Desert dining for fall

Contemporary cuisine raises the bar on innovative tastes

By Alison Elsner

Fresh and organic are where it’s at. Figure in an expanding number of vegan options, and diners have the perfect package for satisfying hunger and socializing with a renewed sense of discovery. New eateries in the Coachella Valley abound, each one raising the bar on quality, taste and innovative menu options. As a way to usher in the fall season, we’ve curated some of the top performers that offer something for everyone, including plant-based choices, carnivore favorites and a contemporary view of cuisine, responding to patrons’ evolving standards and quest for creative tastes.



Here you are invited to sup in style with your pup at your feet. No pup, no problem, as your mai tai moment is waiting for you either way. Whether settling in at the posh dining room with a view of the San Jacinto mountains, on the open air atrium or in the cabana bar and patio, the latter two which are dog friendly, suggested cocktail openers include brown dog with Jamaican rum, Hemingway daiquiri, Negroni and Aunt Donna’s dirty poodle with Akahi white oak whiskey and yuzu-Meyer lemon shrub.


Dinner offerings feature miso Chilean seabass fish and chips, Mongolian ribeye steak, garlic noodles, and plenty of share plates such as charcuterie board and blistered shishito. There are ample vegan and vegetarian options including sesame miso tofu, veganwürst dog, parmesan truffle fries, coral roasted peaches and grilled broccoli steak.


Happy hour, late night, crudo, dessert and dog menus will leave both humans and canines with full tummies. Belly rubs optional.


2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760.656.0067,


Breakfast Republic

A favorite breakfast house that continues to open locations across Southern California is now serving hungry patrons in Palm Desert. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, this casual café offers new takes on American classics. It’s the brainchild of Johan Engman who was born in Sweden and moved to San Diego as a teen in 1997.


Taste treats include turkey meatloaf hash, breakfast bacon mac ‘n cheese, breakfast burger and steak and eggs. The special presents tres leches vegan pancakes, and other pancake offerings serve up oreo, cinnamon roll and pineapple upside down. There’s even a fluffy flight of three.


The vegan menu section features harvest omelet, vegan breakfast burrito and others that will make a convert out of you. French toast delights include Mr. Presley (yes, with peanut butter, bacon and bananas foster), strawberry and mascarpone and s’mores.


This is definitely a new and improved way to start the day.


44491 Town Center Way, Palm Desert,760.690.3550,


Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

As Chef Tanya says, “Look good in your pants…eat plants!” The eatery is inspired by Tanya Holland’s love for good food, nature and the animal kingdom and dedicated to making food tasty, fun, healthy and easy. In addition to a breakfast, lunch and dinner destination, the space is also a take-out deli counter and grab-and-go market at both locations. Earlier this year, it was ranked as the most liked restaurant in Palm Springs according to Yelp reviews.


Tasty menu offerings include Thai tofu salad, Coachella forever (a festival in your mouth) salad, and a variety of tempeh power burgers such as caprese, gordo chili cheese, Guadalajara! and CTK original.


Sandwiches plate up pastrami mami, bahn mi & you, el cubano, chupacabra chick’n, modern hippie veggie, BLTA and sriracha cheesy panini. Delightful deli sides serve up quinoa lemon veggie and smoked chicken pasta, and desserts include lemon drizzle cake bites and organic fruit cobbler.


Vegan, vegetarian or carnivore, Tanya’s is a winner.


706 S. Eugene Road, Palm Springs, 760.832.9007

72695 Highway 111, Palm Desert, 760.636.0863


Counter Reformation

Upbeat music, dim lighting and a lively vibe set the tone at this adorable hot spot inside the Parker Palm Springs. Think Paris tabac or “les zinc” with a speakeasy undercurrent. The Jonathan Adler design complements the small bites menu. And the virtual shrine to good wine includes sophisticated and savvy selections, such as Domaine Boutet Saulnier Vouvray, Loire Valley, France 2020 and Petra Unger “Q” Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria 2019.


Bar seating and ledge-leaning is the rule of thumb in the Cave à Manger, where chic diners can order up small plated savory snacks. Examples include charred black pepper beef carpaccio truffle chimichurri, escargot cassolette with herb garlic butter, garlic and prawns, royal Osetra caviar and citrus donuts and duck, pork and fig terrine.


Vegans will be happy here too, with selections such as pastel de bacalao Portuguese style cod fish cakes and olives and honey roasted marcona almonds.


Each of the selections here is just right, best described as more than an amuse-bouche and less than a serving. Mangeons!


Parker Hotel, 4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760.770.5000,


Heirloom Craft Kitchen

Chef Andie Hubka is known for this casual dining concept that features delicious scratch made soups, salads, small plates, sandwiches and signature dishes serving local and organic produce. The craft beer and wine program showcases small family producers and up-and-coming winemakers and breweries.


HCK is truly a foodies’ find, with yummies such as chicken and waffles, crispy fried pickles with vegan ranch dressing, chilaquiles, goat cheese bruschetta and midnight sandwich, a unique layering of applewood bacon, spinach, cheddar garlic herb aioli and fried egg on sourdough.

Crafted salads are where Chef Andie really shines, with offerings such as BBQ ranch chicken salad, heirloom tomato caprese and big taco salad. Sandwiches include La Quinta cheesesteak with short rib and queso blanco and Indian cubano with pulled pork and prosciutto. There are lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options, such as vegan tater tots and the Impossible burrito, and the daily baked goods and pastries should not be skipped.


Plus, they serve brunch all day, every day…enough said!


49990 Jefferson Boulevard, Indio, 760.773.2233,



Just opened five months ago, this rustic Baja eatery inside the new Drift Palm Springs hotel serves up family-style feasts expertly paired with rare mezcals and craft cocktails in an indoor/outdoor dining and gathering space. The elevated cuisine creates an environment that is sleek, chic and elegant and showcases forms, flavors and colors reflective of the desert and the brand’s organic roots.


The restaurant is a partnership between local Chefs Ysaac Ramirez and Jorge Espindola and Cesar Pita of Roots and Roads, a San Jose del Cabo-based business.


This sun-soaked paradise features an extensive cocktail, wine and spirits menu with literally dozens of tequilas. The brunch menu in particular should start with a bloody Maria, Paloma spritz or bottomless mimosas. Favorite items include queso fundido, fish ceviche, Caesar salad and the Maleza burger with Oaxaca cheese and habanero mustard on a brioche bun. Dinner items include crab or mushroom tostadas, charred steak tacos and steak aguachile.


You can almost see El Arco from your seat beside the fire pit.


Drift Palm Springs, 284 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 888.976.4487,