by Richard Fox Draft
Enjoying a meal al fresco on a perfectly sunny desert day is a sublime experience, but incorporating it into a bike ride adds beneficial exercise and fun. enCYCLEpedia presents our favorite combinations of easy scenic bicycle rides and al fresco dining experiences in the Coachella Valley. Bike routes that include these restaurants as destinations are described in the book “enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides” (3rd edition Oct ’21). Don’t be ashamed to ride on the pretty landscaped valley sidewalks when it’s a safer option, but be extra careful anytime you cross a driveway or street. More info: enCYCLE’s website (Palm Springs area is Chapter 9). Banner photo: Escena Lounge & Grill (courtesy of Sunrise Golf).
What to wear? Most places mentioned are super casual. For the more upscale establishments like Spencer’s or those along El Paseo perhaps bring or wear a more appropriate frock. Golf course establishments typically require a collared shirt. Personally I carry a light Hawaiian shirt to wear over my tee!
1. Downtown Palm Springs
Palm Springs is THE place in the Coachella Valley to cycle on a beautiful winter’s day and find a delightful patio to savor a well deserved meal. Most of the patio restaurants are along South Palm Canyon Drive between Tamarisk and Baristo, but there are plenty others a block or two farther afield. Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon now have sharrows (bike symbols) in their left lanes between Alejo and Ramon. You can also cycle on parallel roads to the west that comprise the city’s bike routes, and just ride a block or two east to Palm Canyon to get to your patio restaurant of choice, including Cheeky’s for imaginative breakfasts, Blue Coyote or Las Casuelas Terraza for a festive al fresco Mexican experience, Lulu’s with varied menu and people-watching patio (photo), friendly Chicken Ranch (which has worked well on several of my group outings) or Ruby’s family style diner, to name just a few. Or, you can pedal west on Baristo Road a few blocks to experience the fabulous outdoor patio of upscale Spencer’s. Along Indian Canyon Drive, at La Plaza are Bill’s, a pizza favorite (photo), Tyler’s, a burger favorite, Farm for French breakfast/lunch, and others. Wang’s Chinese restaurant’s popular Zen Patio is north of Ramon. Thai Smile for lunch and Oscar’s Cafe for breakfast/lunch are al fresco at Tahquitz Canyon, with Sherman’s Deli’s large patio another block to the east. Tropicale’s patio is fun for an upscale brunch, located east on Amado. Near the Movie Colony El Mirasol has a beautiful patio. And to the south of downtown Townie Bagels on Sunny Dunes is popular with cyclists. [enCYCLE ride: PS1,3]
2. El Paseo, Palm Desert
This upscale district gained even more outdoor dining options during the pandemic and is located at the crossroads of bike rides in Palm Desert and Indian Wells. From Indian Wells head west on the 111 sidewalk, or for a better ride head south on Eldorado to Fairway. In Palm Desert the CV Link pathway crosses town. From the Municipal Park area head south on the San Pablo bike paths and cross 111 to reach El Paseo. From the western terminus at the Bump ‘n Grind trailhead continue across the bike bridge next to Target and make your way to El Paseo from there, stopping at the Palm Desert Sculpture Garden en route. El Paseo is a busy road but you can take a lane, or cycle on the adjacent Shadow Meadow to the south and hop into town for grub. Some popular patios in this area are California Pizza Kitchen, Daily Grill, Pacifica Seafood, Tommy Bahama’s, Café Des Beaux-Artes, or Wilma & Frieda in The Gardens. To the west of Monterey, Westfield Mall offers Stuft Pizza and City Wok, each with a large mountain-view patio. Louise’s Pantry for breakfast/lunch is along the 111 frontage road across from Palm Desert’s new location of Bill’s Pizza, for fabulous pizza on a patio. Real Italian Deli near Tri-A-Bike on San Pablo has a large outdoor patio. The Living Desert a mile south of El Paseo has a couple of outdoor cafes, and makes for a great frequent biking destination for members like me. [enCYCLE ride: RM2]
3. The River at Rancho Mirage
Reached via the sidewalk bike trails along Hwy 111 or Bob Hope, or the serene streets of Rancho Mirage Cove, the refreshing pools of The River complex are not a mirage, but will revive you on a warm day, and the choice for eats here are first rate. The fabulous waterfront patio of Acqua California Bistro is closed at this writing. Current choices for lunch and dinner include franchises of Cheesecake Factory, Babe’s BBQ, PF Chang’s, and The Yard House, each offering an al fresco option. [enCYCLE ride: RM2]
4. Old Town La Quinta
