Even at night, wandering Palm Springs in summer is not for the faint of heart. The sun may be gone, but the heat lingers. For the intrepid traveler hoping to beat the crowds and enjoy the cosmopolitan flair of this desert oasis, a little "sweat equity" is worth the effort.
Summer is the off-season in Palm Springs. The restaurants are seldom full. The bars are never too crowded. If you’ve never been, it’s a great time to explore the world class restaurants and lounges without the usual packs of tourists and overbearing traffic.
To get the most out of your stay, park your car and walk. Sure, it’s hot. But a stroll along Palm Canyon Drive, with its coffeehouses, ice cream parlors, restaurants and bars, will lead you to the respite you seek.
A safe and friendly community, Palm Springs is a charming mix of young and old, gay and straight, working and retired. Even at night, the streets are safe and the locals always happy to point you in the right direction.
Most of the bars and clubs are situated near the intersection of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way, as are many of the restaurants. But if you’re looking for a meal to remember, a few blocks off the main drag, is a Palm Springs tradition not to be missed.
A dining institution located in the historic Ingleside Inn, Melvyn’s instantly transports you back to the glamour days of Hollywood and the Rat Pack. Once — and forever — the hippest of the hip and the coolest of the cool, Melvyn’s is where Sinatra celebrated his wedding to Barbara Marx. Brimming with an old-school, elegant and relaxed atmosphere, the dining room features a carved oak and mahogany bar, waiters in linen jackets and an extensive menu of steak, seafood, poultry and pasta.
The moment you enter the richly decorated, air-conditioned ambience, maitre ‘d, Brian Ellis, greets you with his trademark enthusiasm and guides you into the dining room decorated with gold-splashed walls, upholstered drapery, and French country flowered carpeting. Nestle into your high-backed chairs or sit side-by-side in a plush banquette beneath crystal chandeliers spilling soft, warm light that makes every woman look beautiful and you’ll feel like the most important person in the room.
Serving continental and nouveau entrées, Melvyn’s is perfect for diners, young and old, who appreciate the classic approach to service. The traditionally prepared cocktails are the iciest and most refreshing to be found in Palm Springs. The wine list is extensive, the staff attentive and knowledgeable, and the menu solid and reliable. Preferring traditional over trendy, Melvyn’s offers tableside preparation that includes Oysters Rockefeller, Melvyn’s traditional Caesar, pasta al dente with a light alfredo sauce and Steak Diane.
When your meal is done, there’s no reason to leave. Continue your evening in the Casablanca Lounge adjacent to the restaurant. A great mix of Palm Springs retirees, tourists, and the "too cool for school" L.A. hipstergentsia. Sit at the bar and enjoy the greatest hits of Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka and Mel Torme until you find yourself on the dance floor, working your cool with a crowd who’s been there, done that and is still doing it in style.
If you can’t get into Melvyn’s, or you want something a tad more modern and quiet, Spencer’s is a subtle variation on the same theme. Taking a fresh approach to classic American, European and Pacific Rim cuisine, Spencer’s offers great food in an ambience of simplistic elegance perfect for any occasion.
Famous for its gorgeous patio shaded beneath a canopy of dense, fichus trees-a unique cooling system that keeps the heat and humidity in check. But if really you want to keep things "chill," slide into a leather booth in the main dining room, relax amid the dark wood and stone ambience and enjoy the gentle tones of their live piano player. Catering to a slightly older crowd, Spencer’s is a great place to start your night, but it’s not a destination unto itself. So, onward into the heat…
If dancing to live music is your thing, you’ll want to make a stop at Village Pub to dance and drink. The bands play Top-40 rock ‘n’ roll, the bar staff is fast and attentive, and the dance floor is packed with 20-somethings shaking their money makers.
If you’re no longer in your twenties but still want to dance, Las Casuelas Terraza is the place to get your groove on. Catering predominantly to tourists, it doesn’t really serve authentic Mexican food; but the margaritas are killer. The dancing outdoors on the patio makes for great people watching and some seriously sweaty, "spring break for older people" fun as the kick-ass bands plays your favorite songs six nights a week. No matter your age, by the end of the night, you’ll be sweating, drunk, and happy.
Isn’t that what summer vacation is all about?
What & Where:
Melvyn’s, at the Ingleside Inn (200 W Ramon Rd; 760-325-2323)
Spencer’s (701 W Baristo Rd; 760) 327-3446)
Village Pub (266 S Palm Canyon Dr; 760-323-3265)
Las Casuelas Terraza (222 S Palm Canyon Dr; 760-325-2794)