Dining in the desert is usually a crapshoot--menus are as dusty as the landscape, never wavering or changing. But with a recent spate of renovations, plus new chefs using seasonal, local and organic ingredients, things are starting to look up.
With its mod style and young, friendly staff, Cheeky's is the locals' new breakfast favorite. The menu changes daily at the whim of the chef, so you might find dishes like maple-sausage hash with sweet potatoes, parsnips and a perfectly poached egg ($9), and buttermilk pancakes studded with fresh corn and blueberries ($9). Get the "bacon flight" to taste all of the house-seasoned strips (cinnamon, jalapeño, maple and herbs). 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-7595 or cheekysps.com
For a swank lunch, sit poolside at the Riviera Resort's Circa 59. New executive chef Bradley Manchester tosses pappardelle with roasted beets and their greens ($13); brown-butter vinaigrette adds surprising richness to shaved Brussels sprout and fennel salad ($9); and the short-rib panini with pickled onions ($14) is hearty enough for two. 1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr.; 760-327-8311 or psriviera.com
Even if you're not staying at the sprawling La Quinta Resort, the just-opened Morgan's (pictured) is a reason to visit. The room has rustic desert elegance, with seasonal dishes to match, like creamy roasted fennel soup with apple and bacon ($8), steaks with grilled, plump porcini mushrooms ($32), and roasted Santa Barbara spiny lobster with herb butter ($36). 49499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta; 760-564-4111 or laquintaresort.com
The Ace Hotel's Amigo Room could just as easily be in Los Feliz as in Palm Springs. In addition to fresh-fruit cocktails and craft beers, the menu in the bar (and at Kings Highway, the former Denny's across the hall) features addictive truffle popcorn ($5), vegetable potpie with a flaky crust ($8), and locally raised rib-eye steak with herb relish ($29). 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760-325-9900 or acehotel.com