As the food and spirits reporter for The Desert Sun, I eat a lot. Well, I’d be eating a lot regardless, but at least this job gives me an excuse.
Since I’m a reporter and not a food critic, though, my opinions on particular dishes isn’t what’s often printed or what I’m going for here. So instead, since I’m on a food discovery mission anyway, might as well share what I’ve been enjoying.
Some of these dishes will be cheap, some will be pricey. Some will be in Palm Springs, some will be in the East Valley. Some will be fancy, and some won’t require utensils. The only requirement is that the food tastes good.
In no particular order, here are the five dishes for Cook’s month in food.
The oven roasted chicken from John’s Restaurant
I happened to go to John’s on a Wednesday. This was fortunate timing. They serve an oven roasted chicken special every Wednesday and Saturday, so good that it’s the only special that appears twice in a week.
The half chicken was enough food for two, probably. The skin was seasoned well and the meat came right off the bone. Unlike a lot of other roasted chicken, it also wasn’t horribly dry.
Bonus points for being the type place where you use questionable table manners to voraciously dive into a massive piece of chicken without getting side glances.
John’s Restaurant, located at 900 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, can be reached at 760-327-8522.
The rincon combo from El Rincon Norteño
You don’t often see a combo plate that features a relleno, taco, and enchilada, but a waitress at El Rincon Norteño assured me that it was one of their most popular items. This place has been around for 50 years, so I went with her word.
I actually didn’t enjoy the taco, as it was crispy to the point of making the meat undistinguishable, but it says something to the rest of the plate that this meal still made the list. The rice and beans, sometimes a throwaway, were the best I’ve had in the valley. The tamale was stuffed with flavor, and the relleno was perfectly complemented by a veggie-heavy sauce. It was good enough that I got some extra on the side for the rest of my meal.
Also — very good chips and salsa. Can’t beat that.
El Rincon Norteño, located at 83011 Indio Blvd in Indio, can be reached at (760) 347-4754.
Pad Thai from Pho 533
Yes, I ordered pad thai from a Vietnamese restaurant. Don’t judge me.
I’d heard that Pho 533’s pad thai wasn’t your standard dish, so I went with it anyway and was not disappointed. Cooked with house made sauce, lime juice, tamarind, and sambal, then tossed with scallions and eggs and finished with sweet peppers, peanuts, and tiger shrimp, the pad thai combined sweet and spicy without being too tangy. Every bite came with a different flavor, which made for an interesting dinner.
Pho 533, located at 1775 East Palm Canyon Drive (Suite 625) in Palm Springs, can be reached at (760) 778-6595.
Lobster roll from Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge
The newest big restaurant in the Uptown Design District, Eight4Nine has an ambitious menu. Like, fried chicken- next to halibut- next to carne asada-type ambitious.
I tried to go for something safe, but even the lobster roll was different. Instead of a traditional roll, the dish was stuffed into a giant, upright bun, almost like two pieces of bread baked together at the bottom and left open on top.
The lobster meat wasn’t the best, but the toppings — tarragon aioli, celery, and lemon — did wonders when paired alongside the sweet bread. The sandwich also required two hands to eat, which, frankly, should be the goal for any sandwich.
Eight4Nine, located at 849 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, can be reached at (760) 325-8490.
Crispy chicken sandwich from Matchbox American Pizza Bistro
I eat a lot of chicken sandwiches. It’s my thing. The rendition I had at Matchbox was one of the better chicken sandwiches I’ve had since moving to the area in late January.
The meat wasn’t too fried and retained a lot of its original flavor. I also ordered it “Nashville style,” which brought a much-appreciated kick. It was also topped with shaved cabbage, pickles, and a deviled egg spread, which added a lot more flavor than you’d think it would.
Matchbox, located at 155 South Palm Canyon Drive, can be reached at (760) 778-6000.
Bonus: the bacon flight from Cheeky’s.
My five pieces of bacon came in five flavors — BeelerApple Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Orange Glaze, Jalapeno and Nodines Applewood. If you haven’t ever tried the bacon flight, I have no idea what you’ve been doing with your life. Go eat it, right now.
Cheeky’s, located at 622 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, can be reached at (760) 327-7595.
Everett Cook covers food, spirits, and general human interest stories for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @everettcook.