Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace

Snow outside Pappy and Harriet's
Photos by Mr. DG

There have been some major rainstorms in Southern California this winter, and one of the biggest storms dumped almost 4.5 inches of rain in the Coachella Valley in three days last month. Keep in mind that the Coachella Valley gets a usual total of 5.23 inches in one year. The rains and cold temperatures dropped a large amount of snow on the surrounding mountains here in the desert, and the vistas were breathtaking! On the first day of good weather, Mr. DG went to Pioneertown, a small village of 350 people within Yucca Valley, to enjoy the snow and take some photos.

Quirky and colorful details

Photos by Mr. DG

While he was in Pioneertown, Mr. DG had lunch at Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. This is a legendary honkytonk that hosts a wide variety of musical acts. Performers such as Lucinda Williams, Donovan, Wynona Judd, Gene Autry and Mick Fleetwood are reported to have been fans of the bar and/or the music scene according to the reliable information source that is Wikipedia. The decor is, naturally, woodsy and Western, with walls filled by colorful license plates from all across the nation; photos of musical acts who are fans or who've performed there; and a few random stuffed moose and other fauna. There is a bar with a couple pool tables for those not looking to have a full meal.

On this first visit, Mr. DG enjoyed a hearty Cuban sandwich at Pappy and Harriet's. Roasted pork loin, ham, pickles and Swiss cheese on pressed French bread. Homemade pinto beans and thick steak fries accompanied the sandwich. He thought the food was better than expected, and so, knowing I have a slight predilection for trying new eateries, he wanted to get my opinion.

A kaleidoscope of license plates on the walls; crispy Cuban sandwich with homemade pinto beans and steak fries
Photos by Mr. DG

A week later, we made the approximately one-hour drive from Indio to Pioneertown. As a born-and-bred Angeleno, I've seen snow maybe a handful of times in my life....I've never actually had the experience of feeling snow fall on me. While it was too warm to get that first snowfall experience in Pioneertown, at least we got to see some snow and enjoy some good food.

A generous portion of guacamole with salsa and chips
Photo by moi

We started with freshly-made guacamole. I have to say that the quantity of guacamole that is given to you, along with an ample basket of chips and salsa (if you like), is a great deal. All of that was $3.75! And the guacamole tasted of fresh avocado with little flecks of something spicy, perhaps minced jalapeno or serrano chile. Big, beautiful chunks of avocado would surface every so often. Gorgeous! SUCH a bargain and tasty to boot. To think I spent $7 for a fraction of the amount of guacamole and chips at the Tamale Festival. Grrr.

A close-up of the juicy frank; the chili dog in all its glory
Photos by moi

A chili dog is something I often crave but rarely ever have; I figure if I'm going to indulge myself, I want it to be a good quality dog with great chili -- not some cheap substitute. Pappy and Harriet's has many tempting items on their menu, especially because the meats are grilled over mesquite for smoky goodness. Ultimately, I couldn't resist trying their chili dog since it had Pappy's homemade chili adorning an all-beef hot dog. The chili is filled with chunks of mesquite grilled tri-tip and carne asada. There were no beans incorporated into the chili on the dog - just tender, falling apart chunks of beef in a rich sauce flavored with tomatoes, onions and peppers and spices. The hot dog frank itself was surprisingly juicy and flavorful. I tried to capture its juiciness in the photo above, but you may just have to go try it for yourself to get the full effect. The frank tasted of real beef - not synthetic. Each bite I took seemed to result in an explosion of juice. I'm making myself hungry just writing about it. The hot dog bun itself was fresh, soft and lightly toasted for a touch of crispness.

I chose a green salad as my side with a refreshing cilantro-lime vinaigrette that hinted of Middle Eastern flavors. The salad was made of romaine lettuce, slices of cucumber, red onion and cherry tomatoes. I really liked the salad dressing. If I were to guess, the ingredients included cumin, mint, dried herbs, olive oil and lemon juice. It was acidic but not overly so. The accompanying homemade pinto beans were savory, not sweet, which is a plus with me, and they were a little spicy yet nicely seasoned. They were not overwhelming, just a great side to the delicious chili dog and salad.

All of this was only $6.95! What a bargain. It's a very healthy amount of food for that price, but more importantly, the quality of the food is wonderful.

Pesto chicken sandwich w/roasted red peppers on pressed French bread; a close-up look at the cheese fries
Photos by moi

Mr. DG ordered the pesto chicken sandwich with a side of pinto beans and CHEESE FRIES! Yum. The cheese fries were thick-cut fries covered in melted, shredded cheese, green onions and chewy bits of real bacon. What is not to like here?! I so could go for these right now. The chicken breast in the sandwich was not too thick or thin and it was moist and flavorful. Roasted red pepper topped the chicken breast, and sundried tomato pesto added a smoky flavor -- or perhaps this was from the mesquite grilling of the chicken? Mr. DG enjoyed the fact that the pressed French bread was not too bready. He said it was crunchy, yet easy to bite through. I am not a fan of struggling to gnaw off  a bite from super-bready or super-chewy bread and neither is Mr. DG. The sandwich with cheese fries and pinto beans cost $9.95.

The Donnas - just one of the bands that have performed at Pappy and Harriet's
Photo by Mr. DG

If the food I've described doesn't interest you, then maybe the musical acts will. Pappy and Harriet's attracts lesser-known names to famous names, so there is bound to be something that will entertain. One wall is covered with photos of various performers with scribbled messages and autographs. Last year, the Eagles of Death Metal performed at Pappy's. Trivia note: Mr. DG went to Palm Desert High with Josh Homme and Jesse Hughes from EofDM.

Pioneertown was built in 1946 as a "living movie set" by Hollywood investors that included Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the original Sons of the Pioneers. It was a place where actors could make movies using the fa├žades, while the interiors were actually attractions the public could enjoy. Bowling alleys, ice cream parlors and motels were built for the public to patronize what appeared to be a Western saloon, stable or jail on the exterior. Over fifty films and TV shows were filmed in Pioneertown. Pappy and Harriet's opened in 1982 and has become a legendary stop for music lovers -- and this food lover, in particular. I can't wait to go back!

Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace
53688 Pioneertown Road
Pioneertown, CA 92268
(760) 365-5956

Thurs-Sun 11am-1am
Monday 5pm-12am
Closed Tues. and Wed.

Check out the movies that were made in Pioneertown
Photos by Mr. DG


  1. Great review Donna! Just reading it made my stomach growl...

  2. Thanks, Dave! My stomach was growling, too, as I wrote it. I definitely want to return soon. Maybe if you come out to visit, we can go together.

  3. oh...those cheese fries. really. i think it's a bit too far for dinner tonight for me, eh?

  4. Hi, Meg! Your next visit to So Cal may require a detour to Pioneertown... Plus, you could turn it into a photo adventure. Maybe it could be a write-off?? :)

  5. your photos and posts are great! nice meeting you today at the FBF!

  6. Hi, Hong! So great to meet you today @foodblogforum. Thank you for sharing your experience with FoodBuzz with me. Hope to see you again in the near future!


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