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"Come Back And Dance"

The Starlite Lounge

I’ve often imagined what it might have been like to have hung out in Palm Springs during the 1960’s. When Frank Sinatra was king and style was key, class was cool and a way of life. I have spent much time in the fabled city where my parents have a classic ranch style home on a golf course and the retirees are still livin’ it up. Fortunately, the sweet decor of the era has found a new and suitable home right under our noses and right alongside the I-5 Freeway.

Owned by several noteables about town, including Casbah owner, Tim Mays, and musician, Steve Poltz, the Starlite Lounge is a glimpse into an earlier time that still manages to eerily bring you back to a modern reality. The very first thing anyone will notice when they walk in the front door is the hexagonal entry portal. This is a piece of art as well as a serviceable entrance. It almost feels like a scene from a James Bond movie. As you flow through, you are met by a dazzling sight. This place is beautiful.

The bar is sunken below ground level which creates a cool effect when you are sitting in chairs, not stools, around the counter. The back bar has long wooden slats that stretch from bar to ceiling with criss-crossed shelves displaying many worldly liquors and liqueurs. Overhead is a chandelier of unique design that seems like stars dangling in our midst. Delicate chromed cylinders hang from the ceiling finished off with points of light. The overhead lamps which light up the black leather booths have a Flintstone quality in their design. Almost like wood or stone plates that surround the bulbs creating patterened shadows on the walls behind. The walls are built up with uneven layers of stacked slate seeming almost like a puzzle to be pulled apart but impossible to reassemble correctly.

As you follow through the bar and dining room, you will go up a small stair to find the patio and back bar. This is an open air lounge area with tables and hightops, and a second full bar. There are heat lamps for the colder nights, but this is an ideal place for a late night cocktail on a warm summer evening. What this outer bar lacks in design, is made up for by the open sky and tasty beverages. There is a perfect cocktail menu to suit the Starlite’s thoughtful design. Crafted by Kate and Matt, these cocktails are sure to win you over in the first sip.

We sat down behind the back bar in a darker part of the dining room. Smoothe soul music danced around our ear bones, contrasting the retro decor of the room. I would have loved some 1960’s references in the music, but I guess you don’t always want to pigeon hole yourself too much. This area is my least favorite spot to sit here, it tends to be abit dark and you feel like you are not a part of the main action. The booth was comfortable, though, and our server was prompt and efficient. We started off by ordering cocktails, a starlite mule and a galapagos. The mule comes served in a copper mug which ends up having a chilly handle and offers the feeling of being akin to a miner or a pirate. This is a delicious blend of Rain Organic Vodka, ginger beer, lime and Angostura Bitters and it is absolutely refreshing. My galapagos had pisco, black pepper syrup, lime, grapefruit and kaffir leaves, it was nice but I wasn’t stunned.

I next tried the gunga din, 12 year old Monte Cristo Rum with earl grey tea and cardamom. This was a clever concoction and I was able to piece out all of the flavors. The floral quality from the tea really hit on with the fragrant cardamom. I finished with the sazerac, a rye whiskey concoction that was made with Herbsainte instead of the traditional absinthe, but it was still well balanced and managed to perk up my taste buds. One of my compatriots ordered the kentucky colonel which is a whiskey version of the mule, I preferred the vodka one for it’s simplicity in satiating one’s thirst. There are some wine choices as well, which I have unfortunately never been overly impressed with, their by-the-glass offerings sound interesting, but don’t always deliver. I tend toward the cocktail list which is an $8.00 bargain.

We ordered some almonds and olives to start up our appetites. The olives were well marinated and plump, the almonds were, well almonds. I felt for the $5.00 sticker price that they could have been roasted and spiced, but these were plain. We had a golden beet sald which was tossed with spicy arugula, bathed in a creamy herb dressing. The fresh avocado was a nice touch and blended in well with all of the flavors. The brazilian fish stew seemed more like a thai fish stew with coconut milk and cilantro, however there wasn’t much fish swimming in these waters. I guess the fried plantains that accompanied were enough to dub the soup appropriately. These were lightly sweet and offered a texture sensation that complemented the complex flavors of thebroth.

I vollied between the crispy jidori chicken piccata (which takes 25 minutes to prepare) or the hamburger. I ordered the burger and was sorely dissapointed. It seems that the conerstone to a house like this should always be a decent burger. I ordered mine medium and it came out partially uncooked, somewhat like a frozen patty that was seared on a not well heated grill. Some scarce and melted gruyere cheese with a few carmelized onions dressed my unedible patty. The homemade pickle was a tad astringent for my palate, but the frites were skinny and well fried, just the way I like them. I managed to flag down our server and voice my complaint. I was rewarded and surprised with a brand new perfectly cooked, but somehow flavorless sandwich. I, being hungry, ate the whole thing and looked forward to some dessert to wash away this painful memory.

Here we were not to be let down. We shared the ice cream sandwich which came on a delightful homemade toffee crunch cookie. At once chewy and then crunchy with the lovely flavor of sweet toffee and filled with creamy vanilla ice cream, this was to be the crowning moment of my evening here. The dessert was ample for three of us to share and left me thinking about the night when I would come here and greedily horde one all to myself.

The service became a bit spotty as the evening wore down and I felt we had to wrestle with eye contact to get our servers attention. With our bill he offered a taste of a new bourbon he had become fond of. This was a nice gesture, as we got to talking about boozes and such throughout the meal. Neither of us were thrilled by the whiskey, it being a bit nutty on the finish, but the genuineness of the gesture was not wasted on us.

Once again this team has done something right and I am sure they will have continued success. Drop on by and sample some of the wonderful cocktail creations or treat yourself to some friendly food and hum a little Sammy Davis Jr.’s"Mr. Bojangles" as you waltz through the door and into another era.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-358-9766
  • Name: Starlite Lounge
  • Address: 3175 India Street