Things are changing in the old Mojave desert, especially in Yucca Valley, but maybe we knew that already. Hell, I’ve been going there long enough that I remember when the food options were pretty much limited to a Sizzler and a gas station hot dog. Now there’s fine, or at least hipsterish, dining. Up in Flamingo Heights there’s now La Copine Kitchen serving beignets and flax and whey English muffins but I wasn’t feeling quite strong enough for that.
Parry and Harriet’s in Pioneertown remains my idea of a good time in the desert (that's Harriet and Pappy above). I remember the first time I went there, 20 some years ago. I saw all the pickup trucks and bikes parked outside and thought it looked kind of scary, but I braved it and went in, and of course it was just fine. I seem to recall I had a steak sandwich and quite a few beers. It felt good – and there was a band playing that had a kickass lead guitarist. There often is. This is Giant Sand with Pappy and Harriet's as a backdrop.
Returning there this weekend for an early Saturday lunch with a couple of Anglo-Dutch pals who are driving across the States in a rented RV, there were more bikes and bikers there than I’d ever seen, and it wasn’t even noon. I guess the boys were having their brunch-time brews before hitting the road. Before we were settled and served, the place had emptied out.
The Pappy and Harriet menu featured, would you believe (well yes, you probably would), kale salad. I didn’t order it, obviously. I had the Desert Burger, which you see here. (That stuff on the plate that looks like an explosions of cheese and fries, is in fact cheese fries.)
There was no band playing at that time of day, though there was a gently decaying taxidermy moose right above our heads:
And there is the wall of fame, photographs of musicians who’ve passed through the place at one time or another. There’s Peaches and Robert Plant – side by side but in separate frames – something symbolic in that, no doubt.
But the most impressive change in recent years in Yucca Valley has been the arrival of the Kimi Grill, an honest to goodness good quality Japanese restaurant, attached to the Travelodge motel on the west end of town.
The sushi looked like this – the squid with caviar was my favorite:
I think they get through a lot of flowers. And of course you may ask yourself, how does a restaurant in the middle of the desert get sushi-grade fish? And I suppose the answer is they get it the same way that restaurants NOT in the desert get their sushi-grade fish. I think we all know by now that freshness is no virtue whatsoever when it comes to sushi.
Elsewhere, only the very smallest change has affected the Route 62 Diner, which is now Carla’s Route 62 Diner. Décor and menu remain the same, the latter featuring dishes named after rock and roll stars. I had the corned beef hash and scrambled egg – pretty standard diner fare, but I felt better for knowing it was named the Buddy Holly.
Wisest to avoid the Chubby Checker, I thought.