Thursday, January 30, 2020

Weekend in Coachella Valley

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Exploring the deserts of Palm Springs and Indio

We went to a wedding late last year in the Palm Springs area. Aside from weddings this stretch of dessert in Southern California is also known as a retirement haven and sometimes a party destination (Coachella Festival). We ended up flying into LA and stayed there for a night so we then spent two nights in the Coachella Valley area. As far as food was concerned it wasn't all that exciting. I was hoping to get to a popular spot called Rooster and The Pig but time wasn't on my side. That said I was still able to check a handful of spots out. We ended up seeing quite a few of the towns in the region other than just Palm Springs. The whole area reminded me of South Florida minus the water. As always the best place to look for food in a resort heavy region like this is wherever the people working at all the hotels, golf courses, and resorts are eating. In this case there's a strong presence of people from the state of Mexicali in Mexico. If you go to a Mexican restaurant in Coachella Valley they're likely to serve a popular dish called Chiles Gueritos Rellenos De Camaron. Get them.

Palm Springs, CA

 Tyler's Burgers (Palm Springs)

This popular burger spot was maybe the only place within Palm Springs I wanted to try save for the previously mentioned Rooster and The Pig. Palm Springs is by no means a culinary destination. But Tyler's serves a destination worthy cheeseburger. Tyler's opened in an old building but it looks and feels very new. It's an adobe tucked in between two patios. Inside isn't all that big. They opened in the mid 90's hoping to recreate the burger experience of the owners youth. Back when Tyler was a lad there were no short cuts in making a great burger and there are none here. People line up for these excellent no frills Southern California style hamburgers. I was able to get seated outside right away and decided to pass on the famous potato salad everyone else was eating. The burger was probably about a 1/3 lb of fresh beef ordered with American cheese with all the fixings. Super satisfying.

Cheeseburger at Tyler's Burgers

 Wexler's Deli (Palm Springs)

Next stop in Palm Springs was a popular LA transplant. Wexler's is doing the Southern Cali deli inside a hip hotel on the main strip. The restaurant is right next to the pool so nothing but Southern California vibes to be found here. Well those and deli favorites such as this tasty lox platter that was perfect the morning after the wedding. Just be ready for resort type prices. You can do much worse.

Lox Platter at Wexler's Deli

 Shield's Date Garden (Indio)

As always I made sure to see if there were any unique regional eats in the region. It just so happens to be the area where more than 90% of America's dates are grown. You can find quite a few date farms dotting the barren highways of the Coachella Valley. One of the most famous is Shield's Date Garden in Indio. The company was founded in 1924 so they've been a part of the area for a long, long time. We stopped into the cafe where you can buy all sorts of date related products be it boxes of dates or bbq sauce and all that other crap popular at gift shops on fruit farms. We were there for their famous date shakes. They serve these at lots of spots in the Valley as it was created by a local farmer back when. We walked in to two employees scooping date ice cream into cups which are whipped up in one of the many milkshake machines. Obviously they sell lots of these. It tasted like peanut butter.

a peek inside the Date Cafe 

 Arriola's Tortilleria (Indio)

I found this spot browsing the restaurants in town. I could tell from the pictures and reviews that it was my type of place. Super popular with the longtime locals. Arriola's is a tortilla factory that also has some hot foods to takeout. Lots of locals like their nachos which are made with fresh fried chips, red enchilada sauce, and melted nacho cheese. The way they make them so that each chip is tossed in both cheese and sauce looked appealing. But so did their other specialty consisting of homemade pork tamales with the same red sauce and cheese and chile Colorado (stewed beef with red chile).

Tamale Boat at Arriola's Tortilleria

 Burger Box (Indio)

I found Burger Box at the bottom of the yelp barrel. It looked and sounded like a classic drive-in surviving on it's last legs. I guess it's on a stretch of road that used to be extremely popular for car travel in the same way Route 66 was. These days there wasn't much over there except for some train tracks, factories, and motels. Burger Box has been a part of the valley since 1954. I had a call to make between having a double cheeseburger or the popular pastrami sandwich. But it wasn't that hard considering I had a burger earlier that day. I opted for the pastrami which is chopped up and griddled on the flattop and served on a long roll with melted cheese. Classic Southern Cali style peppers on the side. I also tried a green chile pork burrito that was more like an egg roll which was cool considering it was less than $2. Also deserving of a mention are their fried spuds which are no doubt fried in beef tallow. They were excellent bc of that. The prices are ridiculous with the meal coming out to $8. It's a true relic from the past. I'll be sure to try the burger if there's ever a next time.

Pastrami, Burrito, and Fries at the Burger Box 

Raspados Kio's (Indio)

Because of the presence of people with ties to Mexicali in the area you can find lots of Raspados shops around town. I read Raspados Kio's was the original and still the very best. Raspados for those who didn't know is a Mexican shaved ice treat. While popular throughout Mexico they say Mexicali is the raspados capitol. I got to chat with one half of the ownership in the wife who was so very nice. She suggested I try their house special raspado which she said they created. It's called the Coco Nunez and it was shaved ice with shredded coconut, walnuts and oats mixed in. I wasn't sure at first but after that first bite I understood why it was the most popular as she told me it was. Awesome.

Coco Nunez at Raspados Kio's

See ya next time @chibbqking


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