Pappy and Harriet’s is the most popular watering hole in Pioneertown, California. Though, to be fair, there isn’t much in the way of competition.
The restaurant and music venue sits directly adjacent to the increasingly popular Pioneertown Motel and, well, not much else. It’s a desert rose, located about 130 miles from Los Angeles and 30 miles from Palm Springs. In the mid-1940s, this spot hosted movie stars and filmmakers who shot Westerns on a nearby lot. The building inhabited by Pappy and Harriet’s was part of the set until 1972, when Francis Aleba purchased it and opened a restaurant called the Cantina. Ten years later, Aleba’s daughter (Harriet) and her husband (Claude “Pappy” Allen) changed the name to create Pappy and Harriet’s—now celebrated for its BBQ and family style Tex-Mex.
Operating under the mantra,“If you’re in a hurry, you’re in the wrong place,” the staff’s relaxed approach is well-regarded. And the food is good enough to be featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.” All the fare is fresh, with the meats and seafood cooked over Mesquite wood on an outdoor grill. If overwhelmed by the sheer amount of smoky and seductive offerings, you’d be smart to mull the options over some mashed potatoes and gravy—a simple side dish worthy of acclaim.
In addition to what’s on the menu, diners enjoy live music five nights a week (Pappy and Harriet’s is closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Monday nights are marked by open mics that encourage performances from underground artists—very different from the household names that perform on the other four nights of the week. In early 2017, Paul McCartney played at Pappy and Harriet’s with only three hours notice. Toro y Moi, Grizzly Bear, the Arctic Monkeys, and Vampire Weekend have all played here, as well.
Noted among the hottest “hidden gems” in the country by Billboard Magazine in 2012, Pappy and Harriet’s is not so much undiscovered as it is remote. Isolated, yes, but certainly on the map.