springs and choose one of six mains—including petite filet mignon!—plus a starter and dessert, again for just $29.

And now, a word of caution: While the majority of the Restaurant Week prix-fixe meals are indeed good deals … not all of them are. I’ll be diplomatic here and won’t name names … but some restaurants are offering menus under the Restaurant Week banner that are no better and no more exciting than what’s usually available. So, I recommend doing due diligence and researching the menus first.

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week takes place Friday, June 1, through Sunday, June 17. For more information, including a constantly updated roster of participants with their menus, visit www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/dinegps/restaurant-week.


New: Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar Opens in Downtown Palm Springs

The ever-controversial downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project is now home to yet another place to dine—and there’s nothing controversial about saying that the Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar is a whole lot of fun.

The Marlin Bar, located at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 150, is—like the Tommy Bahama restaurant and bar in Palm Desert on El Paseo—attached to the beachware-themed clothing store. However, the Palm Springs menu is a bit more limited than the Palm Desert one, although there’s still plenty of food to satisfy any appetite—and the prices are quite reasonable

At a recent media preview, I was able to sample some of the Marlin Bar’s signature offerings. The coconut shrimp ($9) were simply divine, while the ahi tuna tacos with wonton shells ($8) were fresh and delicious. The Cuban sandwich ($11) was a messy delight, while the all-American burger sliders ($10) were juicy and delectable.

Beyond the ample selection of appetizers and “hand-helds” (i.e., tacos, sandwiches and burgers), the Marlin Bar also offers entrée salads ($13-$16) and mains ranging from a vegetarian bowl ($13) and a Thai shrimp bowl ($14) to guava-glazed baby back pork ribs ($18) and steak frites ($22).

What about the cocktails? There are a lot of yummy rum and island-themed drinks—no surprise there—along with martinis and standards that’ll cost you from $11 to $13.50. Select wines and cocktails are knocked down to $6 during happy hour, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., during which you can also enjoy select martinis for $8; select beer for $4; and well drinks for $5.

Oh … and the patio, just off Palm Canyon Drive, is pretty epic.

The Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar in Palm Springs is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. Call 760-778-0019, or visit www.tommybahama.com for details.


In Brief

As promised … Grand Central Palm Springs is finally open! The restaurant is located inside the historic building at 160 La Plaza; for now, coffee, breakfast and lunch are being served from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday through Tuesday, with dinner to come later. Oh, and there’s a full bar, too! For more information, including menus and a history of the building, visit www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com; you can call ’em at 760-699-7185. … New to Indio: Sushi Bento, located in the old China Jo’s location at 82280 Highway 111. The place opened in March; get more info by calling 760-775-3444, or visiting this very odd and apparently in-progress website: sushi-bento-pan-asian-restaurant.business.site. … New to La Quinta: Enzo’s Bistro and Bar, at 78121 Avenida La Fonda. Enzo’s opened its doors in April and offers upscale Italian fare; the bar opens at 3 p.m., daily, with the dining room opening at 5 p.m. For more information, call 760-564-7333, or visit www.enzosbistroandbar.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Restaurant Week Returns With a Slightly Different Name, Higher Prices

The 10-day foodie feast known by locals simply as Restaurant Week is back and celebrating 10 years of existence—but things will be slightly different in 2016 than in years past.

Less important: Out is the clunky full name of Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week; in comes the more streamlined Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week.

More important: Prices have gone up. In recent years, participating restaurants have offered three-course prix fixe menus for either $26 or $38. This year, however, there are three price points: $28, $38 or $48.

The good news is that most of the participants are sticking with the lower two price points. Organizers say that more than 90 restaurants across the valley will be participating; as of our press deadline, the Restaurant Week website listed an impressive 94 participants, 83 of which had posted their menus. Of those 83, a majority of restaurants were going with the $38 prix fixe—43 of them, to be exact. Meanwhile, 26 restaurants were offering $28 menus, while just 14 of them were offering $48 menus.

New participants this year include Cathedral City’s Bontá Restaurant and Bar, Palm Desert’s Koutouki Greek Estiatorio, and Palm Springs’ Chi Chi at the Avalon, Reservoir at Arrive, and SO•PA at L’Horizon.

