By Raymond Bill
One of the most well-known restaurants in our valley is located downtown Palm Springs in the heart of the strip. Many would argue that any restaurant would succeed if it were in the right location, regardless of cuisine, service or ambiance. The Original Las Casuelas opened in 1958 in Palm Springs and Las Casuelas Terraza has been open for 35 years. After my most recent visit, it is clear to me that Las Casuelas has found the recipe for success, allowing them to remain the hottest restaurant downtown after all these years.
As many restaurants are closing their doors or limiting hours with the ending of the season upon us, my friends and I waited in a line that went out the door and wrapped around the building. Though we had made a reservation, the restaurant was packed for the holiday weekend. Fortunate to have arranged seating on the patio near the live music, we began with a large margarita and immediately felt like we were on vacation. This was not my first visit to this restaurant, having lived in the desert for 25 years. However, this visit was unique in that I truly noticed how magical this place can be. The food, service and entertainment were in harmony, making this a memorable experience.
We began with appetizers. The ceviche was fresh with bright flavors of cilantro and lime. Upon our server’s recommendation, we also shared the black bean pizza with grilled chicken. This was not an item I would have ordered on my own but I will enjoy it time and again when I’m in Palm Springs. More like a tostada, this pizza was loaded with tender chicken, cheese and black beans with bites of Anaheim chilies. I will also note the guacamole we shared was a large portion of chunky deliciousness. And for the first time in many visits, we received warm tortilla chips for our salsa and guacamole! What a difference that makes.
Avoiding the common yet safe selections from the Combinations section of the menu, we all ordered from the House Specials section. I ordered the Camarones Al Mojo De Ajo: 5 large shrimp sautéed in garlic and butter with rice and vegetables. This entrée was offered with soup or salad and I opted for a very tasty, slightly spicy bowl of chicken tortilla soup. It was full of flavor and crisp tortilla strips; I could have enjoyed this as my meal! The only downside to my meal was peeling the shrimp, though in their defense, the menu clearly states “shrimp still in their shells” so I knew what I was in for. The flavors were spot on and the rice was soft and moist, unlike the dried out Spanish rice I receive at most other Mexican restaurants.
My friends raved about their dishes as well, which included a chimichanga the size of my head (well maybe not that big) and their Camarones Chipotle which, as the name implies, is a generous portion of peeled shrimp served with a mildly spicy chipotle sauce. For the bacon lovers (and who isn’t?) the Camarones Diablos offers large shrimp wrapped in savory bacon and served with rice and vegetables, finished with a spicy diablo sauce. We often order carne asada and fajitas but this visit was a day we decided we would try something we had never tried before. I don’t know that I will ever go back to my old favorites.
We had to finish with dessert, though there was little room after the amazing feast presented before us. My friends would share a decadent chocolate fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream while I chose a lighter treat of tequila lime flavored sorbet. Desserts were beautifully plated and were far too much for us to finish.
Whether you are looking for a great place for margaritas, live music with friends or a romantic dinner for two, Las Casuelas Terraza is a place for locals and tourists alike. I would recommend trying this restaurant again for the first time and if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to try some new things, you may discover what makes this restaurant a piece of Palm Springs’ history. Located downtown on South Palm Canyon, north of Baristo, Las Casuelas is open seven days per week offering lunch and dinner and breakfast on weekends. Learn more about this restaurant and the Delgado family at www.lascasuelas.com