Betting on Birba in Palm Springs

Living in Rancho Mirage—the very heart of the Palm Springs Valley—I like to think that I have my finger on the pulse of all the great things the desert communities have to offer.  But sometimes I just miss out on something that it seems everyone knows about except me.  And that was the case with the amazing indoor/outdoor restaurant in Palm Springs called Birba.  www.birbaps.com  Sister eatery of Cheeky’s, www.cheekysps.com, one of my favorite breakfast and lunch haunts, Birba was a revelation on my first of what I’m sure will become many visits to this new favorite dinner and late-night hangout.

My buddy Gusto—a real regular at the restaurant and its full-service premium bar—and I were seated at a primo table in the center of the beautifully lit outdoor dining room.  How better to start a great meal than with a bourbon hot toddy to whisk away the evening’s mild winter chill?  Between the cocktail and the beautifully designed and strategically placed outdoor heaters, we couldn’t have been more comfortable.  And bar manager Michael kept me entertained with a variety of some of his creatively mixed drinks, which include concoctions like “Hello Nancy,” “Chinka,” “Lemongrass Ricky,” and “Gin Lift,” made with house-infused sage Juniper syrup.

All that sipping brought on an appetite.  As we perused the menu—which, by the way, has a wide selection of vegetarian and gluten-free choices—two of Gusto’s friends pulled up at the neighboring table and, before I knew it, we were ordering up a storm.  We started with a beautiful antipasto, the Tricolore Chopped Salad, and the most delectable of them all, soft and creamy Di Stefano Burrata served with eggplant caponata and toast.  I had heard that Birba’s wood-burning oven pizzas were to-die-for, and I was by no means disappointed.  The Egg, Pancetta, Pecorino, Spring Onion combo was delicious and all the other iterations also sounded amazing.  But Birba is about much much more than just pizza.   Gusto’s pals at the adjacent table couldn’t silence their moans while indulging in the braised oxtail entrée.  Our Nonna’s Meatballs were amazing.  And Lamb Scottadito (lamb chop lollipops!) with Cannellini Beans were delicious.

Frankly, I was stuffed.  But not so stuffed I couldn’t have a few bites of the Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart.  Birba truly has it all.  Open from Happy Hour to late into the evening, the small comfortable indoor bar seating, outdoor table service, and spacious banquettes surrounding long firepits have something for everyone.  From cocktails and nibbles, to fine dining and late-night lounging, how could I have missed this place until now?  I definitely need to get out more.