No matter how near or far you are from home, a recommendation for a good restaurant or bar is always nice to have. EATS is a collection of places that I’ve enjoyed during my travels.
Note: This post was written in March 2020 before the start of the pandemic. Palm Springs will always hold a special place in my heart as the last place I visited before the the world went into lockdown. Read now and save for future travels!
If you want an exceptional meal with a hint of old Hollywood glamour than you have to go to Melvyn’s. The restaurant is located at the historic Ingleside Inn, which dates back to the 1920s. The inn was purchased in 1975 by Melvyn Harbor who opened the restaurant that shares his name and almost immediately it became a magnet for celebrities like Cher, Liza Minnelli, John Travolta, Marlon Brando, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Debbie Reynolds and perhaps most notably Frank Sinatra. In fact, Sinatra had his very own booth and was known to be quite the tipper around the place. Even after the restaurant underwent an update in 2017 it still has a way of making present day visitors feel like Hollywood royalty with retro elegance and top-notch service provided by its accommodating staff, many of which have worked at Melvyn’s for decades (including long-time maître d’ Brian Ellis) and are more than happy to share a story or two about the famous guests they have served.
We were seated in a romantic table for two (which we learned was on the other side of the wall from Sinatra’s booth) and stared with some delicious old school cocktails including the Melvyn’s Martini and French Martini. Our meal began with the spinach and tomato salad with onions, pancetta and blue cheese prepared tableside with fiery theatrics. For our main course my husband ordered the short rib of beef and I couldn’t pass up the filet with a side of steamed broccoli, both of which were served with whipped mashed potatoes. For dessert we were treated to more fire as our waiter cooked up our cherries jubilee tableside before serving them warm à la mode. Our experience at Melvyn’s was nothing short of wonderful from top to bottom. It’s no wonder that Ol’ Blue Eyes loved this place.
Melvyn’s Restaurant, 200 West Ramon Road, (760) 325-2323, inglesideinn.com
Another spot in Palm Springs for Hollywood nostalgia is Copley’s, a contemporary American restaurant located in part of actor Cary Grant’s former estate. While you’ll find cozy tables inside the old house on the property the real draw at Copley’s is the patio with its central fountain, bistro lights and heaters for the rare cool desert nights.
On the menu you’ll find a variety of elevated meat and seafood dishes anchored by seasonal produce with innovative flair. Copley’s also has an extensive wine and cocktail list, from which we chose the Make Your Mark Manhattan and First Class Aviation (both were good strong drinks to say the least). For dinner we ordered the cabernet poached pear salad with spicy pears, roasted grapes, tomatoes and blue cheese and miso glazed Scottish salmon with rice and vegetables, followed by the extremely rich cup of mousse topped with brownie crumbles and a sprig of fresh mint for dessert. We were especially hungry so felt like we rushed through the meal but the food was decent and the environment at Copley’s was especially charming.
Copley’s on Palm Canyon, 621 North Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 327-9555, copleyspalmsprings.com
I always seek out at least one pizza place when I’m traveling and Birba fit the bill in Palm Springs. Taking advantage of the city’s near-perfect winter weather, this hip spot serves up handcrafted cocktails, pizza, pasta, salad and other Italian eats in an inviting tree-filled patio on Palm Canyon Drive. The nice thing about the patio thought is that despite being on the main road the trees and surrounding hedge make it feel like you’ve temporarily escaped to a private retreat beneath bistro lights and starry night sky.
While it’s not the Neapolitan pizza I typically crave, the wood-fired pizzas at Briba were just what we needed after a long day of hiking at nearby Joshua Tree National Park. We ordered a traditional Margherita as well as a braised greens pizza topped with spicy serrano chile and olives. We probably should have ordered only one because the tricolore salad and the roasted cauliflower topped with parmesan, lemon and capers that we started with were pretty incredible and pretty filling. The cocktails at Birba are great too, specifically the Hello Nancy and Italian Greyhound, both of which were the perfect complement to our pizza and the warm evening.
Birba, 622 North Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 327-5678, birbaps.com
After pizza we decided to take a little passeggiata down Palm Canyon Drive to Gelato Granucci, a family- run business (from Italy by way of the Netherlands) specializing in the art of gelato making since 1929. Inside you’ll find a limited selection of traditional gelato and sorbeto flavors, kept safe from the desert heat under metal lids, all made fresh from scratch daily using seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. They also sell other products like gelato-filled cannoli, pops, cakes and even macaron sandwiches. We ordered two small cups – hazelnut with chocolate and pistachio with salted caramel – which were a delicious after dinner treat. P.S. Gelato Granucci even have delivery options if you need a gelato fix when you’re say, lounging by your hotel pool.
Gelato Granucci, 301 North Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 318-7700, gelatogranucci.com
We were on a bit of a schedule most mornings in Palm Springs so typically ate breakfast at Juniper Table, the restaurant/café at our hotel the Kimpton Rowan. However the last morning we decided to head out for an early morning hike so that we could come back and enjoy a more leisurely breakfast at Cheeky’s. Owned by the same company as its sister restaurant Birba, this restaurant serves up made from scratch breakfast and lunch daily from 8am to 2pm in a bright and “cheeky” environment (look for the monkeys and you’ll know what I mean). The ever-changing menu features a variety offerings from classic comfort food and other creative offerings like buttermilk and fresh corn pancakes and its “world famous” bacon flight.
We went the more classic route and ordered a crispy buttermilk waffle with salted butter and the huevos rancheros topped with beans, guacamole and sour cream. The food was good and the service was friendly, and it’s apparent that Cheeky’s is one of the city’s most popular brunch spots as you might encounter a wait like we did.
Cheeky’s, 622 North Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 327-7595, cheekysps.com