One thing Californians do arguably better than any other State is relaxed luxury, and the Avalon Hotel embodies that to perfection. The mid century boutique resort, brought back to life by celebrity designer Kelly Wearstler, juxtaposes a timeless, manicured glamour with a playful California attitude. The Avalon boasts a privileged downtown location, yet remains so hidden that we passed it, twice, before figuring out how to get in. We weren’t staying at the Avalon, but we had a hunch that stopping by for a meal at Chi Chi, the Avalon’s intimate poolside restaurant, was an opportunity not to be missed. We were right.
Run by Tara Lazar, a Palm Springs native and talented self-taught chef, Chi Chi serves up the best of what California has to offer: fresh, health-conscious food made with local, seasonal ingredients and Latin-inspired flavors and spice. Like any good Californian, Tara clearly has an inherent taste for the food of Latin America, and having spent childhood summers in Mexico and traveling beyond in South America, she has first-hand exposure to authentic Latin dishes that qualifies her to reinterpret them with skill and soul. The result can best be described as California on a plate. The menu at Chi Chi is versatile and fun, allowing you to eat in any manner you like; graze through shared starters, salads and skewers or go for a more traditional multi-course structure.
A meal at Chi Chi feels less like a formal restaurant affair and more like a really chic garden party. Made-from-scratch dishes recall home cooking but are vibrant in flavor and color and full of texture and crunch. The restaurant itself is an open space that intermingles between indoor and outdoor, giving it a sophisticated but light atmosphere. The service at Chi Chi is completely without pretense and the staff is happy to help you whether you’re in the mood for an order of fruit with chili and lime followed by a refreshing homemade paleta or a long, satiating dinner. Exotic ingredient combinations and zesty flavors characterize both the food and the cocktails, making Chi Chi not only a great place to eat, but also to sip on an evening drink in a magical candlelit setting. If you’re seeking that laid back vibe that California is known for, try visiting during Happy Hour when there is live music, an under-$10-menu and the poolside scene feels a bit more social. One last word of advice? If you plan to go to Chi Chi, you might want to consider reserving a room at the Avalon because, we assure you, it’ll be hard to leave.
* We received a press discount while dining at Chi Chi but all opinions expressed are our own. We reserve the right to only review restaurants that we recommend personally to our friends and family.
What to Order
- squash blossom queso fundido
- zucchini and goat cheese croquetas
- chicken tinga sopes
- any of the salads
- the skewers (a selection of 3 can take the place of a main)
- langostinos veracruzana
- banana leaf steamed salmon
- cochinita pibil
- plant-based chocolate cake (G.F.)
- organic chi pops (paletas)
- spicy Peruvian cocktail