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Welcome to ThePalmSpringsLocal.com, your premier resource to the Coachella Valley’s best, from a local's perspective. Your guide, Denise Ortuno is, The Palm Springs Local, with over 38 years of desert living under her belt, experiencing all the wonders of the Coachella Valley. And now she’ll be sharing her knowledge with you! From dining to attractions, to events and much more, you’ll be able to “Go Where the Locals Go”.

Just click on the appropriate category to find what you’re looking for and you’ll be on your way. And make sure to check out Denise’s blog for special reviews and colorful commentary, as well as her “Out and About Videos” featuring local flavor.

It’s all here at ThePalmSpringsLocal.com, your guide to the Coachella Valley’s best….done local style!

Get Grubbin at The Lunch Box

By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                    rsz imag1873 1

Get grubbin on tasty sandwiches and salads at The Lunch Box in Palm Desert. All offered at reasonable prices.

In a secluded little spot in the industrial area off Joni Drive in Palm Desert, sits an awesome little sandwich shop. The interior is cheery, featuring an adhered white picket fence against a colorful painted mountain scape wall. Opened 5 years ago by Kari Kniegge and her business partner Steven Brock, The Lunch Box has been on the radar of local sandwich lovers and even visiting foodies who are in the loop.

Kniegge’s love for sandwiches started as a child, when her mom had a sandwich shop of her own in North San Diego. Kniegge learned the ins and outs of the business, and waited until the time was right for her to open one of her own. While living in the Coachella Valley for over 20 years, she ripened her skills in the restaurant industry. After some time, she came face to face with and excellent opportunity to open a place her own. Although not easily seen by mainstream diners, the little spot is very well known to the multitude of businesses and those working in the Joni Drive area.

Their menu is a combination of some sandwich recipes from her mother, and some of her own creations. But there is a mainstay in all of the recipes, they are made with the freshest of ingredients, from high quality meats and vegetables, to homemade dressings and soups, and top notch breads from Bosch Bakery in Thousand Palms.

Speaking of the bread, one of the reasons that makes The Lunch Box’s sandwiches so good is what they do to the bread. On the sandwiches that don’t require toasting, or being pressed to melt cheese, the bread is steamed. That’s right, I said steamed. I didn’t even realize that it was a thing that you could do to bread, but apparently it is, and makes an amazing impact on a sandwich. The bread is steamed in a special bread steamer, and makes the bread super soft. It’s especially beneficial when used on sour dough, which can have a tendency to be a little on the hard/dry side.

When I asked Kniegge which one of the sandwiches was her favorite, she quickly pointed out that they all are. However, she did hone in a couple (most come with mayo, tomato and sprouts), one being the Pocket Full of Fallbrook, which is an homage to the decorated capital of avocados. The pocket refers to the pita bread which is steamed and filled with sliced avocado, jack cheese, tomato and alpha sprouts. The California Split is also a crowd pleaser, and one that I had the pleasure of trying. It is served on steamed sour dough bread, with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, bacon, jack cheese and avocado.  The sandwich was very well constructed, which is important as the filling to bread ratio needs to be balanced (I’m a stickler for it). All the ingredients married well together, as Kniegge said, this popular sandwich is like a super charged club. The bread really stood out to me. I’m telling you, that steaming of the bread thing is incredible, and brought a creamy element to the sandwich. So good!

Other sandwiches include the Turkey Terrific, with sliced turkey piled high on steamed squaw bread with alfalfa sprouts and tomato. The Cheese Makers Grilled Cheese, with sharp and jack cheese, tomato and red onion. And one sandwich that I will be trying on my next visit is The Missile, this taste adventure has pulled pork, thinly sliced ham, pickles, yellow mustard, BBQ sauce and Swiss cheese, all smash grilled on a French roll, can’t wait! There are many more sandwiches to choose from even some hotdogs as well.

Of course paring a sandwich with some comforting soup, or some chili is always a good idea. And The Lunch Box offers some fantastic soups, such as Beef Stroganoff, Garlic Mash and Chix Tortilla (offered mainly in cooler months).  

The Lunch Box also offers salads as well if you’re not in the mood for a sandwich. Salad selections include the Postal Salad, which has romaine, avocado, turkey, feta, cucumber and house made croutons. As well as their Chin-Chik Salad, with chicken, purple and green cabbage, carrot shreds, green onions, cilantro, chow mein crunchies, tossed their own peanut-sesame dressing. Plus others.

