In addition to luxury shopping, locally-owned boutiques, fine jewelers and art galleries, El Paseo is home to some of the best dining spots in the desert. So many, in fact, that when guests ask which restaurant on El Paseo we’d recommend most, we always respond with: “Well, what are you in the mood for?” Here are some of our favorites, broken down by cuisine, with some off-the-main-street options as well. Bon Appetit!
For Brunch: Wilma + Freida
One of our favorite places to brunch (dare I say the favorite?) in the desert, Wilma & Frieda, offers comfort food with a twist. Their extensive menu features both sweet and savory breakfast items like Churro Waffles topped with Madagascar vanilla crème and Build-Your-Own Scrambles with a variety of mix in choices. Their house specialties, like the Bernie’s Omelet with Chile Verde Pork & Brie, knock it out of the park every time. If you’re more into lunch-for-brunch, try one of their signature salads, sandwiches or melts.
For Lunch: Sweet Basil California Eatery
Sweet Basil is a charming little spot on the East end of El Paseo, where Chef Sally puts a California twist on international favorites. Their salads and Naanwiches are our go-to’s for lunch, with my favorite being the Chipotle and Maple Pork Tenderloin, served on naan bread with smoked gouda, arugula, caramelized onion, garlic aioli. I also like to order their Sautéed Lobster Cakes appetizer as a lunch main. Everything at Sweet Basil is fresh and flavorful – we’ve yet to try something we didn’t like!
Runner up, but it’s not on El Paseo – Bouchee
For Happy Hour: Pacifica Seafood Restaurant
Pacifica is always buzzing at happy hour, which is daily from 3:30pm-6:30pm and all day on Wednesdays and Sundays in the bar. Locals and tourists alike come for discounted wine, beer, cocktails and appetizers like Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates, Ahi Tuna Tartare and House-Made Ceviche. Located on the second floor at The Gardens on El Paseo, it’s also a great choice for an outdoor lunch or dinner.
For Mexican: Armando’s Dakota Bar & Grill
Armando’s is almost always bustling with patrons enjoying extra-large margaritas and people watching on the outdoor patio. For as busy as it gets, service is typically good and the friendly staff hustles. If you’re looking for classic Mexican food on El Paseo, this is your spot. Grab a seat on the patio (or by the bar if you want to catch the game), munch on chips and salsa, order a margarita (but sip with caution, Armando makes them strong!), Chiles Gueritos to share, and your favorite Mexican entrée.
Runner up, but it’s not on El Paseo – Fresh Agave
For Comfort Food: Daily Grill
Located on the west end of El Paseo, Daily Grill serves up classic American fare using locally sourced ingredients. Signature dishes like Chicken Pot Pie, Loaded Mac & Cheese and Homestyle Meatloaf will fill you up with nostalgia, but lighter-fare soups and salads are on the menu as well. There’s a little something for everyone at Daily Grill, making it a great place for multi-generational family meals – the last time my mom, grandma, and I (plus the two littles) went out to lunch, we ate here!
For Sushi: The Venue
Executive Sushi Chef/Owner Engin Onural opened The Venue on El Paseo in 2011 and the hip-but-casual sushi spot has consistently been an award winning, local favorite for the past decade plus. Chef Engin has since opened Sandfish in Palm Springs, another favorited Sushi restaurant.
During our inaugural visit to The Venue, we let our waitress take the reigns on our order and she did not disappoint. On her recommendation we had the Spicy Tuna Tostada and the El Paseo Roll with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber, topped with albacore, seared with saffron aioli and served with roasted Serrano peppers, tobiko and scallions. We also tried the KoKo Roll (without the coconut flakes, as she advised, but don’t tell Chef Engin!) which was sweet and spicy and we enjoyed every last bite.
For Italian: Jillians
Refined cuisine goes hand-in-hand with high-end shopping, and Jillian’s is our pick for Italian fine dining on El Paseo. Elegant and warm, the hacienda-style restaurant is a collection of four dining rooms centered around a romantically lit courtyard with live music nightly. The menu is elevated Italian, with house made pastas, prime meats and seafood and an extensive wine list. All pastas, breads and deserts are made fresh daily on premises.
Keep in mind that Jillians does enforce a dress code and shorts are not permitted (jackets are not required).
Runner up, deserving of its own blog post but it’s not on El Paseo – Trattoria Mezzomondo)
For Seafood: Mitch’s on El Paseo
Mitch’s is the collective brain-child of restauranteur Mitch Epstein and sushi master James Holder, and serves outstanding, elevated seafood dishes on the East end of El Paseo. Come hungry and with a group so you can share a selection of appetizers like the Shishito Peppers, Grilled Spicy BBQ Shrimp and Tuna Crudo. Whatever entrée you choose, make sure to also place an oder for their Grilled Lobster Tail & Shrimp Truffle Fried Rice for the table to share. Trust.
For Thai: Thai Smile
Thai Smile has been our Family’s favorite Thai place for close to two decades. The original location was in Rancho Mirage but they recently relocated to El Paseo (with a second location in Palm Springs). To have consistent flavor, quality and service span over decades is impressive! We’ve tried many dishes on the menu and, over the years, have perfected our group order to the Tom Kha Kai soup (Nash’s favorite!), Chicken Spicy Peanut Sauce, Red Curry, Pad Thai and the Spicy Fried Rice. When we’re stumped on where to dine out (or order in), Thai Smile is out go-to spot. 🙂
For Dessert + Nightcap + People Watching: Mastro’s
If you’ve enjoyed a nice dinner on El Paseo, took an evening stroll, but aren’t quite ready to head back to your Arrivls Vacation Rental Property, head to Mastro’s bar for a nightcap and (typically) some pretty entertaining people watching. The butter cake is rich (and expensive) and large enough to satisfy the sweet tooth of the whole group. Send me a message with the most entertaining thing you witnessed here!