The second weekend of Coachella tends to be a more timid affair. The first-in-line buzz crowd has already gone, ‘grammed and gotten back to their desk jobs by the end of weekend one, and there are usually fewer celebrity surprises and big name drop-ins as a result. You might say that weekend two is downright relaxed.
Well, perhaps not entirely. There’s still the blazing sun, endless set times and impenetrable crowds to manage. But for those with the discretionary income to enjoy themselves (read: anyone who bought a Coachella pass), it’s possible to make for the desert without overdoing it, even during high music festival season. Spend a little more time near the pool at your Palm Springs hotel, avoid the early traffic by taking in a late lunch, or — better still — spend an evening at Workshop Kitchen + Bar in Palm Springs, drinking cocktails and enjoying the stripped-down interior. You might not make it to the polo grounds at all, but that’s okay.
One of the newest shining stars (dim though it may be inside) of the long-staid Palm Springs dining scene, Workshop seeks to bring some of the city out to the desert. The award-winning space is full of poured cement that might feel like a cell block at first, were it not for the succulents on the table and hanging exposed bulbs. Workshop is definitely a far cry from the sunny, sand-toned eateries around it in downtown Palm Springs, and that’s entirely the point.
The real color and vibrancy can be found on the plate or in a glass. Rather than focusing on big plates of bussed in food and all the Googie architecture one rehabbed Denny’s can handle, this sleek room just off Palm Canyon Drive is going full farm-to-table, and that includes the cocktails.
Healthy American cooking is the order of the day, with an emphasis on wood-fired grilling and pizzas. The requisite grass-fed steak (30 oz.) easily feeds two, while popular non-shared plates rely on refined interpretations, like an oxtail shepherd’s pie or burger with truffled pecorino on top. Seafood, like pan-seared scallops and octopus carpaccio, does well here, while more classically European options tend to contain a little twist, to keep you guessing. The duck liver pate is formed with a wafting dose of negroni jelly, the grilled asparagus is sharpened with local grapefruit.
You’ll also find a host of hues coming from the back bar, which somehow manages to be the most well-lit portion of the tall, grey space. Colorful bottles are lined up neatly, and the hand-crafted cocktails sparkle and shine all on their own. A classic Ward offers rye, grenadine and a wash of orange juice, while the Matador #2 merges blanco tequila with pineapple, lime and serrano chile.
Drinks change often (as does the rest of the menu) but it’s not hard to find an enjoyable cocktail on the shortened list. Should you need something a bit more stately, there’s always the wandering wine list, with by-the-glass stops for Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand and Mendoza Malbecs.
If you’re heading out of town for Coachella weekend two, just be sure to snag a reservation — word has long been out about Workshop Kitchen + Bar, making it one of Palm Springs’ most frequented dinner and brunch spots. But once inside, cocktail in hand, all that’s left to do is relax.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar: 800 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs; 760-459-3451; workshoppalmsprings.com