And if all of this weren’t enough for the little nook, they also offer limited breakfast from 7am to 10:30. Patrons can get a quick egg sandwich, burrito or bowl with jack cheese, ham, bacon or turkey. You even can get a special bagel named after her mother, Jan’s Bagel (toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion and tomato). Sandwich prices start at a mere $6.95, which is very impressive.

For excellent well priced sandwiches, salads and more, The Lunch Box is the perfect answer. As Kniegge says, “We just want to continue to provide quality food at reasonable prices”.

The Lunch Box is opened from 7am to 3pm, Monday through Friday and is located at 74-868 Joni Drive #1a, Palm Desert, 92260

760-610-1136

Gyro Steals the Show at Athena's

By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz imag1798

Athena Gyro in Palm Desert offers tradional Greek favorites, with their delicious Gyro stealing the show. 

It’s a debate of sorts on how to actually pronounce the delectable sandwich. Is the “G” leading the word, or is it silent? The answer is no, and yes…kind of. You are not doing a dance, so get the gy-rate out of Gyro. The easiest way to pronounce it is to sound it out a bit, YEE-roh. There you go! But in honesty, whether you can say it correctly it or not, it won’t change the fact that the Gyro is a fabulously hearty and delicious sandwich. And with a name of dish headlining the name of your restaurant, it better be good, and at Athena Gyro, it absolutely is.

Athena Gyro opened in the Bristol Farms Shopping Center Palm Desert in July 2016, and sits in the funky roundish building at one of the entrances of the center. It had been a long time dream of owner Alper (“Al”), to open his own restaurant, and after putting his savings into action, he finally did. As a lover of history, Al decided to name his restaurant after Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The charming restaurant reflects Al’s Greek and Turkish heritage, with many of his recipes passed down from his family, but with his own twist on them making the dishes uniquely his.

The Gyro is undoubtedly the star of the menu, and is offered in two different ways. Guests can either order it as a sandwich or served open faced with rice and the pita on the side. Al’s Gyro's are traditional, made with layers of seasoned lamb and beef placed on a Gyro Spit, and cooked rotisserie style with a heated lamp. Al’s Gyro meat does differ, as he likes to place onion and tomato at the top of the cone, which adds another level of flavor to the meat. The meat is then shaved off, and placed in the pita bread with red onion, tomato, romaine lettuce and tzatziki sauce. Al offers either lamb or chicken Gyros.

On my visit to Athena Gyro, I of course had to try the Gyro. I ordered mine as a sandwich on the appetizer side which comes with Spanakopita (phyllo dough filled with a feta cheese and spinach mixture). My Gyro sandwich was put together well, with the right ratio of meat to vegis, to pita. The pita was light and pillowy, lovingly hugging the filling. The meat was savory, with the addition of the tomato and onion dripping complementing it nicely. It was a very satisfying Gyro, one that I would happily order again.

Athena Gyro has more than just the sandwich. Al also has other mainstay Greek dishes on his menu which include, Mousaka (eggplant, potatoes, ground w/meat sauce topped with tzatziki sauce and baked), Kebabs (chicken or lamb) and even Falafels, plus many other items. Al’s favorite dishes at his restaurant include his soups, the Avgolemono (lemon, chicken and rice) and Fakes Soup (red lentil soup, made Al’s special way). He also points out that he makes a pretty mean Lemonade (lemons, Valencia oranges, Mexican limes, mint and a secret ingredient), which they actually make twice daily to keep up with demands. Of course his Baklava has become a crowd pleaser as well.

Athena Gyro is opened daily from 11am to 9pm, and their prices are very moderate. They offer a Lunch Special of a Gyro with a side of soup or salad and a beverage for only $8.99, as well as a Happy Hour from 3pm to 9pm with discounts on wine/beer and appetizers. On weekends make sure to ask about their featured specials which can range from Lamb Chops to Shrimp dishes.

Whether you’re in the mood for a meaty Gyro, Kebab, or other Greek favorites, Athena Gyro will delight you with their savory Greek dishes again and again.

Athena Gyro is located at 73-121 Country Club Drive, Suite E-7-8 Palm Desert, 92260

For more information visit www.athena-gyro.com

 

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