In order to survive the cold midwest winters, most of us get out of dodge at some point and head for the sun. Since my husband and I love the desert, we often land in Palm Desert and rent a house with my sister-in-law. We mainly do five things during our time there; eat, sleep, walk/hike, shop, and swim. This year was no different, except we ventured out a bit and found a few new restaurants to add to our ever growing list of musts.
5 of Our Favorite Places to Eat in Palm Desert
Wilma & Frieda
Wilma & Frienda is comfort food with a twist. Their menu is full of favorite childhood dishes, but with a grownup twist to them. I love a good meatloaf, so chose their Signature Griddled Meatloaf & Eggs. The meatloaf was tender, juicy and topped with 2 eggs cooked the way you like. It was served with a side of fresh fruit and a homemade biscuit and jam.
My sister-in-law chose their California Benny which is Eggs Benedict with avocado and tomato added. As is typical for us, we enjoyed their perfectly made cappuccino’s. Wilma & Frieda is also known for their pastries, and although we were too full to have any, the macaroons and sour cream apple pie looked amazing. Evidently they are best known for their Key Lime Tart and I will be sharing with you next week!
Serving breakfast and brunch, they are open daily from 8am – 3pm. Oh, and they are perfectly located on El Paseo Drive where all the great shopping is located.
The French Corner Café
Located on Highway 111, the French Corner Cafe is tucked into the Desert Crossing Shopping Center. You don’t have to hunt for this gem. All you have to do is look for the line of hungry customers waiting out front. Clearly a popular place with the locals, we knew the wait would be worth it.
When you walk in you realize this is more than a café. It is an amazing bakery as well. Once again, macaroons are at the top of my list of favorites and these did not disappoint. I even ate one while we waited for a table!
Their menu is complete with homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and, of course, crepes. I love french dip sandwiches, but do not like it filled with beef full of fat. I gave theirs a try and was pleasantly surprised. The beef was on one of their homemade baguettes fresh out of the oven. The au jus was clearly made from scratch, not from a packet.
My husband and his sister both enjoyed their quiche of the day. The food here is amazing, but there is a word of warning. Everything is made from scratch and cooked to order. Be patient. The food takes a little more time, so enjoy a pastry while you wait. They have won numerous awards for their bakery and pastries.
Mimmo’s Italian Restaurant & Bar
At first glance, you probably wouldn’t give Mimmo’s a second glance. On Highway 111 in the middle of a strip mall, there is nothing that would make you stop…unless someone had told you that you must! That happened to us a few years ago and we return every year. While the atmosphere is a bit outdated and in need of a refresh, trust me, the food more than makes up for it.
The menu is classic Italian. Everything is made in-house using only fresh available ingredients. I am a creature of habit and as hard as I try to pick something different on their menu, I always end up getting the caprese salad. This night, instead of mozzarella slices on top, they used Burrata cheese which has a softer texture and a rich buttery flavor. Truly a treat to the palate.
My habit led me to my favorite main dish here, the Veal Scaloppine Piccata. It is consistently tender, with a wonderfully rich lemony sauce. Chicken can always be substituted for the veal, offered at a lower price point. I enjoyed a soft polenta side that was cooked as it should be with no bitterness and it held together perfectly.
Dessert here is a treat that must not be passed up. They are known for their Tiramisu, so the three of us shared one. It is made with shortbread rather than ladyfingers and I think it is a little softer as a result. If you want to take something home or back to your hotel for a late night treat, I highly recommend Mimmo’s biscotti that’s made fresh daily.
LaQuinta CliffHouse Grill & Bar
This was a new find for us. Nestled into the desert rocks, this very popular gem eluded us until this last trip. It is one of the more popular Happy Hour spots that begins at 3:30 every afternoon. They boast a classic American menu, an award-winning wine list, and very creative cocktails. This is a perfect place to share with friends. It is very conducive to visiting and lingering over that last glass of wine and enjoying the desert evening.
You have your choice of several places to enjoy the fare. The bar area is larger than what you find in most restaurants. The main dining room has a warm lodge feel including a stone fireplace. But, the cozy cliffside patio is by far the most inviting.
Everyone in our group loves to eat and we were all game for trying a little bit of everything. Our waitress helped us choose just the right wines to go with each choice. I am not an oyster fan, but my husband is so he ordered the baked oysters with sautéed spinach and a lemon/Parmesan gratin. His words were “absolutely amazing.” Pot sticker dumplings, CliffHouse meatballs, crispy calamari, and a mind-blowing baked artichoke were shared by all.
This restaurant was another newly discovered desert gem. It was recommended by a friend who, like myself, searches out amazing restaurants during their world-wide travels. This eatery is located near Old Town Quinta and is full of old world charm. Their award winning chef, David Fricaud, trained in Europe and has been the head chef in several different restaurants around the world. His menu boosts only the freshest organic ingredients, including their meat and pork. The locals voted Lavender Bistro “Best Romantic Restaurant”.
If you make reservations for their patio, you will dine amidst strings of sparkling lights, fresh flowers, and live music. Their Fireside Lounge also has live nightly music. Since we were with friends who love Happy Hour, we gathered around a high table in the lounge. We each enjoyed one of their botanical seasonal drinks, bacon wrapped, locally grown Medjool dates that were to die for, and Lavender Bistro Steak Frites that were tender and juicy. I couldn’t pass up the Maine Lobster Ravioli. It was served with a creamy lobster bisque.
The service was impeccable, music was a perfect background to great conversation, and we each left determined to be back next year when it is time to once again get out of the cold and enjoy some sunshine.
If you’re looking for a few things to do in the area, our friend, Kim at TravelingMom, has a few suggestions.
Up Next: Wilma & Frieda’s Key Lime Tart Recipe
Kathy was a business owner for many years. Specializing in the field of orthopedic joint replacement, her time was spent in the operating room and conducting training programs throughout the United States. Since moving to the midwest with her corporate husband, she divides her time between caring for Brandy, their 4-legged family member, cooking from scratch, and searching out exceptional undiscovered restaurants both at home and wherever their travels take them. She also creates greeting cards that are sold around the world. Kathy discovered her love of writing while in college and has begun using it as a way to share her travel experiences and the restaurants she seeks out along the way.
Kathy, her husband, and Brandy currently live in Nebraska.