Granted it’s a newly-built old town, but Old Town La Quinta charms nonetheless. Access it south from Hwy 111 on Washington, right on Eisenhower, left on Tampico, and right on Bermudas one block. La Quinta prefers that you ride in bike lanes or specifically marked sidewalk trails, but if you ride courteously on the unmarked sidewalk paths you will rarely if ever be hassled by the authorities. We particularly like the patio of Stuft Pizza, which has happy hour food prices from 3 to 6 pm. I love their Napa Valley Pizza (photo). For breakfast, Main Street Coffee is popular with cyclists where tables are set out on the square (photo). A few more options can be found around Old Town including The Grill on Main and Old Town Tavern. From Old Town you can ride uphill several miles on the scenic Bear Creek bike trail (photo), with some optional easy dirt paths at the top of La Quinta Cove. [enCYCLE rides: LQ1,2,3]
5. Escena Golf Club, Palm Springs
A stand-alone destination, Escena Lounge & Grill at the Escena Golf Club is a popular Bike ‘n Brunch choice with delicious food served on an expansive patio with fabulous mountain views (photo below and banner photo). From the bike path along the west side of Gene Autry next to the airport (photo), pedal east on the south sidewalk of Vista Chino to the community entrance on the right, then ride another half mile to the golf club. Then try the first 2.3-mile section of the regional CV Link trail just beyond the Escena entrance along Whitewater Channel between Vista Chino and Ramon. There are also several casual restaurants with patios at Ramon and Gene Autry, including Panera Bread and Dickey’s BBQ north of Ramon and Goody’s Cafe, Torakichi Ramen, and Raising Kane’s Chicken Fingers to the south. [enCYCLE rides: PS4, PS3]
6. South Palm Springs
This very popular district is fun to cycle around on its residential streets lined with classic Palm Springs homes. Your brunching options are the scenic patio at South Restaurant of Indian Canyons Golf Club along Murray Canyon, or try some choices along Hwy 111 east of Sunrise. Manhattan In the Desert (east of Barona) has a delectably huge deli menu that spans all three meals, and a tempting bakery counter. A detour north up South Palm Canyon from Belardo/ East Palm Canyon brings you to popular El Mirasol for Mexican food. Koffi is a local hangout for coffee and light fare at El Camino Real and 111. [enCYCLE ride: PS2]
7. Desert Willow Golf Course, Palm Desert
The beautiful half-mile long sidewalk trail leading up the hill from the Desert Springs (aka Ralph’s) Shopping Center northwest of Cook and Country Club leads to the clubhouse of Desert Willow Country Club, an upscale city-owned golf course. Its Lakeview Terrace has a wonderful outdoor view patio and serves delicious food, perfect for your mid-ride meal. IW Coffee & Chai Bar next to Ralphs is popular with cyclists.
[enCYCLE rides: PD1, RM1,2]
8. Restaurant Row, Rancho Mirage
Cycle the bike sidewalk along Hwy 111 between Frank Sinatra or Country Club, or from Palm Desert, head west on either of those boulevards to the end. Las Casuelas Nuevas has a very popular patio for Mexican cuisine and an elaborate Sunday brunch. We love to go to The Palms Cafe II for al fresco breakfast, especially when we sub a giant banana nut pancake for toast. [enCYCLE rides: RM1,2]
9. Highway 111, La Quinta – Indio
A sidewalk path is now continuous along the south side of Hwy 111 from Indian Wells all the way through La Quinta to the Indio border so that you can extend your rides in La Quinta or Indian Wells to access plenty of al fresco dining options. Most are actually on the north side of the road, where the sidewalk has a couple of breaks. Choices start with Broken Yolk at Washington. Across from In ‘n Out Burger at Simon is Pokehana for a healthy poke fix, Panera Bread, Chipotle and Habit Burger past Adams, and Pho Vu Vietnamese and IHOP after Dune Palms. Mimi’s Cafe at the Costco entrance road has a small outside patio.. [enCYCLE rides: LQ3, IW1]
10. Indian Wells
If you ride on Indian Wells’ sidewalk path (once a designated bike path as shown in the photo) west adjacent to the south side of Hwy 111 toward the towering mountains you will reach Cook Street, across which is Eureka! Their semi-covered and fanned patio is the perfect stop along your bicycle exploration to enjoy fabulous gourmet burgers like the Fresno Fig (photo, below, shown next to enCYCLEpedia), salads and crafted brews. Continuing a bit farther west leads to El Paseo (#2 above). There are also lots of restaurants, some with patios, along Hwy 111 in the El Paseo area that you can access via frontage roads. And those up for something more upscale can venture into some of Indian Wells’ resorts along the route, including Vue Grille at Indian Wells Golf Resort. [enCYCLE rides: IW1, RM2]