Thursday, March 10, 2011

Six Things I Learned About Palm Springs Dude Food

My grandparents owned a handbag store on Palm Canyon Drive throughout my childhood, so it is safe to say I grew up in Palm Springs. I did not, however, eat well in Palm Springs. Bless their hearts, but my grandparents, like most geriatrics, put nary a thought into choosing where we would dine. It wasn't actually until I returned to PS the past few years for getaway weekends with my lady friend did I really begin to enjoy the city's finer cuisine. And, obviously, in 'finer cuisine,' I mean burgers and the like.

I just returned from another glorious weekend in the land of palms springing and, well, I learned six things about the desert city's dude food...

6. Stop at Hadley's for their famous Date Shake on your way into Palm Springs or on your way out. Or both ways. Hadley's is located in Cabazon, which is right off the 10, a mere few miles northwest of Palm Springs. Know this: there is nothing Palm Springs swanky about Cabazon, but it houses three great things: the best set of outlet stores in Southern CA, the freaking dinosaurs from "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" and this delicious Date Shake. Oh, that delicious shake. A simple combination of Thrifty brand vanilla ice cream, some heavy milk and fresh dates. Blended. Refreshing. Awesome. The end.

5. Palm Springs has Lappert's ice cream! Okay, I know it's not the original Lappert's Hawaii, but it's from the same family and aside from being manufactured out of the Golden State rather than the Aloha, it's equally enjoyable. For the unacquainted, what separates Lappert's from the other ice cream pretenders is a very high butter fat content and very little overrun (less air than average whipped into the batches). This creates an incredibly decadent and smooth ice cream. Note: not cheap though. Those small cups you see above were almost $4 each.

4. The Matchbox restaurant in Palm Springs is not as good as the original in Washington D.C. I have to admit almost downright giddiness when I found out they were opening a Matchbox in downtown Palm Springs. I had dined at the original D.C. location last year when visiting a high school friend and left the meal incredibly impressed. Cut to this past Saturday night. Despite getting literally the best seat in the house (according to the buxom hostess), the whole meal was just, ehhh. The chopped salad was okay. The chicken pesto pizza, while tasty, had an almost pita-like crust. I question if you can even really call it 'pizza.' And my main course, a maple chicken, was way, way too sweet. Above all though, the interior design and ambiance is much less formal than the D.C. spot. As our hotel concierge put it, "It feels like T.G.I. Friday's before it became T.G.I. Friday's."

3. All was not lost at Matchbox though. On the second floor, right off Palm Canyon, the restaurant stands as the best people watching spot in all of Palm Springs. And Palm Springs is a city chock full of people watching. The Matchbox bar also served Allagash Black, a great, dark, thick, chocolately beer. The polar opposite of their wildly popular Allagash White, the A.B. is one of the better beers out there. In fact, everything the Portland, Maine brewery does is pretty tasty.

2. In the past year or so, if you mention "Palm Springs" in conversation, anyone and everyone immediately says, "Have you tried Cheeky's yet?" Cheeky's, Cheeky's, Cheeky's. I long thought people's unabashed love for Cheeky's laid in the fact that Palm Springs doesn't really do breakfast well. Outside of a few top Jewish delis (Sherman's and Manhattan in the Desert atop said list), there really aren't a ton of places to get a solid desert breakfast. After enjoying the best breakfast I've had in 2011, I realize I was all wrong about Cheeky's. Holy shit this place is good. They change their menu weekly, so it's hard to make recommendations, but if the Yam Hash (with maple sage sausage, purple potato and poached eggs) is on the menu, order it! Even if you go more traditional on the menu and order the Custard Cheesy Scramble Eggs, you will not be disappointed. The fluffiest, cheesiest, custardiest scrambled eggs ever.

1. Tyler's Burgers is one of the best burgers in Southern California. Everything about Tyler's is cool. They don't have a website. Most of the restaurant lies under a shaded covering in the middle of a parking lot off Palm Canyon. The burgers are consistently tasty. People rave about the potato salad and coleslaw. They are only open during the "cool months." The only drag is the ever-present long wait, but, truthfully, I always enjoy the line because Tyler's really serves as a Palm Springs melting pot. You've got your elderly locals, the gays, your youthful desert kids, the LA weekenders, the European and Japanese tourists and even your burger connoisseurs. All under one makeshift roof waiting to bite into one of the tastiest burgers anywhere.


  1. I thought the chopped salad at The Matchbox was delicious! I've been thinking about it ever since!

  2. What the heck is "heavy" milk?

  3. I'm glad y'all made it to Hadley's, the date shake is one of my favorite things. You'll have to compare now on your next trip with the 'other' date shake of Palm Springs, where they use a crystallized date, instead of the puree.

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