On a recent drive out to Indio, I did as I usually do and researched ahead of time the recommendations for the area. However, every article pointed me to Palm Springs, 25 minutes away in the other direction down I-10. Whether it’s delicious Chinese food, Mexican classics, or just plain delicious food, you don’t have to head back to the resorts and tourist traps of Palm Springs for food. Music festival or not, there are plenty of great spots in Indio and Coachella proper that are worth checking out.
TKB Bakery and Deli
TKB, or The Kid’s Business, originated in 1991 in the home of Athena and Paul Sippel in their Rancho Mirage home. Their children, Brandon, Nathan, and Melina, went door to door selling their mom’s baked goods. Now older, they operate one of the most successful sandwich shops in the United States, according to Yelp. They were voted the best restaurant in the United States in 2018 on the popular user reviewer-fueled website. With offerings such as the Mexican Marilyn Monroe, which has chicken salad, bacon, avocado, tomato, pepper jack chipotle sauce, all between homemade jalapeno focaccia bread; chicken chipotle, pastrami, or the Dirty Riverside–roast beef, bacon, pepper jack, avocado, on that jalapeno focaccia bread. You’ll have yourself questioning if it’s one of the better sandwiches you’ve ever had. They also serve breakfast (until 11 AM) and have a bakery section and various iced coffees, so get a chorizo con papas burrito or their brekkie sandwich between homemade English muffins and get some tarts and eclairs for the drive home.
45334 Golf Center Parkway, Indio, 92201
The Southland’s oldest tortilleria doesn’t reside in East L.A. or the San Fernando Valley. Instead, the Coachella Valley gets to make that claim with Arriola’s, founded in 1927. The unassuming low lying building and no-frills waiting area offer fresh corn and flour tortillas a couple of times a week, and other Cal-Mex classics such as chile colorado (stewed pork in red salsa) and chile verde (stewed pork in green salsa), burritos, chorizo, and egg breakfast burritos, and even menudo on Sundays for that Coachella cruda. But, their ultimate triumph is the “Tamale Boat:” beef tamales (using fresh masa), smothered in chile colorado and nacho cheese. Delicious and perfect for eating outside and taking in that desert air. Don’t forget to get some tortillas to go for later. For a more extensive deep dive on Arriola’s, check out Gustavo Arellano’s article about them from 2019 here.
82721 Wilson Ave, Indio, 92201
Straight and Marrow
Dumplings and pho in the desert? Yes, please. Chef Linh Young creates a variety of Asian-inspired dishes ranging from dumplings and lemongrass chicken to, on special occasions, pho and Vietnamese dishes. Every Thursday, they are at the Indian Wells Farmers Market and are based out of Indio. Online ordering is available for either pick up or delivery.
Check out their Instagram for menu offerings and schedule: @Straightandmarrow_street_food.
The mobile pizza trend reaches out to the Coachella Valley with Nick’s Pizza, this time from a food truck. Offering pizza staples such as pepperoni and cheese to buffalo chicken and Cali chicken pesto, Nick’s pizza serves up some of the better pizzas in the Coachella Valley. Check out their Instagram for their schedule and menu here.
Many things of significance happened in 1969. Scooby-Doo first aired on CBS, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, John married Yoko, The Beatles gave their final live performance, John left The Beatles, The Stonewall riots ushered in the modern gay rights movement, Woodstock, and Long John Silver’s opened its first store in Kentucky. For residents of the Coachella Valley, a more immediate event happened in 1969 because that’s when El Tranvia first opened. Half a century later, El Tranvia remains the area’s go-to spot for delicious Mexican food. Bolstering their menu with handmade corn tortillas, they were offering their birria-like barbacoa before Birriamania swept the nation…always a good sign that they’ve done it and done it well for a long time. The quesabirria tacos are exceptional, and the consomé is hearty without being too oily and greasy. Other highlights include tacos, gobernador (shrimp and cheese taco), costillas con nopales (pork ribs with cactus), and chicken mole. Wash it down with a fresh agua fresca. I prefer the agua de piña.
1221 6th St, Coachella, 92236
Festival or not, any weekend is good to drive to Indio to eat and drink. This brings me to Everbloom Coffee. On an afternoon in town, I popped into Everbloom for an iced coffee. I asked the barista for a suggestion on delicious Mexican food in the city. No bullshit chain or anything like that–give me the good stuff. The suggestion? El Tranvia. Not only was it El Tranvia, one of the guys from the back heard the question and shouted it from the kitchen, and the barista agreed. So, I’m including this coffee shop on this guide simply because you can get delicious mochas and lattes (and a delightful cold chocolate hit the spot on that hot afternoon), but these guys know their city and know how to make a great iced mocha.
81730 CA-111, Indio, 92201
CIE Sichuan Cuisine
Plentiful portions and spicy dishes are the names of the game at this spot near Old Town Indio. Popular orders are the Panda Express usuals, such as orange chicken and kung pao chicken, but you’re here for Sichuan, so spice it up a bit. The spicy chicken wok had generous amounts of peppery chicken, jalapeños, potatoes, celery, and chilis. The Sichuan-style boiled fish, sliced beef, lung in chili sauce, and wonton soup are great options. Dim sum options are also available, but “because of COVID,” the $8.50 lunch special advertised on the window is not.
45682 Towne St, Indio, 92201
This is the “½” because it’s technically in North Palm Springs, more rural and far less glamorous than Palm Springs itself. I first came across Windmill Market on a solo trip to Joshua Tree on my way back to the 10. I noticed that they offered “the best date shakes in town,” and I didn’t want to drive to the Salton Sea or Indio, so I popped in to check it out. Made on the spot with vanilla ice cream and locally grown dates, the shake offers incredible amounts of chunks of dates mixed in with the ice cream, giving you a sweet dessert to sip on for your drive home. Shields Date Garden is the more touristy choice, offering a restaurant and souvenir shop. However, Windmill Market is a great option if you want to try something off the radar and still get your date shake fix in (something that’s uniquely Coachella Valley).
17080 North Indian Canyon Dr, North Palm Springs, 92258