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HOMETOWN GUIDE : Coachella Valley a la Carte : Dining in the Neighborhood

January 12, 1986| Charles Perry | A selection of the better restaurants in the Coachella Valley, by Charles Perry, The Times' restaurant critic in Orange County. Prices listed are for food only; tax, tips and beverages not included

Billy Reed's Restaurant, 1800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (619) 325-1946. Grand and palatial, like many a restaurant out here, but in an American mode: Plates decorate the walls; the piano bar is like a huge living room. It specializes in American food, of course--big breakfasts and lots of steaks, sandwiches and pies. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. Dinner for two about $30. Cattails, 68-369 Highway 111, Cathedral City; (619) 324-8263. A rather quiet and intimate restaurant for these parts, done in muted desert shades. Among regular French / Continental items on the changing blackboard menu is an unusual roast duckling, marinated in brown sugar and served with a wonderful honey-juniper berry sauce. Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. MasterCard or Visa accepted. Dinner for two about $90.

Desert Wharf, 72-839 Highway 111 (in Palms to Pines Plaza East), Palm Desert; (619) 568-FISH. Basically a fish market, the Wharf also serves ultrafresh seafood cocktails, sandwiches and fried fish platters (also mesquite-broiled fish, but only 4-7 p.m. weekdays). Additional tables outdoors in the arcade. Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. No credit cards. Dinner for two about $15. Gallery Louisiane, 73-520 El Paseo, Palm Desert; (619) 346-8999. This pretty, green-and-white room happens to be the only place in the desert serving Cajun food. The menu is heavily in the Paul Prudhomme style, including blackened redfish that's made with genuine redfish flown in from the Gulf. The entertainment is genuine live jazz. Open for dinner nightly. MasterCard, American Express and Visa accepted. Dinner for two about $40. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant, 42-540 Bob Hope Drive (at Highway 111), Rancho Mirage; (619) 340-5531. Another palace, this one serving rich, mild Mexican food for north-of-the-border palates. It's the usual selection of Mexican dishes, plus a unique and remarkably good pollo fundido --more or less a deep-fried chicken burrito drowned in melted cheese. Open for lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards accepted. Dinner for two about $25.

Gaston's, 777 E. Tahquitz-McCallum Way, Palm Springs; (619) 320-7750. Generally referred to as the best French restaurant in Palm Springs, Gaston's keeps the right company; it shares its sunken plaza with Cartier and Vuitton. It serves traditional haute cuisine --heavy on mustard, mushrooms and cream--and has the proper gourmet clout for a power lunch. Open for lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards accepted. Dinner for two around $100.

Louise's Pantry, 124 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (619) 325-5124. An institution--people sometimes line up outside--and it's easy to see why. It's an honest, old-fashioned American diner, cheerful and sun-yellow inside, with good orange juice and pecan rolls, great sandwiches and a real, honest-to-goodness soda fountain. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; closed during summer season. No credit cards. Dinner for two around $20.

Shield's Date Garden, 80-225 Highway 111, Indio; (619) 347-0996. It's in a date grove and looks much like a packing shed, and the only things to eat or drink are ice cream cones and milkshakes, which come in only one flavor: date. Go ahead. You'll feel like a fool if you go to Indio without having a date shake. An adjoining theater shows the film, "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. No credit cards. Date shakes $1.75. Wally's Desert Turtle, 71-775 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; (619) 568-9321. This is definitely what a lot of people come out here for: a larger-than-life environment (gold and mirrors everywhere) and an old-fashioned French menu of rich, expensive food. You can go from caviar to tournedos perigourdines to profiteroles in one dizzying glut. Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. Dinner for two about $100.

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