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Best Restaurants and Bars in the Palm Springs Area

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Birba

Palm Springs and the whole Coachella Valley are having a moment. This month in particular it's because of the Coachella music fest (and to a slightly lesser degree its country cousin, Stagecoach), but it's an overall momentum toward a hipper resort town with better food and drink than it's ever had. You can learn more about what's prompting the desert's transformation in this KCRW segment (starts at 43:40). In the meantime, here are some of my favorite restaurants in the Palm Springs area.

Cheeky's: You will have to arrive well before hunger sets in. Cheeky's must be the most popular spot in Palm Springs, in any category. There is always a line, and they do not take reservations. But, the brunch truly is that good. The menu is very thoughtful, and if you want to really go nuts, you can order a bacon flight.

Keedy's: This is how you pre-game in the desert. Actually, Keedy's opens at 5:30 a.m., so you may head there at the end of your night. The restaurant is an old-fashioned soda shop, so order something absurd from their huge menu, like a chili omelet or biscuits and gravy with hashbrowns. With a milkshake. Always a milkshake.

El Ranchito: The best Mexican food in the desert is found in smaller, quieter restaurants. This one is in the town of La Quinta, which is tiny but right next to Coachella. Also, it has a liquor license, so the margaritas are the real thing, not those sad "wine margaritas" some other restaurants try to pass off as anything other than depressing. I'd eat and drink here before heading off into the night -- you won't need to eat again till morning.

Birba: If you're in the mood for something more upscale, this is you best desert bet. Good Italian food and good (not at all Italian, thank goodness) cocktails in a very charming outdoor setting.

BAR: Horribly named (why bother with quirky if no one can google you), but it's a huge indoor-outdoor space with an extensive cocktail menu. So I'm already ready to forgive it, but then it turns out they also have truly excellent pizza. Excellent and huge. Plus small bites like deviled eggs, which is a culinary trend well worth appreciating.

Bootlegger

Bootlegger Tiki: I am admittedly obsessed with tiki bars, but objectively speaking, this is a great bar. It's tiny and has cool decor, and the specialty drinks are great. Shield's Date Farm: This is a desert institution. It is a still-operational date farm, but they probably make more money off of tourists: it's a small place but worth a visit, especially to watch "The Sex Life of the Date" their wonderful mid-century botany lesson. They've opened a full-service cafe on-site, but you can order a date shake at the snack counter. And you'll definitely want to order a date shake, as it's a local favorite.

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