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Coachella: Where to Eat
Don't even bother trying to slip that contraband jar of peanut butter into your backpack. Outside food and drinks are prohibited at Coachella.
And 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.
If you do manage to escape the festival, here are some places to go take a breather and regain your strength:
WHERE TO EAT ON THE WAY THERE :
THE WHEEL INN
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.
50900 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230 (951) 849-7012
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.
50920 Seminole Road, Cabazon, CA 92230 (951) 922-3999
Open 12noon - 9pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
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.
54 S. Milliken Ave., Ontario, CA 91761 (909) 390-7160
WHERE TO EAT WITH THE A&R GUY:
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?
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.
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
This is the ultimate romantic restaurant, with a magical patio filled with twinkling lights. High prices and occasionally snobby waiters make me hesitant to recommend it, but the ambiance and the food may be worth it. 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.
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:
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.
149 S. Indian Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-2990
Lunch only. Closed Sundays.
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.
262 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-5200
Dinner only starting at 5pm.
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.
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:
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).
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