Also new this year: The folks at ever-mysterious PS Underground will be offering a $48 menu at Velvet, a supper-club experience at a secret location created just for Restaurant Week. Very cool!

Also very cool: Beyond the restaurant deals, all sorts of other local businesses, attractions and hotels offer specials during Restaurant Week, too.

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week takes place Friday, June 3, through Sunday, June 12. For more information—including a list of participants and their menus—visit visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/restaurantweek.

New: Blaze Pizza Opens in Palm Desert

A growing pizza chain that does things a little bit differently has opened a new location in Palm Desert.

Blaze Pizza opened at 73393 Highway 111 on May 10, and here’s its shtick: You walk in and get in line; you tell the employees what sauce and ingredients you want placed on the made-from-scratch dough; one of those employees puts your creation in a very hot stone-hearth oven; and three minutes later, your pizza’s ready. It’d kind of like Chipotle … just with pizza, and without all the terrible press the burrito chain has gotten recently.

Actually, the press that Blaze Pizza has received lately has been just the opposite of that of Chipotle: It’s been downright glowing, as the fast-casual chain continues to grow. One of the investors in the “Fast Fire’d” pizza chain is NBA superstar LeBron James, who went to work at a Los Angeles Blaze location not to long ago, posing as an employee named “Ron.” Of course, this appearance became fodder for a commercial.

Learn more at blazepizza.com.

In Brief

As previewed in this space a couple of months back: In the very same shopping center as the aforementioned Blaze Pizza, you can find the second valley location of The Habit Burger Grill, a chain that claims to have the best burger in America according to Consumer Reports. The Palm Desert location—that address again is 73393 Highway 111—opened in May and is the second Coachella Valley location; the other is at 79174 Highway 111 in La Quinta. More info at www.habitburger.com. … Good news for West Valley boozehounds and wine snobs alike: A little store called BevMo! has applied for a liquor license to do business at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, the location that was The Alley furniture/gifts for many years. The building is currently under construction. We’ll be keeping a close (if slightly bloodshot) eye on the progress and will keep you updated. … The family of Crater Lake Vodka’s Kathy Schriefer has been through hell recently—but the community is stepping up to help. In December, her son, Thomas, suffered serious brain damage after drinking too much water. On May 17, local publicist Jeff Hocker, Live Magazine and Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge joined forces at Eight4Nine to raise funds to help cover Thomas’ medical bills. The goal was to raise $3,500 at the event, but Hocker reports that the “Take 2 for Thomas” party actually raised $5,501. Great work! If you want to help, the Schriefer family has a donations page set up at www.gofundme.com/d9mfr6dw. ... Speaking of good causes: Some Fabulous Leos—the local nonprofit organization, co-founded by the late George Zander, which celebrates the Leo astrological sign while raising money for worthy charities—will be having a “Pre-Party” at Eight4Nine, 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, at 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25. For $10, you get a raffle ticket and entry to the party. It’s one of two events—the other being a happy hour at the Hard Rock on Wednesday, July 20—leading up to the big event: The annual Leo Party, taking place Sunday, Aug. 21, at Toucan’s Tiki Lounge, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. This year’s beneficiaries: The L-Fund, a lesbian philanthropic group that assists locals in need; and the Raina Chessman Fund, which aids the local transgender community. RSVP and get more info at www.somefabulousleos.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

GREEK ISLANDS CAFÉ MOVES UP THE STREET; DÉLICATESSE COMING SOON

After not even a year at 117 La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, Greek Islands Café has moved up the street to the spot that used to house Mykonos Greek Restaurant.

You can’t miss new digs, at 139 E. Andreas Road, thanks to the bright-yellow building. Even cooler than the building, though, is the restaurant’s gorgeous courtyard. I stopped in a couple of days before the “official” Nov. 16 grand opening for lunch, and was completely enchanted by the lovely space. (At one point, a tiny kitten zoomed under my chair!) And then there’s the food: The gyro sandwich I had was fantastic.

For more information, call 760-413-3811.

It appears Greek Islands’ move has set off a game of restaurant musical chairs: There’s now a sign in the restaurant’s old La Plaza space that touts the expected January 2014 opening of Délicatesse, a restaurant offering German meats, gourmet cheeses, French pastries and other European goodies. The fare will be available for in-house dining, for take-out and on party platters.

