By Tracy Dietlin

I recently dined, for the first time, at JEM Steakhouse inside of Spotlight 29 Casino. My husband and son- in-law had eaten dinner there a month earlier prior to attending a concert there and raved about how amazing the food was. The restaurant was larger and more upscale than I expected. Our hostess sat my husband and myself in a cozy booth and our server, Heather, immediately gave us menus and a wine list. We were there because we heard that they had just recently started serving lunch.

I was surprised at how many mouth-watering choices they had on the lunch menu. We decided to try several items and share everything. Our waitress informed us that the soup of the day was Salmon Chowder, which I had never had before and being a salmon lover I had to try it. The ample chunks of salmon were so tender and tasty and the cream sauce was lighter than the usual heavy cream chowders, which made it absolutely delicious. ($6.95)

Next we tried the Poke Nachos, which were also prepared differently than I had previously experienced, with Serrano peppers on top and a zesty Siracha aioli sauce drizzled over them. I was in love with the way the flavors of the ahi, peppers and aioli blended together offering my taste buds a real treat. (12.95)

Our next selection was the Coconut Shrimp. Large butterflied shrimp fried to perfection with the best Spicy mango salsa and sweet chili sauce I’ve ever tasted. I have order this appetizer at many restaurants but have never had them as amazing as these were for only ($10.35). I can’t wait to go back just for those three dishes alone.

My husband wanted to try the 4 cheese Spinach and Artichoke dip, which was delicious and I appreciated that it was served with both chips and baked pita bread. ($6.75) At this point I was willing to let him have all of that if I could barter for one more coconut shrimp and another poke nacho.

Right about the time we finished the appetizers our entrees arrived. He chose the 12 oz. Rib Eye with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. I had a bite of everything and gave it my thumbs up. He was very happy with his steak as they prepared it perfectly to his specifications. ($18.00)

For my entrée I selected the JEM Salad, which consisted of mixed greens, sautéed lobster and shrimp, bell peppers, asparagus and tomatoes with an avocado dressing. The lobster and shrimp were served warm and the large amounts of lobster meat were melt in your mouth goodness. Considering the ample portion I still cannot believe that this salad was only ($12.75).

Chef Dario Canizales stopped by our table and I was able to compliment him on his unique spin on these fabulous dishes. We also spoke with Manager Dino Pappas, who expressed how excited they were to now be open for lunch. “We want to give people on this end of town a fine dining experience for lunch, but not empty their wallets. There really isn’t any other fine dining restaurant in this area. We also want to get the word out to people coming out to the casino and from the other parts of the valley that we are now serving lunch.”

There are too many items on this lunch menu to list, but to give you an idea, they serve several salads, appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and dinner type entrees, with the prices mostly falling under $14.95 and many under $10.00. This price point is quite impressive for the amount of food and the quality that they serve. You can even get Lemon Chicken Piccata with wild rice and vegetables for only $13.75.

This was definitely one of my favorite dining experiences in the valley. I truly feel like we found a real ‘hidden gem’ in the desert. I look forward to returning soon.

JEM is open for lunch from 11-3 Wednesday through Sunday. They also serve dinner starting at 4pm with Happy hour from 4-7pm. For more info go to or call (760) 775-2880. Spotlight 29 Casino is located at 46-200 Harrison Place in Coachella.