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Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Locals’ Delight”  

tonga hut pu pu platter

Part 2 – In a Delicious Three-part Series

 By Barbara Beckley

Cocktails and dining. It’s Palm Springs’ signature activity. And with so many fine restaurants close together, it’s easy – and fun – to plan a Progress Dinner party! Begin at one restaurant for cocktails, then go to a second for the main course and end at a third for dessert. What’s a party without a theme? Choose “Locals’ Delight” and dine like you live here – enjoying the cuisine and comradery residents love.

 Residents’ Choice

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner

Residents’ Choice Stop 1 – Tonga Hut

Get the party started with an exotic beverage – or two – at The Tonga Hut Restaurant and Tiki Bar in the heart of downtown. Make your way upstairs past tiki gods and tapa cloth to the second-floor terrace overlooking the street action below. Or around the tiki-tricked-out fireplace in the bar. The Mai Tais are magic – based on Trader Vic’s 1944 recipe. So is the “Navy Grog,” with three rums, citrus, honey and a little “Tonga Hut Twist.”


Someone must order a “Vicious Wahini,” lovingly concocted with rich Barbados rum, honey, and passion fruit puree. And local favorite “Bermuda Dunes,” a Tonga Hut Palm Springs original, created in honor of the desert community of the same name, with gold and silver rums, citrus, almond and allspice.

For nibbles, share the Spam Pork Sliders. It’s not truly tiki without Spam! Or the signature Pu Pu Platter. If you’re from LA – yes, this is the sister restaurant to The Tonga Hut North Hollywood! Like most visitors, Tonga Hut co-owner Kevin Murphy and his wife, Claudia, fell in love with Palm Springs and had to be part of the scene, opening The Tonga Hut Palm Springs in 2013.

interior Tonga Hut

Residents’ Choice Stop 2 – Eight4Nine

For dinner, walk across North Palm Canyon Drive a few blocks to Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge – a locals’ go-to since it opened in 2015. No wonder. The ultra-refined décor – think black and white – is a perfect match for the ultra-refined new American cuisine. Sit in the canopy-covered outdoor patio. Or inside, at the see-and-be-seen high-top tables in the bar. Or white Louis XIV-style chairs in the dining areas.


The menu is deliciously eclectic. “Greens from the Garden” makes an excellent beginning with artisan lettuce, baby heirloom tomatoes, Persian cucumber, and purple Ninja radish, dressed with citrus fennel pollen vinaigrette. Also “Corn & Crab Chowder” using wild Mexican blue crab (optional), Weiser Farm peewee potato, applewood smoked bacon, herb oil and piquillo pepper. Chowder doesn’t get any better than this! Or perhaps share the “Charcuterie & Cheese Plate” of fine meats, three types of premium cheeses and lavash, garnished with house-made jam, berries, Marcona almonds, honeycomb, and orchard-dried fruit.

Eight4Nine Restaurant

For your entree – Oh my! The “Allan Brothers Beef Filet Mignon” is a meat-lover’s dream. Pan seared, with parmesan and cypress grove goat cheese au gratin, and Haricot Vert, baby carrots, crispy fried onion, and red wine sauce! Seafood favorites include “Grilled Scottish Salmon,” with a shaved fennel-basil salad, star anise-infused orange sauce and black sesame rice cake. And “Miso Marinated Chilian Seabass,” with jasmine rice, baby carrots, baby bok choy, a soy lime ginger glaze, Daikon sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and finger line caviar.

For a lighter entrée, the signature “Smoked Niçoise Salad” is amazing. Featuring Eight4Nine smoked steel head salmon, artisan greens, peewee potatoes, niçoise olives, Haricot Vert, baby tomatoes, lemon, capers, Gone Straw Farm egg, tossed with tarragon vinaigrette.

Eight4Nine Salmon Salad

Residents’ Choice Stop 3 – Seymour’s

Hop in the car for a custom-crafted nightcap at Seymour’s a thee-minute drive away. It’s one of those “you have to know to know” kind of places. A dark, intimate bar accessed by an unmarked door behind a velvet curtain at Mr. Lyons steakhouse. Sink into an overstuffed leather chair or a high-top chair at the black-and-white tiled bar, dimly lit by Tiffany lamps, and enjoy one of co-owner mixologist Steen Bojsen-Moller’s signature original cocktails.

