Palm Springs is a place to kick back and relax, go ahead and do it. The stylish city combines desert culture and classic SoCal vibes, mid-century modern architecture, and outdoor activities galore—from rock climbing to raving pool parties, spectacular stargazing, and the Coachella Music Festival, which takes place this year from April 13–22 at the Polo Grounds in nearby Indio. According to 2016 statistics, Coachella attendees spent over $403 million during the festival’s two weekends, with area restaurateurs and hotels reaping the most benefit.
Palm Springs has a sporting specialty café scene, although there aren’t nearly as many places as compared to Los Angeles and Orange County. Hybrid shops like coffeehouse-by-day/bar-by-night Ernest Coffee/Bootlegger Tiki, located in the city’s ultra-chic Uptown Design District, and others show why Palm Springs is becoming an oasis for coffee and tea lovers.
Ernest Coffee/Bootlegger Tiki
1101 N Palm Canyon Drive
Hours: 6 a.m.–7 p.m. daily
Ernest Coffee opened in 2013, with groundbreaking team Gregory Mandallaz and Chris Pardo transforming the site of what was formerly Don the Beachcomber’s restaurant. Mandallaz brought years of restaurant experience, dating back from his home in Southern France to owning his own café in Burbank, California. He thought Palm Springs could use some LA flare and French sophistication.
The tiki décor left by Don the Beachcomber’s provides the foundation for Ernest’s interior design aesthetic. Towering tiki torches stand outside, serving as a beacon for the café’s location.
Inside, the bar is equipped with a two-group La Marzocco Linea 2EE and Mazzer Luigi grinder. The café is suffused with natural light, creating a radiant glow on polished wood tabletops, bright red chairs, and eye-catching splashes of nautical décor. Guests on the patio outside can take in the breathtaking natural beauty of the desert and browse the windows of local shops that line the street.
At night, Ernest transforms into a speakeasy bar—Bootlegger Tiki—with serious mood lighting and cocktail menu to match, including Mai Tais and decadent drinks like “Bananas in Pajamas,” mixing classic flavors of peanut butter and banana with deep toffee and caramel notes of Stumptown’s Hair Bender cold brew, complimenting the spicy vanilla notes of bourbon. The drink is then topped with creamy half-and-half and garnished with a flower.
515 N Palm Canyon Drive
Hours: 5:30 a.m.–7 p.m. daily
One of the first independent coffee shops in town, Koffi is the complete package: great coffee, rock-solid menu, and speedy service. Since opening 15 years ago, Koffi has built a loyal clientele of vacationing snowbirds and native sun-worshippers alike. Co-owner Troy Neifert recommends their blended drinks: “They are very rich, everything is made from scratch, nothing is packaged.”
1800 E Palm Canyon Drive
Hours: 7 a.m.–3 p.m. daily
Located in the fabulously hip Saguaro Hotel, this café features Verve Coffee Roasters and a wildly popular brunch menu. Hotel manager Sang Apranndh says, “People come here to have a good time. It’s very laid back and comfortable. That’s what we want. We want people to just enjoy themselves—its uncomplicated fun.”
1551 N Palm Canyon Drive
Hours: 7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
Located in the swanky Arrive Hotel, Customs Coffee has it all—great coffee, friendly service, and an amazing pool.
“You can’t go wrong with a maple old-fashioned donut alongside a cortado,” says Jesse Sells, Arrive’s director of restaurants, as I ponder what to order, still chuckling at the “Quote of the Day” on the chalkboard menu. Today it reads, “I’m upset that a group of squid isn’t called a squad.”
“They’re just fun sayings, sometimes they have to do with coffee,” says barista Austin Meglonakis, noting that he comes up with most of the quotes. “It helps create engagement and is an easy talking point that we can joke about with customers.” One thing Customs takes serious is its coffee. “Our baristas are serious about coffee. We don’t make anything too outside the box,” Meglonakis says. The café switched over to Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters at the start of the year and “customers are really liking it,” he adds.
500 S Palm Canyon Drive
Hours: 6 a.m.–6 p.m. daily
Tourists and local business professionals fuel their day of work and play in the desert at Ristretto, located in the marvelously modernist Five Hundred Building. True to its name, this café knows how to pull an exquisite shot of espresso, in addition to serving a drinks menu of ice-blended coffees, affogatos, Italian sodas, teas, and smoothies. The environment is casual yet sophisticated, with a sleek interior featuring dark wood accents and an aqua-tinted glass wall that sections off the café.