By Daniel Paris
Cowboy Cantina “Santa Fe Chef” Johnny Vee has a love affair with Hatch chiles. He uses them roasted pickled, diced, and pureed throughout his imaginative menu. You will find the chiles in a hollandaise draped over the Big Tex Cowboy Ribeye, layered in their 1/2 lb. prime burgers in a relish or ample slice. They also show up in the sides lie the Green Chile Tater Tots, Green Chile Coleslaw, Smoked Potato Salad, and Santa Fe New Mexican Eggrolls. Though I have had Hatch chiles that bring tears to my eyes, the use of chiles here are more in the background with a slow, subtle burn.
I had the Cowboy Burger with diced green chiles and the heat was hardly noticed, but the layer of flavor they added enhanced my enjoyment.
The menu includes ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and vegan entrees.
House specialties include the Cantina Combo with a blue-corn Chile Relleno, Green Chicken Enchilada with herb green rice and ranch house black beans. Chicken Enchilada Mole topped with mole negro and crema also served with the rice and beans. Cowboy Bolognese with smoked brisket tossed in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce with rigatoni pasta. For the big appetite patrons, there is Big Daddy’s BBQ platter with brisket, pulled, pork, baby back ribs, mac-n-cheese, green chile slaw, and good old Texas toast.
The décor is refreshingly void of the many iterations of cowboy kitsch. There is a large bar area with ranch décor and my favorite, a glass encapsulated Sheriff Fortune Teller in the waiting area who will, for a mere dollar, set you straight by telling you (via ticket dispenser) to stop being a whiny baby and get busy with your life.
Reservations for dinner are a must as this is a popular place filled with happy customers.
72620 El Paseo, Palm Desert 92260
Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Monday through Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Thursday & Friday 11:00 a.m. – midnight
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – midnight