What you need to know about Carlos Salgado’s new Palm Springs restaurant

Carlos Salgado Taco Maria
Anne Watson photo

Taco Maria, Carlos Salgado’s esteemed Cal-Mex restaurant in Costa Mesa, has a hip desert sister at the Palm Springs Ace Hotel. Chef’s new menu debuted there Feb. 1. Expect Salgado to tweak the lineup at the new King’s Highway as he continues to roll out dishes, co-mingling classic mainstays, such as the Desert Highway Burger, with seasonal offerings such as his winter vegetable pozole and marinated beets. And now for the fun facts:

  • Variations from the King’s Highway menu are also available at the hotel bar, patio, poolside, and through room service.
  • Looking for tacos? You won’t find exact matches of the ones you’ve enjoyed at Taco Maria, but trust they’re made in the same spirit: Both shops use tortillas made from imported heirloom corn, but Taco Maria makes these by hand while King’s Highway has them delivered from a Los Angeles tortilleria that follows Salgado’s exacting specifications.
  • Executive chef is Carlo Guardado, most recently chef de cuisine at Playground in DTSA.
  • Expect special menus tied to area events, such as Coachella
  • King’s Highway will host chef events as Taco Maria does. Salgado says, “I can’t announce anything yet, but there’s fun stuff in the works.” To be among the first to know, follow @tacomaria, @kingshighwaydiner and @acehotelpalmsprings

➤And …. a few words from Salgado on how the partnership went down:
“Taco Maria attracts people from all around Southern California, and the Ace people seem to have done their research. Apparently, they like the work we’re doing. They didn’t know that we at Taco Maria were already fans of theirs. I’ve stayed in almost all of the hotels and always had really good experiences. And as a fan and student of hospitality—you know, good food and good service—I’ve always really respected the work they do. One week, Taco Maria had a number of reservations with Ace Hotel email addresses attached, and we thought something was up. Later that week, they reached out to us about the possibility of a partnership.

➤On accepting this new challenge:
“I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to do—it’s obviously far away from Orange County, and it’s a different style of cuisine. Of course the scale, the volume is totally different. And we’re committed to excellence at Taco Maria. But the more I learned about them, I found like-minded people, highly creative. It was sort of like entering an Aaron Sorkin film where I realized I was surrounded by smart people with a lot of great ideas. It was a pleasure to speak with them about the process, and in turn, it’s been a pleasure to work with them.

➤On Ace Hotel’s standards:
“It’s a really fun property. It’s kind of like Taco Maria in that they aspire to do really great work and put forth good service and a good product, doing away with the unnecessary trappings of luxury that would just cost you more.

➤On his pick for King’s Highway’s executive chef:
“Chef Carlo is also Mexican. We sort of come from similar backgrounds; he’s from an immigrant family as well. In our cuisine, we both want to explore our identity and be very close to the earth. We had been sort of hovering around each other, wanting to work together somehow, but we didn’t have any openings at Taco Maria. But then as soon as I put out the word—sort of quietly in our network of peers and colleagues—that we were looking to do something in Palm Springs, Carlo came to me and said, ‘Well, I love the desert, what are you doing out there? I was married at Joshua Tree, I love Palm Springs, my wife and I have talked about living out there.’ And I said, ‘I love the desert. I traveled out there a lot when I was growing up, too. I was married at Joshua Tree, too.’ And then we realized that we had a lot of really similar sensibilities. Carlo is hard-working, incredibly intelligent, has a well-selected set of influences and sensibilities. It was a natural fit. We quickly became fast friends. I trust Carlo, I haven’t known him long, but I feel like I know him well as a chef, and as a friend, and I trust him to carry the banner for Taco Maria.

➤On the horizon:
“This is my focus right now. I’m very happy with the results. I love the style of the venue as well. We have a lot of urges to get out, because there are so many cool ideas for things we can do in Palm Springs. This is going to be my focus for awhile. Although I would still very much like to do something here in Orange County. And of course we’re already looking, because these things take time. I want to build an institution in the heart of the Mexican American community here in Orange County, but something that’s for everyone, something that applies the same sensibilities that we have at Taco Maria.”

Read more on Chef Carlos Salgado here.

King’s Highway Diner
701 E Palm Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA
Instagram: @kingshighwaydiner
Facebook: Kings Highway Palm Springs

Open daily 7 a.m. to 3 pm, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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