Swinging Season For Desert Diners

Desert diners are in for a treat as high season gets underway

By Kimberly Nichols

It’s the season where everything’s swinging: golf clubs, tennis racquets and the valley’s eclectic culinary scene. For fall, we’ve compiled a list of the new, the fun, and the festive with offerings across the valley. Whether you’re looking for a custom-designed and coursed-out meal, the current hot spot or simply someplace nice to enjoy an alfresco meal with friends during one of the prettiest times of the year, make sure to put one of these food favorites on your list. 

The Pink Cabana 

The Pink Cabana restaurant at the Sands Hotel & Spa has been creating a boutique buzz with its fresh, modern take on the great tennis and racquet clubs of 1950s and ’60s Palm Springs, only now in the East Valley. Chef Jason Niederkorn is focused on Mediterranean cuisine with a Moroccan influence. Think harissa chicken with saffron potatoes, turmeric cipollini, Meyer lemon and green olives. Or consider an ancient grain gateau washed down with an Aperol spritz. An elevated cocktail list, inspired by the Great Spice Route, is featured for those who wish to linger at the bar, soaking in the ambiance of contemporary desert chic. (44-985 Province Way, Indian Wells; 760.321.3771; sandshotelandspa.com)

4 Saints at Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

Equally inspired by Mediterranean flavors, Chef Stephen Wambach is offering fun, shareable small plates at 4 Saints atop the Kimpton. Whether sipping innovative craft cocktails in the lounge or dining on indulgent foie gras with berries, rhubarb and brioche outside, all guests are privy to breathtaking views of the iconic San Jacinto Mountains. Menus change per season, featuring a flavorful journey through global cuisine. Don’t forget to try the Highway 111, a classic libation of demerara sugar, roasted dates, bitters and bourbon at its best. (100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 800.532.7320; rowanpalmsprings.com)

Grand Central

Located in a historical building in downtown Palm Springs, home of the original town clock, Grand Central restaurant reminds desert diners to take time to savor a leisurely breakfast or lunch. Enjoy a baked goat cheese salad or bowl of watermelon berry gazpacho on the patio, the perfect place for people watching. In homage to the building’s prior business, a longtime clothing store, The Desmond Burger is a flavor bomb of seared beef wrapped in prosciutto with beefsteak tomato and basil mayo on a brioche bun. (160 La Plaza, Palm Springs; 760.699.7185; grandcentralpalmsprings.com)

Cups Café

Open till three p.m., Cups Café is a fun new breakfast and lunch spot known for its homemade pastries. But locals in the know go wild for the home-style chilaquiles, wheat zucchini pancakes, creative Benedicts made with organic brown eggs and the signature freshly brewed hibiscus tea. For autumn, a variety of specials will be added to the menu including prime rib and a multitude of soups from scratch. Brunch-goers can also enjoy mimosas, sangria or a Bloody Mary. (77912 Country Club Drive, Unit 3, Palm Desert; 760.200.0333)

Beyond Balisage

Chef Daniel Villanueva has opened a brick-and-mortar space in Cathedral City to showcase his “Earth to Table” cuisine. He works with local farmers from the Coachella Valley and throughout Southern California to source only the freshest seasonal ingredients, which are then compiled into innovative dishes on menus that change weekly. The most exciting thing about dining at Beyond Balisage is discovering surprising new dishes each visit, such as spiced duck breast, lamb kleftiko and fig cake. Guests can also enjoy the Chef’s Table bar, which offers a mezze menu and a handful of wines for $5 a glass from 5 p.m. to close five nights a week. (68-327 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Cathedral City; 760.699.8536; beyondbalisage.com)

La Quinta Brewing Company Tap Rooms

Nothing is more refreshing after an aggressive game of golf or tennis than a tall frosted glass of beer. Luckily, the desert has its very own La Quinta Brewing Company, offering three taprooms across the valley where visitors can taste test an extensive collection of artisanal brews. Although there is no food on the premises, patrons are welcome to bring in their own food to enjoy alongside the satisfying suds. Check online, or call for individual taproom hours. (Brewery Tap Room, 77917 Wildcat Dr., Palm Desert; 760.200.2597; Palm Springs Taproom, 301 N. Palm Canyon Dr. #100, Palm Springs; 760.320.2597; Old Town Taproom, 78-065 Main St., #100, La Quinta; 760.972.4251; laquintabrewing.com) 


Two Valley Favorites Undergo Exciting Changes

Pacifica Seafood Restaurant has been busy over the summer in a thrilling revamp that will delight loyal customers along with new guests this season. In October, owners will reopen the completely refurbished restaurant. Upgrades include a patio overhaul with new seating and cabanas and a new, fresh interior that reflects the sense of class and fun with which the restaurant has become synonymous. Although known currently for its terrific vodka selection, the invigorated bar will now also offer an extensive draft beer system as well as a solid suite of stellar small batch whiskeys. Drink offerings are also being ramped up with a mixology program featuring a half dozen seasonal craft cocktails based on fresh ingredients and artisanal spirits.

La Quinta Cliffhouse will also offer upgraded offerings this season, including a similar mixology program focused on specialty cocktails. For its notoriously popular bar scene, the restaurant will introduce a refreshingly creative small-plates menu centered around such sexy, delicious and highly Instagrammable dishes as ahi cones. Also in transition is the private dining room, which will become a more public space with a fire pit so that groups of guests can enjoy the intimate lounge atmosphere. 

Kimberly Nichols is a staff writer with Desert Golf & Tennis

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