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Exclusive | Palm Springs: Where to Eat

Exclusive | Palm Springs: Where to Eat

The dining scene in Palm Springs has begun to blossom, and the line between gay and gay-friendly restaurants has steadily begun to blur. Some of the top new gay-oriented eateries, such as Wang's, Plum Restaurant & Martini Bar and Hamburger Mary's, draw plenty of heteros, too. And just about all of the best and trendiest restaurants in town are quite gay-friendly, even if they don't necessarily advertise or market directly to the gay crowd. Some are even gay-owned. If you get an early appetite (before 5 or 6 p.m.), consider checking out some of the more expensive options to enjoy discounted (though often menu-limited) prices. In all the places we recommend, and in most places in town, groups of gays or couples should feel comfortable. At just about any place in town, you'll usually see a table or two full of gay men or women.

At the swish downtown gay hot spot Wang's in the Desert (424 S. Indian Canyon Drive; 760-325-9264, $12-$19), a small stream feeds a koi-filled pond in a chatter-filled dining room. This boisterous and vivacious Pan-Asian restaurant has become a de facto gay bar since its inception. It's owned by the same folks who run Woody's in Laguna Beach. The swanky interior makes for some fun noshing and mingling, and the food is excellent. On Sundays, there's a live DJ, and guys and gals often congregate on the festive patio. The food is superb -- try the filet of perch with sweet and sour pineapple sauce or the kung pao shrimp and scallops.

If you love martinis and well-crafted comfort food, check out the natty Plum Restaurant & Martini Bar (241 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760-322-0200; $11-$22), which serves up delicious meatloaf, memorable tarragon-Dijon chicken, and an addictive starter of ahi tartar with ginger. It's one of the hottest gay-date destinations in town, great simply as a place to enjoy cocktails or for a full dinner.

The Palm Springs installment of the famously gay chain Hamburger Mary's (415 N. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-778-MARY; $7-$13) has quickly become one of the hot spots in town, with a slick bar and a colorful and lively dining room and patio. Feast on some of the biggest, juiciest, meatiest burgers you'll ever lay your hands on.

Grill-A-Burger (166 N. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-327-8175; $6-$15) gives diners another terrific option for noshing on choice red meat. This festive gay fave serves 24 different burgers along with scary-big hot dogs, homemade french fries, and luscious malted milkshakes for dessert. If you have the appetite, order the "Kong," a three-patty triple-decker with bacon and cheese. And in the Arenas Road area is the new Bongo Johnny's (214 E. Arenas Road; 760-866-1905; $7-$15), a casual restaurant serving American fare like hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads, complete with full bar and patio seating overlooking the street.

Dining gay in Palm Springs is a mixed bag. For the most part, the "gay" restaurants are either not very good or not very gay. Over the years, the best restaurants in town have not been the gay ones, but this is changing. Since the early 1980s, Shame on The Moon (69950 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage; 760-324-5515; $17-$30) has been a star dining venue, known for its excellent, creative cuisine, a dimly lit, elegant but not stuffy environment, great service, and reasonable prices, and a 50-50 gay/straight clientele. It topped every local's list of recommendations, and ours too. Try the duck roasted with black figs, ruby port, and shallots. They print welcome cards for guests.

Providing Palm Springs visitors another worthwhile culinary excuse to drive to Rancho Mirage, Peter's at the Atrium (699-30 Hwy. 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-321-1776; $12-$35) occupies a stunning space with warm lighting and fine tableware, but you can also enjoy a meal while reclining on the pretty patio. The kitchen here tends toward elegant American treats, such as filet mignon and lobster, but there are also some less pricey options such as hefty burgers and creative salads. There's terrific cabaret here Friday evenings, which helps account for the significant gay following.

In downtown Palm Springs, Blame It on Midnight Bar & Grill (777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760-323-1200; $7-$20) is a lively restaurant with a large dining area and sprawling bar, both of which fill up almost every night of the week. The clientele is attracted by the cabaret entertainment and strong drinks, though the food is less than stellar. The majority of patrons are gay and lesbian, though the restaurant is entirely straight friendly.

Look (139 E. Andreas Rd; 760-778-3520; $7-$16) is a handsome patio and video bar that serves a nice selection of relatively affordable food offerings, from pizzas to salads to crepes. It's a great spot to relax on a weekend afternoon and dine alfresco.

Something of a Cathedral City icon, the Red Tomato (68-784 Grove St. at Highway 111, CC; 760-328-7518; $7-$13) is good for pizza and ordinary pasta dishes. Tasty, well-spiced Albanian lamb dishes, plus a lot of pasta on the menu as well. One Cathedral City spot worth going out of your way for is the Cove caf? (68-375 Hwy. 111; 760-321-5557; $6-10), an affordable spot tucked discreetly in a shopping center and serving consistently tasty American and Asian fare, from an intriguing Thai-spiced hamburger with ginger-oyster sauce to nicely seasoned mushroom soup to a wide array of sandwiches.

Head to the casual International Caf? (67-778 Hwy. 111; 760-202-2390; $5-$15) for burgers, sandwiches, Mexican fare, and salads plus a popular weekend champagne brunch offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a homey, friendly place. John Henry's (1785 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760-327-7667; $12-$20) offers consistently tasty American cuisine (from basic dishes to pretty creative selections) at very reasonable prices in a nice sit-down atmosphere and plenty of pleasant outdoor seating. Save room for the blackberry cobbler. It's packed on weekends, so make reservations well in advance. It's a few minutes out of downtown, near the airport, but worth the trip. Closed in summer.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Palm Springs: Introduction
Palm Springs: When and How to Go
Palm Springs: Where to Stay
Palm Springs: Where to Play/Meet
Palm Springs: What to See & Do
Palm Springs: Resources

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