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Desert Hot Springs Restaurants

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Although it's one of the ugliest towns in California with nothing to recommend it, Desert Hot Springs (DHS) does have several very nice spas that are destinations for escapees from LA looking for a relaxing way to do nothing and unwind. Most of these people go to Palm Springs, about 15 minutes away to eat, but we became so unwound at our gorgeous spa (Hope Springs Resort) that we couldn't bear even going that far. So we ate in DHS and this is my report.

In Desert Hot Springs, apparently many of the Mexican-American families in town are from Jalisco, so one would hope one could find typical dishes from that region such as torta ahogada, caldo miche, pozole, or birria (roast goat). No such luck. All the Mexican restaurants in town serve Mexican-American food of varying quality, the best being mediocre. In the end there are no good restaurants in DHS, only places where you can eat mediocre food. The differences are between mediocre and mediocre. The best restaurant in town is a Korean place in fact. Nearly all the restaurants are as charmless as the town. That all being said, these restaurants were fun to go to as an anthropological exercise. After a while the charmlessness grows on you.

Palm Korea

13440 Palm Dr.

Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240


Surprisingly good Korean. Total lack of atmosphere, plain tables and florescent overhead lights that are very bright. But the restaurant is authentic in a weird way: chopsticks only, Korean cook, some Korean diners, and Korean TV playing constantly. We had pork bulgogi and grilled eel both served sizzling atop sauteed cabbage on very hot metal platters, splashing oil so I had to cover myself with my napkin. The pork was served with lettuce leaves and a pair of scissors (to cut the meat) and a little sauce. You wrap the meat and it was just delicious, with only a little less flavor than you would find in L.A.’s Koreatown. The grilled eel was just fantastic. We also had some appetizers served with the meal of kimchi, sauteed cold seaweed, bean sprouts, soy bean jelly with sauce, cooked sweet potatoes with sauce and steamed rice.

El Matador

13450 Palm Dr.

Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240


A pretty decent Mexican place serving standard pan-Mexican dishes and no unique dishes whatsoever. It had the feel of a Mex-American restaurant for the local gringos. This means, I think, that this is toned down a bit. I had a taquito and a chile rellano which were just fine. Service wasn’t great, a little too laid back, but the experience was fine. The decor is drab and although this and Casa Blanca (below) are the best Mexican restaurants in town (not saying much), the Casa Blanca is more festive.

Zapopan Mexican Food

14207 Palm Dr

Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

(760) 288-2401

This place has all the charm of a fast food place, which it is. Nothing unique.

Casa Blanca

66370 Pierson Boulevard

Desert Hot Springs

(760) 329-5007)

There are 11 Mexican places in town and this was chosen as the best of them. I suppose that's true. I had a good menudo and huevos with chorizo. This is perfectly fine, but not terribly notable beyond that. Decor is festive and it’s a pleasant place to have breakfast, lunch or dinner.

La Michoacana

16760 Palm Drive

DHS, CA 92240

A funky little Mexican-American place with edible mediocre food. Nothing unique. The tortas were good. All the other Mexican places are better.

South of the Border

11719 Palm Drive,

Desert Hot Springs

(760) 251-4000.

A standard Mex-American place with no unique dishes but perfectly edible. Decor is typical family-run Mexican.


12260 Palm Drive

(760) 329-6833

A totally out-of-date Italian-American place where one should only order steaks which are just fine. Often called the best restaurant in DHS, it’s not. For food, I would choose the Palm Korea. The Capri served us an inedible minestrone soup out of a can. Canned tomato sauce over penne which was inedible. The steak was fine, like a good choice steak. The veal parmesan was a thick cut of low quality veal, heavily breaded, and not very good. Stay away from all Italian food and order steaks--they are good.

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I'm sorry to hear about the mediocre food in Desert Hot Springs. Mind you, you really got me interested in the spas over there.

Suggestion: Have a chauffeur or someone to drive you over to Palm Springs for a not-so-mediocre dinner ... hint, hint ... :cool::cool:

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Thanks for the DHS report. I've been meaning to check out Palm Korea for a while now.

For what it's worth, the next time you come to the desert you might consider the excellent spas in La Quinta or Indian Wells. Granted, they're not nearly as isolated as those in DHS, but you're within striking distance of some very decent meals.


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