A trip to sunny Palm Springs is a rite of passage for every sort of traveler: The town’s star-studded history, amazing architecture and—yes—pool parties aplenty, make it a no-brainer for an unforgettable trip.
Add to that list a whole slew of fun things to do and some of the best restaurants in California, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed amazing vacation. Whether you’re renting a house or splurging on one of the area’s top hotels, if you’re not familiar with the little enclave’s restaurant and bar scene, it can be easy to get suckered into dinner or drinks at a tourist trap or sub-par dive. As usual, we’re here to help. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner for your next desert adventure.
Cool off with the best restaurants and bars in Palm Springs
It’s good to be king. Seventy five years in and this swanky, retro spot is still at the top of the city’s food-game food chain, and with good reason. Mr. Lyons feels like the classy steakhouses of yore, despite a few modern touches to the 1945 original—which wined and dined long-ago locals like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope and frequent visitors such as, oh, Marilyn Monroe. Today, it boasts classics like steak frites, prime rib, mac and cheese, shrimp cocktail, wedge salads and burgers, along with lighter, more modern fare from Trois Mec vet Shad Newton, who’s put a few vegetable-forward options on the table (vegan chopped salad or a leek-and-cauliflower gratin, anyone?). It’s all the glamour and vintage charm of a steakhouse during Palm Springs’ heyday, with enough of a twist to keep things fresh. If you’re just here for drinks, try Seymour’s: the well-designed speakeasy hidden behind a curtain near the entrance.
Chef-owner Engin Onural blends traditional Japanese technique with modern global touches, resulting in one of Palm Springs’ hottest—and most genre-bending—dining spots. Sashimi, carpaccios and seasonal goods like squash blossoms may take the form of tostadas, aguachiles or sushi, and are best enjoyed with those cocktails sporting desert-foraged herbs. Looking for something straightforward? There are classic hand rolls and nigiri, too—and Sandfish is also home to one of the area’s best whiskey collections.
What was once a historic movie theater in the ’20s is now a stark, concrete space with plush booths, minimal lighting and a spacious courtyard—Workshop is a James Beard Award winner for best restaurant design, after all. It’s also a thoughtful and exciting dining experience in the midst of a touristy stretch; the Modern American small plates are made with ingredients from local farms, most of which are within an hour of Palm Springs. Dinner is on the fancy side, and is undoubtedly the way to go if you’re looking for a perfect date spot, but brunch is great, too—try the blue crab eggs Benedict.
Show up early, because this beloved Vietnamese-American spot takes no reservations and almost always draws a crowd. It’s worth the wait, though, with snacky small plates like crispy wood ear mushroom spring rolls and shareables such as lemongrass pork and shrimp rice noodles always rotating to keep things fresher than the mango-stuffed rice paper rolls. Cool down in the desert heat with Vietnamese iced coffee, fruit-forward cocktails and sparkling wines.
Most of Palm Springs’ newer restaurants are all about Modern American cuisine, but no one does it more stylishly—or in a more stylish setting—than 4 Saints. The interior of this Rowan Kimpton Hotel spot is sleek and streamlined (even just sitting at the bar is a treat), while the patio is a showstopper complete with view of the town. California ingredients are all over the place, whether it’s Santa Barbara uni in an apple vinaigrette, or local citrus in the granita at dessert.
Looking for Italian food, alfresco? There’s no better spot for it than Birba. This modern spot serves pastas, pizzas and creative cocktails beneath a flowering tree and romantic string lighting. Though it’s the ideal outdoor dinner date spot in Palm Springs, Birba’s friendly staff and breezy ambiance make it a great choice for family-friendly dining as well, no matter the weather (the fire pit at the center of the courtyard makes for an especially cozy night). The most popular dish is Nonna’s Meatballs, which are a must-order in our book, but Birba has options for everyone’s dietary needs—including cauliflower and another gluten-free crust for the pizzas—and the menu changes every few months, so every time you visit there’s something new to try.
The husband-and-husband team of chef Chad Gardner and artist Roly Paz are at it again, but while their first restaurant—533 Viet Fusion—stuffed lobster and local dates into Vietnamese spring rolls, their new spot is filling a major hole in Palm Springs dining: dumplings. At Roly China Fusion, the open, modern space is home to kung pao chicken bao, lobster dumplings in truffle butter, and ginger-spiked pork-and-shrimp shumai, among other dim sum offerings, all handmade in house. (Our tip? Stop by during the daily dim sum happy hour.) But this isn’t strictly a dim sum spot, and don’t expect pushcarts; this is the kind of restaurant that adds filet mignon to its pad see ew and lobster with kimchi to its fried rice—so ready your wallet accordingly, then dive in.
Open to the public for everything but lunch, this gorgeous, breezy restaurant at L’Horizon offers dishes with continent-crossing flair: We’re talking prawn croquettes with XO sauce; market salad with Korean cucumbers; confit duck leg with maple and scotch egg; and scallops with jicama, chili oil and saffron cream. If you’re looking for a bright and chipper breakfast or some upscale outdoor dining (and especially a great twinkly-lighted date option), this is your spot.