Yum! We’ll keep you posted.

THE COPA SET TO OPEN IN DECEMBER

The Copa—the sister nightclub of the ever-popular restaurant Tropicale, which sits right next door—should open its doors at 244 E. Amado Road in Palm Springs sometime in December.

An email went out to The Tropicale’s regular customers on Nov. 20 promising that the Copa’s opening was “just a couple of weeks away,” and referring folks to www.copapalmsprings.com. That website is chock full of information: “In a throwback to old Palm Springs’ nightclubs, the Copa is fashioned around an elevated performing stage and a stunning U-shaped bar lined with leather barstools, upholstered booths and gilded cocktail tables,” it promises.

It seems The Copa will offer a series of themed nights: “Stardust Swingers,” with swing, jazz and ballroom dancing on Monday; pop and country classics on Wednesday; music from the ’70s and’80s on Thursday; modern club nights on Friday and Saturday; and salsa/Latin dancing on Sunday.

Cliché alert: But wait; there’s more! Further sleuthing led to another website, www.coparoomtickets.com, which is selling tickets to performances by actor/comedian Leslie Jordan (Peanut!) on Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 19 through 21; comedian Judy Tenuta on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28; and other performers going into January.

Since this is the restaurant news column, we should mention that The Tropicale’s full menu will be available at The Copa.

Watch the aforementioned websites for more details.

MIRAMONTE GOES GAGA WITH GINGERBREAD

Like gingerbread? Then you’ll want to check out the Miramonte Resort and Spa’s Gingerbread Village, debuting Friday, Nov. 29.

Varied gingerbread buildings—all of which must be at least 51 percent edible—will be on display in the Tuscany Foyer starting at 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 29. They were all made by kids, adults, businesses or pro bakers/chefs who entered a contest for a good cause: The proceeds are being donated to the Desert Cancer Foundation.

Catch the Gingerbread Village through Dec. 26. It’s just one of the many holiday events taking place at the Miramonte, at 45000 Indian Wells Lane, in Indian Wells.

Visit www.miramonteresort.com/holidays.php for more.

IN BRIEF

Wang’s in the Desert, at 424 S. Indian Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a reception on Thursday, Nov. 21. … Las Casuelas Terraza, at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is getting into the holiday spirit by offering pomegranate guacamole. We’re not sure that regular guacamole needed sprucing up, but this “seasonal tradition” will be available through December, or as long as pomegranates are in season. … Chez Pierre Bistro is latest incarnation of Pierre Pelech’s eponymous restaurant, and it’s now open at 74040 Highway 111, at Portola Avenue, in Palm Desert. It replaces his old Town Center Way digs. Get more info at www.chezpierrebistro.com. … Oscar’s Café and Bar, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, celebrated the opening of its remodeled dining room with a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, Nov. 20. … The dates have been set for Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week: May 30 through June 8, 2014. The 2013 incarnation was 17 days long, which means the 2014 version will be a week shorter. Find more info at www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Legendary Purple Room Closes

Sad news for fans of the swanky, old-school Palm Springs vibe: The Legendary Purple Room, located inside of the Club Trinidad time share at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed.

When we called the Club Trinidad to learn more, a woman identifying herself only as Jackie confirmed the closure, and said it was unclear when the Purple Room would reopen. When we asked if that meant that the venue would reopen at some point, she said she didn’t know, and that we needed to talk to Club Trinidad manager/CEO Arthur Brigman—who is on vacation this week.

We’ll check in with Brigman when he’s back, and pass along what we learn.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy a cocktail or two at the Purple Room several times before it closed (although I never saw any live music there), and it breaks my heart that it’s gone. It was a unique, quirky and decidedly old-school club—a club that stunningly few people seemed to know about. My fingers are crossed that it will, in fact, reopen at some point—hopefully with a little more promotion and advertising heft behind it.

Total Wine Opening in Palm Desert

While the alcohol gods take away, they also giveth: The valley’s first Total Wine will open tomorrow (Thursday, June 13), with a grand-opening shindig from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring free tastings and live music.

The chain store, at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert, boasts that it offers more than 8,000 wines, 2,500 beers and 3,000 spirits.

