MAINSTREAM, BUT GAY-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
The real story in Palm Springs is the explosion of excellent restaurants that cater to more of a mainstream crowd. Johannes (196 S. Indian Canyon Dr; 760-778-0017), the creation of the eponymous, Austrian-born chef/owner is one of the most delightful restaurants in Palm Springs. Inventive cuisine, inspired orange-hued decor, exceptional service and a warm atmosphere attract customers who quickly become adherents and proselytizers for this intimate, must-visit eatery, a symbol of the "new" Palm Springs. You might start with ahi tuna and avocado tartare, followed by seared rare spice crusted ahi with pineapple guava apricot and truffle yaki reduction, stir fried Napa cabbage, sweet peppers, and shiitake mushrooms. Its location around the corner from Arenas Boulevard's gay nightspots makes it the perfect spot to begin a night on the town.
Reborn after major renovations is Spencer's (701 West Baristo Rd; 760-327-3446; $19-$49), at Palm Springs Tennis Club. Asian influenced decor, piano tunes and a thrilling menu with such decadent dishes as a fresh Maine lobster omelette are sufficient to lure back a committed clientele to this upscale venue.
The Viceroy's Citron (415 S. Belardo Rd; 760-320-4117; $23-29) is one of the valley's slickest dining rooms, with a minimalist white-on-white color scheme. Cal-French concoctions, such as cinnamon and maple braised lamb shank, adorn an eclectic menu served either inside or on the covered and heated poolside patio. Created by the team behind award-winning restaurants Whist, Aubergine and Toquet, it also has an excellent West Coast wine list. Barry Manilow is just one of several celebs who dine here often.
The romantic Cedar Creek Inn (1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-325-7300; $9-$27), set inside a dramatic Spanish Colonial Revival mansion, serves great Sunday brunches (try the lemon-ricotta pancakes with raspberry butter) as well as very good lunch and dinner fare, such as rack of lamb, and seafood salad.
Pizza lovers can't get enough of Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro (155 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-778-6000; $10-$ 28), a trendy see-and-be-seen hangout serving not only outstanding pizzas but creative sandwiches and bistro fare. Consider pepper crusted yellowfin tuna with sesame sticky rice and stir-fried vegetables, or grilled atlantic salmon with saut?ed teardrop tomatoe with arugula, truffle polenta, and tomato mint vinagrette, or a pizza topped with saut?ed cremini mushrooms, sweet onions, and roasted red peppers.
A very gay-friendly option in Rancho Mirage, Amici Italian Trattoria (71380 Hwy. 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-341-0738; $16-$24) offers a relaxed, elegant ambience and reliable, straightforward Italian cooking, such as rigatoni sauteed in pancetta, olive oil, and onions and mixed in an egg batter and topped with Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper. The pan-seared trout with lemon butter and fresh thyme sauce is excellent. The menu changes monthly to take advantage of the freshest ingredients. The romantic, leafy patio and intimate tile-floor dining room at Philippe's Caf? (245 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-323-0772; $10-19) attract moon-eyed diners for consistently delicious Mediterranean-inspired fare, from bouillabaisse to manicotti filled with shrimp and scallops and a sweet saffron sauce to thin-crust pizzas.
Fans of the original in Santa Monica know it as a great spot not only for excellent food but also for frequent celebrity sightings, and the newish Palm Springs version of Patrick's Roadhouse ( 276 North Palm Canyon Drive, 760-325-1551; $8-$20) continues the legacy. Right by Heaven, this festive roadhouse specializes in fabulous breakfasts, served all day, such as eggs McKarageorgevitch (eggs, Jack cheese, and Canadian bacon over an English muffin) and Lorraine omelets (packed with mushrooms, bacon, onions, and cream cheese). The rest of the day you might dine on a special like bourbon-glazed pork chops. There's live music on Thursday and Saturday nights.
Downtown's beautiful Spa Resort Casino has been packing meat-eaters in to The Steakhouse (401 E. Amado Rd; 888-999-1995; $24- $85), which turns out such heady creations as Australian lobster tail and salt-crusted rib-eye steak for two. For a real splurge, make reservations at, Le Vallauris (385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760-325-5059, $27- $39), the best French restaurant in town. The tree-lined patio is refreshingly cool during hot desert afternoons and warmly romantic for an evening meal. With seating for up to 250 guests, though, the restaurant is not intimate.