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Food

Keeping up Your Strength at Coachella

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Outside food and drinks are prohibited at Coachella, but the occasional peanut butter sandwich has been known to slip by security. Even if you can get into the “hospitality area” it’s slim pickings as far as decent food is concerned. The options at the cash-only food tents tend to be pretty limited.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend three days surviving only on kettle corn and Ecstacy. The Coachella Valley is home to some excellent eats. Plus, there are some great stops along the way to start carb-loading for the craziness ahead.

If you do manage to escape the festival, here are some places to go take a breather and regain your strength:

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WHERE TO EAT ON THE WAY THERE AND BACK:

THE WHEEL INN

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The Wheel Inn in Cabazon has always been easy to find because of Claude Bell’s giant dinosaurs, which are barely visible from the highway these days. There is something slightly surreal about the Wheel Inn. Something even beyond the riotous decor, 1960's glowing orb lights and overwhelming profusion of steer horns. But the hostess and waitresses are welcoming and friendly (even in their new Flintstones-inspired uniforms). The breakfasts and burgers are the best in town. Some of the food, like the turkey dinner, can be a little too cafeteria-ish. But the chicken fried steak and peanut-butter pie will make you change your name to Bubba. Buy a trucker CD in the gift shop next door to listen to for the rest of the drive.

The Wheel Inn
50900 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230 (951) 849-7012
Open 24-hours.

SPANKY'S CHICKS & RIBS BBQ

Right next door to the Wheel Inn, the big smoking BBQ out back might draw you over. The employees are all perky, wholesome teen girls, which is somehow comforting. The owners may be from New York City, but they can do Texas 'que with the best of them. The brisket is moist and tender, slathered in a sweet BBQ sauce, and the rib-tips fall right off the bone. As of last Fall they were still open, but it is kind of curious that it is impossible to find them on Citisearch or any other internet sites. All online reviews lead right back to me. If they have closed down, hop across the parking lot for some more peanut butter pie and then drop us a line.

Spanky's
50920 Seminole Road, Cabazon, CA 92230 (951) 922-3999
Open 12noon - 9pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

FARMER BOY'S

Farmer Boy’s off the Milliken exit in Ontario is just one of a chain of fast-food joints with gigantic, juicy burgers and huge wheels of onion rings. The explosion of country charm is a bit much for me. But I have been a little freaked out by small towns ever since I saw 200 Maniacs.

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Farmer Boy's
54 S. Milliken Ave., Ontario, CA 91761 (909) 390-7160

WHERE TO EAT WITH THE A&R GUY:

CUISTOT

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Cuistot feels like a restaurant that was just plucked out of the French countryside and dropped right into the middle of the desert. Service is friendly and the sommelier is the best in town. Ask him if they have anything from the Westley winery in Oregon. Heck, ask him to bring the whole bottle. Start with the foie gras with caramelized apples, then order the short ribs, beef chops, or rabbit, all served in intense wine reductions. Go nuts - it’s on the record company’s dime, right?

Cuistot
73-111 El Paseo, Palm Desert CA 92260 (760) 340-1000
Open for lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm
Open for dinner 6pm-9:30pm

LG’s PRIME STEAKHOUSE

From the moment you enter their ceiling-high wooden doors, you are transported into a world of old-school charm. The servers are solicitous yet unobtrusive. Sink into a giant, padded booth, order an aged filet and find out why LG’s is in the Top Ten Hall of Fame of Steakhouses.

LG's Prime Steakhouse
Palm Springs: 255 South Palm Canyon, Palm Springs 92292 (760) 416-1779
Dinner only. 5pm -9:45pm
La Quinta: 78525 Highway 111, Suite 100 La Quinta, CA 92253 (760) 771-9911
Dinner only 5:30pm - 9:45pm
Palm Desert: 74-225 Highway 111, Palm Desert, CA 92260 (760) 779-9799
Dinner only 5:30pm – 9:45pm

LE VALLAURIS

This is the ultimate romantic restaurant, with a magical patio filled with twinkling lights. They get consistently high marks on foodie websites and all reviews are positive. High prices and occasionally snobby waiters make me hesitant to recommend it. On one particular visit when service was slow, I joked, "What? Did our waiter go home?" AND HE HAD. But on a good night, the ambiance and the food are worth the risk. Some dishes are a little too experimental. Stick with the roasted meats and crème brulee. Located in a residential area just off the main drag, it can be a little hard to spot. Watch for the twinkling lights on your left.

Le Vellauris
385 West Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-7602
Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner 5pm – 10pm

WHERE TO EAT WHILE YOU'RE WAITING FOR THE ROYALTY CHECK TO COME IN:

TYLER'S BURGERS

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Located in the center of the Palm shopping center, the bustling, cheerful buzz of Tyler’s immediately puts you at ease. Cooks flip burgers, customers shout orders, and the milkshake machine whirrs away happily. The burgers are thick and juicy, and you can order them topped with grilled onions. Go for two sliders instead of one burger. They are thicker. And cuter. Try their famous coleslaw instead of the fries. After all that partying, you can probably use the Vitamin C.

Tyler's Burgers
149 S. Indian Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-2990
Lunch only. Closed Sundays.

CRAZY BONES

They do Memphis, Texas, and St Louis-style BBQ, among others. The restaurant is one of several owned by the Kaiser family so it's kind of corporate. Crazy Bone’s dining room and patio are spacious and comfortable, teetering between casual and elegant. The catfish fingers and shrimp po’boy are straight out of New Orleans. The St Louis ribs, which are like giant baby backs, blow the rest of the BBQ dishes away.

Crazy Bones
262 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-5200
Dinner only starting at 5pm.

SHERMAN'S DELI

Voted the #1 deli in the Coachella Valley, Sherman’s is known for its breakfasts and old-fashioned Jewish deli food. For breakfast, try one of the omelets, which are served unfolded, pancake-style. For lunch, a sandwich piled high with pastrami or corned beef will give you the protein boost you need to rock out for the rest of the day.

Sherman's Deli
Palm Springs: 401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-1199
Palm Desert: 73-161 Country Club Dr. Monterrey, CA 92262 (760) 568-1350
Both locations Open 7am – 7pm

WHERE TO EAT IF ALL OF THESE PICTURES OF MEAT ARE TOTALLY FREAKING YOU OUT:

NATIVE FOODS

Serving a variety of vegan and vegetarian pizzas, rice bowls, snacks, and desserts, Native Foods is appealing as well as environmentally friendly. The "Handhelds" look especially exciting, with whimsical names like "Mad Cowboy", "Rockin' Moroccan", and "Hail Seitan" (OK, I made that last one up).

Native Foods
Palm Springs: Smoke Tree Village 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 416-0070 11am - 9:30pm. Closed Sundays.
Palm Desert: 73-890 El Paseo Palm Desert, CA 92260 (760) 836-9396
11am - 9:30pm. Closed Sundays.

All Photos by Elise Thompson

This post was originally run on April 26, 2007. It has been updated.