While the valley is already home to another big-box booze behemoth—there’s a BevMo location in La Quinta—this store will make it easier for local liquor aficionados to acquire those hard-to-find spirits.

Find more info at www.totalwine.com.

POM Changes Up Its Menu

The folks at POM, one of Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s signature restaurants, have changed up the menu for the toasty summer months.

Lunch menu highlights include a Moroccan chicken salad (with Moroccan-spiced chicken, mesculin greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, dates, almonds and cranberries, all topped with a citrus-mustard dressing). The new dinner menu includes wild mushroom ravioli, osso bucco and pork empanadas (with yummy Manchego cheese included in the filling).

Get the full lowdown at www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call 760-345-2450. Fantasy Springs is located at 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio.

Restaurant Week Enters Its Final Days

The 17-day dining bonanza that is Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week will come to a close this Sunday, June 16.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the three-course prix-fixe menus, for either $26 or $38, at a decent-sized handful of the participating restaurants, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of myself. It’s especially fantastic when a restaurant really embraces the concept and offers their customers, both old and new, a great deal and/or something special. The best example of this I have seen has been at Trio (707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), where the good people there even revamped their main menu to feature, first and foremost, their Restaurant Week offerings.

However, not all of the participants are embracing the week so fully. At least one restaurant we visited didn’t give us their Restaurant Week menu. (Thank goodness we did our research in advance.) And at yet another couple of restaurants, they’re offering smaller portions of regular menu items—without warning customers that the portions are, in fact, smaller.

I completely understand why restaurant managers may want to offer smaller portions of certain items (for example, soup) for the lower prices featured during Restaurant Week. But if they do so, they should say they’re doing so: Call the smaller portion “petite,” or say it’s a “small bowl” of whatever it is. But offering smaller portions of regular menu items without saying they’re doing so just hurts the restaurant’s image: Newcomers assume the portions are always that small, and in-the-know regulars are disappointed when the smaller portions arrive at the table.

But enough complaining. Nitpicks aside, Restaurant Week is a great event for foodies of all stripes; get out and enjoy it while you can. Find full details at www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Friday, May 31, may seem like a long way away, but the organizers of Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week say it never hurts to get an early start on planning.

“Every year, my husband and I make it a staycation,” said Kim Crandal, the executive director of Restaurant Week, during which a bevy of local restaurants will be offering special three-course prix-fixe menus for either $26 or $38 per person.

Given that this year’s Restaurant Week is bigger than ever, perhaps planning is a good idea. For one thing, the week is much longer than a week—it runs for 17 days, in fact, from Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 16.

Why the expansion?

“We took a look at the history of requests from some of the restaurants,” Crandal said. “… So many people were experiencing success.”

As of now, 79 restaurants throughout the valley—including local favorites, big chains and eateries that are new to the scene—are signed up to participate.

But the week goes beyond food; the tag line for the event is “Eat. See. Stay.” Crandal said numerous hotels and resorts (that would be the “stay” part) are participating, as are various attractions and spas (that would be the “see” part).

“We are focusing more on crafting the ‘see’ and ‘stay’ components so people understand it’s more than a restaurant week,” she said. What do you do during the day?”

About a dozen hotels are currently signed on, and the 20 or so “see” partners include everything from the Palm Springs Art Museum to Knott’s Soak City to the Desert Springs Spa to Desert Adventures Eco-Tours and Events.

Restaurant Week also has something of a special relationship with “Forever Marilyn,” the 26-foot-tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe that currently graces downtown Palm Springs. She was installed just before last year’s Restaurant Week, and she’ll be taken down and moved (temporarily, many hope) during this year’s Restaurant Week. While plans are not yet finalized, an idea is being batted around to create a more life-sized Marilyn Monroe representation—a statue, perhaps, or a cut-out—and have her pop up at the various restaurants during the 2 1/2 weeks of Restaurant Week.

Crandal noted that some folks are indeed already making Restaurant Week plans. For example, she cited a group of about 90 golfers from Santa Barbara who have made Restaurant Week an annual trip.

“It’s really building a nice following,” Crandal said.

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week takes place from Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 16. For a complete list of participants and updates, visit www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News