Oscar’s Cafe & Bar, a lovely meal in welcoming surroundings

Since its rather humble origins in the early 20th Century, the Coachella Valley has evolved into a fabled tourist destination for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is the model for indoor-outdoor living. For another, the cultural ambience is inclusive and world-class. And last but not least, let’s give a nod to the dizzying array of wonderful restaurants that can pleasure a palate.

Oscar’s Cafe and Bar is an affable representative of all these characteristics, designed that way by owner and proprietor Jeffrey Schmitz. A Kansas native, Jeffrey held his first hospitality-related position at the tender age of 13 at S. P. Allen’s in Wichita. “From the beginning, I so enjoyed seeing happy, satisfied customers, I knew this was a field I could do well in and feel good about.”

Through college and beyond, he worked his way up through every restaurant position except chef and eventually opened the very successful Bistro 303 in Kansas City. “It’s still going strong,” Jeffrey said, “and I travel there when I need to.”

He started visiting the low desert in 2000 and was surprised by how much he enjoyed it. His visits became more regular and eventually, the idea of opening an eatery here seemed both pleasurable and doable. “I knew it would demand a commitment to be here more often for longer periods – and that was just fine with me!”

Via a confluence of fortunate coincidences, the location of the former Crazy Mel’s became available and Jeffrey immediately pounced. “I had a vision and this wonderful space was more than capable of supporting it,” Jeffrey said.

Indeed, the dining options at this enviably located site in the heart of downtown are threefold. A cozy bistro-style bar opens French doors onto a separate dining patio nestled in an intimate plaza framed by a splashing fountain and tall bougainvillea. Misters and charming overhead lights lead the way to a well-appointed supper club … but more about that later. Shall we talk food first?

From 4 to 6 p.m., Oscar’s offers a prix fixe menu consisting of a multi-course meal for $15.99. My entrée of choice would have to be the succulent grilled pork chop (charred on the outside, meaty and moist on the inside, served with cranberry chutney, seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes). This dish is so beautifully prepared, it could win a beauty contest! For you harder core beef lovers, try the 10 ounce Prime Rib, also accompanied by vegetables and mashed potatoes.

I tried the Ahi Tuna (black and white sesame encrusted, pan seared nestled over white rice and avocado). Memorable. On the breakfast/brunch beat, the seafood omelet is chockfull of shrimp, crab and diced green onion, flourished with sherry and served smothered in Swiss cheese and Hollandaise.

During the luncheon hours, the Mediterranean Panini is healthy and delicious: artichoke hearts, avocado, roasted pepper and provolone wedded to an olive tapenade on fragrant sour dough.

Could there possibly be more? There could! On Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, Oscar’s supper club-like venue is home to the Carnival Cabaret produced by Dan Gore. It stars the inimitable James “Gypsy” Haake,“ who, at age 83, is the world’s oldest actively performing female impersonator.

“Gypsy is emcee and the star of this production … a structured, high-end theatrical female impersonator review,” Dan explained. “And he is an amazing performer, as are all of our guest entertainers. This is a great show – and probably not at all what you might be expecting!”

Actually, if you spent any time in Los Angeles in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, you may have heard of this celebrated impersonator. Gypsy headlined Los Angeles’ La Cage aux Folles nightclub and was the darling of Hollywood glitterati like Lucille Ball, Leslie Uggams, Bert Reynolds, Loni Anderson and Milton Berle, among scads of others. A desert dweller of longstanding, Gypsy was lured out of retirement for this cool gig which so perfectly fits his many talents. He is being honored with a space on Palm Springs’ Walk of Stars.

Looking for something a bit out of the ordinary? How about a lovely meal in welcoming surroundings that would also rate high on the experience scale? Are you a music lover? A pork chop lover? A fan of all Palm Springs downtown area has to offer? Then Oscar’s Cafe and Bar is the place for you. And for reservations or more info about Gypsy and the Carnival Cabaret, please visit producer@carnivalcabaret.com.

Oscar’s Cafe & Bar is located at 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs. Open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday Tea Dance at 4 p.m.

Happy Hour served on Monday - Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. with $2 Drink Special from 3 to 4 p.m.

Call (760) 325-1188 or visit www.oscarspalmsprings.com for more information.