I’d hate to be the ice cream delivery guy right now.
Yesterday, someone from Indiana told me that this winter feels colder than the previous five that she and her husband have spent here in the hopes of escaping the Midwestern frost. I concur. This year has been a weird one, meteorologically speaking. First, while the rest of the country was sweltering in headline-making heat, we enjoyed a mild summer. Now, even the snowbirds are freezing! Thankfully, though, no matter how frigid it gets outside, it’s always toasty inside Casa Blanca Restaurant in Desert Hot Springs.
Every visit to Casa Blanca conjures up a feeling of warmth in more than one sense of the word. It’s no wonder why it always makes me feel better after a trying day. First, there’s the atmosphere. Vibrant colors grace every nook and cranny of the interior, from the mustard painted walls, to the red-coated floors, to the cobalt blue upholstered booths. Psychologically, sitting inside Casa Blanca gives the same effect as a comforting embrace does. I’ve never had to don my jacket or sweater while eating there, either. The temperature inside is always cozy, which is a good indication that there’s something hot cooking in the kitchen.
It’s commonplace to hear the sizzling of a fajita skillet at least once during every visit to Casa Blanca. If you order something other than the fajitas, though, you can still expect a hot plate. My usual is the mulita – a big, crunchy, stuffed quesadilla that comes with your choice of meat, sour cream, and guacamole. During my last visit, though, I decided to feed an unusually large appetite and ordered the chile verde plate.
Seldom have any of my more self-indulgent decisions been as satisfying. The thick pork chunks were tender and juicy. The savory green chile sauce had a subtly spicy kick to it. The refried beans that accompanied the chile verde were fresh, and the warm tortillas made the perfect edible spoon. I can’t believe it’s only $10.99 per plate, especially since there are some places out there that get away with charging much more than that for significantly inferior food.
Then, there’s the Casa Blanca service. One kind-faced server greeted us at the door and showed us to our booth right away. Another server was quick to take and deliver our drink order. Never pushy, she gave us extra time to look over the menu but made sure to come back before too long. The busser always had a genuine smile on his face as he worked, even during a mishap at our table. A special little someone at our table was brought apple juice in a Styrofoam cup that he punctured with his straw… twice! (If you’re over three feet tall, three years old, and drink liquids other than apple juice, I’m looking for an alternate dining partner.) Although it was unnerving for me, never did our busser or server insinuate annoyance with us. The staff doesn’t say much more than what’s needed, but they do radiate the kind of warm hospitality you might expect at your tia’s house.
And let us not forget the margaritas! I saved this part for last because the Casa Blanca margarita needs special acknowledgment. In this case, the last is definitely not least. The Casa Blanca margarita is my favorite margarita. This is not hyperbole. Their regular margarita is made with Don Julio Reposado tequila, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, and fresh lime. Even their “economy” margarita, made with well tequila, margarita mix, Triple Sec, and fresh lime is fantastic. Their margaritas always come in a hefty, wide-mouthed margarita glass that is perfectly chilled; and, although it’s the one frosty element that is a part of every visit, it still manages to keep me pleasantly toasty.
If You Go – Casa Blanca Restaurant: 66370 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs. 760.251.5922
You know what else keeps Sarah warm and toasty? Getting tweets from new friends. Send Sarah your restaurant suggestions and feedback on Twitter at twitter.com/iheartdates.
(as originally published in The Bottom Line Magazine and on www.psbottomline.com on January 13, 2012)