In a city that loves to brunch, Cheeky’s is a Palm Springs institution. Yes, there’s always a line, and yes, it’s always a bit of a scene, but this place has been churning out consistently fresh and inventive breakfast and brunch fare for years, and is a favorite of both visitors and locals. Go ahead and put your name down, then start figuring out your order (trust us, it’ll take a bit of time, as you’ll be drooling over every item). The place is known for its rotating bacon flight, its custard-style scrambled eggs, its fresh-corn pancakes and its house-made pastries—as well as a spicy (and stiff) bloody Mary. The “seasonal” selections on the menu change every week, while the “classics” have been going strong for around a decade, so you know they’re good. Don’t leave without a $1 shooter of their house-made frozen yogurt, either.
Sure, there’s Wexler’s in L.A., but even if you’re visiting Palm Springs for the weekend, it’s hard to beat Micah Wexler and Michael Kassar’s poolside version of the modern Jewish deli. They brought their smoked-fish temple to the Arrive Hotel, and while this outpost offers the usual Wexler’s fish platters, bagels, corned beef, and pastrami lox, it’s also got a few unique items not available at all the L.A. spots (hello, chicken milanese and caviar add-ons).
Tucked into the lovely little Sparrows Lodge, the Barn Kitchen is a casual American eatery that offers à la carte daily lunch and weekly family-style suppers to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays—a boon to visitors, considering you used to need a reservation at the hotel just to dine here. Choose from easy-but-elevated options like smoked salmon spread, the avocado toast, the burger or a fruit-and-burrata plate, then dine at the communal table or in an oversized outdoor patio chair, for best results. This place feels like a true hidden oasis, away from the bustle of downtown and perfect for relaxing with a cold drink on triple-digit days.
Everything the Ace Hotel does is unnervingly cool, so it comes as no surprise that their Palm Springs diner is one of the city’s most photographed (and beloved) hangouts. Formerly a Denny’s, this retro-style diner got a makeover, including the food: The menu of solid fare hits the spot whether you’re looking for a full meal (double cheeseburgers, fried fish tacos) or a snack (salmon ceviche, date shakes) between pool lounging and a night on the town. If you’re in town on a Monday, stop by for Fabulous Bingo with the always-fabulous host with the most, Shirley Claire.
Believe it: There’s a full-service OG kosher deli in the middle of the desert. Wexler’s may be an exciting new addition to the scene, but Sherman’s is an old-school originator, serving all the traditional favorites, including thick-cut pastrami and a matzo ball soup so good you’ll be tempted to order it on 90-degree days. There’s always a line, and unlucky ones will have to wait outside in the sun, so try to hit this spot early in the morning or just before closing.
There’s pho and pork vermicelli and bánh mì here, but there’s also Thai food, chili-braised osso buco, and lemongrass chicken meatballs that come served in a martini glass. At 533 Viet Fusion they put the emphasis on “fusion” to play around, and play they do: Their specialty is the Vietnamese spring roll, wrapped in rice paper, but here, they’re made behind a sort of sushi bar where they get sliced into pieces and filled with the likes of spicy tuna; pork belly and lobster (their take on a BLT); herb-poached tiger shrimp; mushroom and soba noodles; and a sort of summery lobster salad studded and sweetened with local dates. The pro move is to stop by during happy hour, when select wines, cocktails and the “edible martinis” are only $5.33 a pop.
This stylish spot in the Colony Palms Hotel sports California dishes that almost always involve the freshest of organic veggies. Lounge poolside on the patio as you snack on black bean burgers, seared sea scallops and roasted cauliflower, all while sipping on sangria, spritzes and barrel-aged cocktails. Looking to drink with a side of golden desert light? Stop by for Purple Palm’s Sunset Hour, where you’ll find $5 draft beers, $10 highballs, $12 specialty cocktails and a handful of shareable plates for a portion of the price.
Aspen Mills is known for its bread, but good luck walking out without one of the deli sandwiches, too. This local favorite’s been baking with stone-ground wheat for more than 20 years, and now you can find their pillowy loaves in more than 30 flavors—and each at around $5. Their sandwiches, which of course come between slices of their just-baked bread, include options like the Aspen (turkey with lettuce and onion on cranberry loaf) and the Coachella (a veggie option on nine-grain, #ChellaBod), while the pastry case of fresh-from-the-oven muffins and cookies provides even more of an obstacle for those who just walked in for some sourdough.
More of the best in Palm Springs
While many will spend their weekend simply lounging by hotel pools, there are plenty of other things to do in Palm Springs. Seasonally, it becomes the epicenter of cool during Coachella and hosts highlights like the design-focused Modernism Week and the quirky Christmas light display Robolights. Ready to explore?
You won’t find a single property on our list of best hotels in Palm Springs that doesn’t have a pool—with the dazzling sun overhead and mountain views all around, spending time poolside is practically a requirement for travelers who make their way out to this colorful, spirited town.