Credit: Seymour’s

“The Little Owl” is a hands-down favorite, with Rittenhouse Rye, IPA Reduction, Bigallet China China, Vicario Nocino and Orange Bitters. Also, the “Last One,” with Silver Tequila, Banhez Esadin & Barril Mezcal, maraschino, green chartreuse, Cointreau, cava, and coriander – oh my!  And “The Ultimate Sidecar” using Delord Heritage Over 40-year-old Armagnac, Grand Marnier Curvee De Centenaire, and fresh lemon.

 Insider Intel 

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner 

Insider Intel Stop 1  – Oscar’s

Set the scene for good times at Oscar’s Downtown Palm Springs, a happening hot spot amid the Mediterranean-style architecture of Palm Springs’ historic Old Town. Linger at a table in the street-front courtyard framed by twinkly lights and Spanish arches. Or at the bar inside the palapa-like, red tile-roofed kiosk.

They call it “lemonade.” But don’t be fooled. Oscar’s favorite signature libation is laced with plenty of vodka! Like the “Peach Palmer,” with Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka, Smirnoff Peach vodka and, oh yes, lemonade. Delish “Strawberry Lemonade,” featuring Smirnoff Strawberry vodka, Strawberry puree and lemonade. And deceptively refreshing “Mango Pineapple Lemonade” of Svedka Mango Pineapple vodka, mango puree and lemonade.

The crispy house-battered jumbo onion rings, with ranch and chipotle sauces makes a great taste counter point. Champagne, of course. From Ruffino Prosecco to Dom Perignon. And fine wines. The “Interesting Red” is just that – a Numanthia-Termes Tempranillo from Spain. Just as the lemonade, Oscar’s is more than it appears. Consider returning for the Sunday Drag Brunch and other live cabaret shows.

oscars patio

Insider Intel Stop 2 – Johannes

Ready for dinner? Take a short walk to Europe – well, almost. To Johannes  for modern Euro cuisine so good The New York Times and Wine Spectator give it raves. Simple elegance sets the stage for Austrian-born Chef/Owner Johannes Bache’s classic, eclectic menu. Formerly corporate chef for Seabourn Cruise Line, his creativity knows no limits.


For starters, the signature favorite is a must. “JB’s Ultimate Cheese Spatzeln,” with sautéed house-made noodles in melted Gruyere and Fontina cheeses, lobster, bacon, crispy onions, and chives. Incredible! Also, the “Escargot,” with eight baked in garlic, bread crumbs and green herbs. Maybe think outside the box with chef’s “Malaysian Meatballs” braised in yellow curry coconut sauce, toasted almonds, chives, and coconut flakes!

For your entrée, Bache’s classic signature “Wiener Schnitzel” is a favorite, with roasted parslied fingerling potatoes, cranberries, and lemon cucumber in dill sour cream dressing. And the “Crispy Roasted Maple Leaf Farm Half Duck” – fantastic – with braised red cabbage, polenta cake, and orange sauce! Also, seafood like the “Pan Seared Maine Scallops,” with sweet potatoes, fire-roasted corn, leek, Shiitake mushrooms, wild arugula, and Black Truffle reduction. And meat. The “Creekstone Farms Black Angus Beef Tenderloin” has it all: sauteed spinach, glazed carrots, fries, and brandy green Madagascar peppercorn sauce.

Johannes schnitzel

Insider Intel Stop 3 – Melvyn’s

Celebrate your fabulous evening at Melvyn’s Restaurant & Casablanca Lounge , Palm Springs’ favorite old school piano bar, a short drive up the road. The lights are low. The bar is long. The keyboard player is singing the Great American Songbook just as when Frank Sinatra and all the stars – like you – dropped in for a nightcap and dessert.

Melvyns Restaurant_Bar

Play the part and order a “Melvyn’s Martini” – original or with a blue cheese-stuffed olive. Or “Melvyn’s Manhattan,” with house barrel-aged bourbon, sweet Vermouth, and angostura bitters. For dessert, ask the bartender for deliciously old school “Bananas Foster,” featuring caramelized bananas, dark rum, banana liqueur and vanilla ice cream. And “Cherries Jubilee,” with dark sweet cherries, orange zest, brandy, and vanilla ice cream.

Bon appetite!

Part 1: Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – Hipster Cool

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Contemporary & Classic”

Palm Springs Progressive Dinner – “Old & New” 

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