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What to Do in Palm Springs

The famously retro California resort town has a new pair of young tastemakers updating the food and hotel scene.

Palm Springs, California, is celebrated for its Rat Pack–era architecture and notorious for its stuck-in-the-era-of-steak-and-béarnaise cuisine. But Tara Lazar and Marco Rossetti are quietly changing the city’s reputation for retro restaurants. Over the past few years, they’ve opened three places combining modern design, reasonable prices and fresh, local, incredibly good food: brunch-centric Cheeky’s, pizzeria Birba and Asian spot Jiao. All are on one block in the Uptown Design District, a once-gritty area the couple helped revitalize. “What’s really remarkable is that Tara is a Palm Springs native—there aren’t many people who grew up here who are doing something cool,” says designer Trina Turk, another Uptown pioneer.

Lazar and Rossetti opened Cheeky’s, their first place, in 2008. “I was looking for a career change,” says Lazar, who’d been working as a day trader. “I kept coming back to what I love—and what I love is breakfast.” Rossetti loves breakfast, too: “I’ll never find anyone whose blueberry-corn pancakes are better than yours,” he told Lazar when they exchanged wedding vows.

They opened the boutique hotel the Alcazar with a similar design-driven-but-affordable style (rooms start at $69). “You really don’t need a lot of money to have fun in Palm Springs,” says Lazar. Read on for the couple’s insider’s guide to the city.

Lazar and Rossetti at home
Photo © David Richey.

Lazar & Rossetti at Home

“We live in a house my parents own,” Lazar says. “The deal is that we can’t throw anything away.” She had the 1960s armchairs reupholstered, then added Philippe Starck’s Ghost dining-room chairs for a modern edge.

Design Guide to Palm Springs

Travelers come to Palm Springs in pursuit of everything from midcentury-modern furniture to vintage sunglasses. Here, Lazar and Rossetti’s favorite shopping sources.

What to do in Palm Springs: Hedge
Photo courtesy of Hedge.

Hedge

Thomas Sharkey and Charles Pearson sell an eclectic midcentury design mix. The cement disks below once provided shade for the Daily Insurance building in Denver. 68-929 Perez Rd., Cathedral City; hedgepalmsprings.com.

What to do in Palm Springs: Trina Turk
Photo courtesy of Trina Turk.

Trina Turk

The fashion designer’s first outpost, designed by Kelly Wearstler and opened in 2002, underwent a serious expansion last spring. The foil wallpaper and white shag carpets remain intact, a funky backdrop for Turk’s signature mix of bold colors and prints. 891 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; trinaturk.com.

What to do in Palm Springs: notNeutral
Photo courtesy of NotNeutral.

notNeutral

Launched as a pop-up last year by Los Angeles architectural firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios, notNeutral sells its own designs, like perforated lanterns and nature-inspired dinnerware. 800 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; notneutral.com.

What to do in Palm Springs: Flow Modern
Photo courtesy of Andre Boughtwood.

Flow Modern

Run by local interior designers Brigitte Lehnert and Andre Blaise-Boughtwood, the store sells vintage items, including costume jewelry; Lazar recently bought a gold-link bracelet here. 768 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; flowmoderndesign.com.

What to do in Palm Springs: Alcazar Palm Springs Hotel
Photo courtesy of Melissa Kaseman.

Alcazar Palm Springs Hotel

Lazar and Rossetti updated the rooms in the building, whitewashing walls and adding extra outlets for guests to charge gizmos. From $69 per night; alcazarpalmsprings.com.

Restaurant Empire

With three restaurants on a single block, Lazar and Rossetti have helped lead the revival of the Upper Design District.

What to do in Palm Springs: Cheeky’s
Photo courtesy of Melissa Kaseman.

Cheeky’s

Lazar and Rossetti’s first restaurant, a local design-crowd hangout, is a breakfast-and-lunch spot known for excellent pancakes and eggs Benedict with applewood-smoked bacon. 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; cheekysps.com.

What to do in Palm Springs: Jiao
Photo courtesy of David Broach.

Jiao

Inspired by Asian street food, the menu features dishes like a red cabbage salad with red onion. 515 N. Palm Canyon Dr.

What to do in Palm Springs: Birba
Photo courtesy of David Richey.

Birba

At this Italian pizzeria, everything goes into the wood-burning oven, like roasted artichokes with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. 622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; birbaps.com.

More Favorite Spots

Men’s Clothing: Wil Stiles

This boutique, adjacent to Trina Turk, sells colorful watches and clothes from British designers (like Fred Perry), which Lazar often buys for Rossetti. “He’s Italian and has three times the closet real estate that I do,” she says. 875 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; wilstiles.com.

Vintage Haute Couture: Mr. Cox

Specializing in ’60s and ’70s couture fashion by the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Pierre Cardin, this vintage shop exemplifies the “glam underbelly” of Palm Springs, Lazar says. 457 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Ste. 6; mrcoxps.com.

Accessories: Kerson

This store sells luxe European vintage clothes and furniture, but Lazar especially loves the sunglasses—“hundreds and hundreds of pairs!”—including tortoiseshell ones from Paris. 1105 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; kersonps.com.

Mexican Food: El Mexicali Cafe

Started by the Murguia family decades ago, this restaurant catered Lazar and Rossetti’s wedding. Among its specialties: chile gueritos (shrimp-stuffed chiles) and octopus ceviche. 82-720 Indio Blvd., Indio; elmexicalicafe1.com.

Published October 2012
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