Carrying the Torch: Ernest Coffee Co. in Palm Springs

Don the Beachcomber's tiki torches

The tiki torches on top of the roof are one of the few remaining relics from the Palm Springs branch of Don the Beachcomber that occupied this building from its opening in 1953 through the ’80s. Like the Hollywood original, this desert sequel was a Polynesian-inspired hotspot frequented by celebrities.

Ernest Coffee Co. logo

Those restored torches now form the logo for Ernest Coffee Co., which opened in June 2014. The two entrepreneurs behind this independent coffeehouse, photographer Jaime Kowal and designer Chris Pardo, also paid tribute to the history of this site by calling it after Don the Beachcomber’s real name: Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt. (They also own neighboring bar Bootlegger Tiki, a nod to Don’s occupation before he essentially invented the tiki bar.)

Ernest Coffee Co. Palm Springs

It’s located on North Palm Canyon Drive in the Upper Design District of Palm Springs, so it’s convenient to some great mid-century modern furnishing stores and fun shops like Raymond | Lawrence and Shag: The Store.

Ernest Coffee Co. bagels

The only touch of tiki I noticed in this space was this Dynasty Easter Islander mug serving as a planter. Rather, the design is pretty industrial with concrete and reclaimed wood contrasting with bright red and silver metal chairs.

Banquette at Ernest Coffee Co.

Along the right wall, opposite the coffee bar, is a gray raised banquette and a library of faux book shelves. It’s the preferred spot for people to hunker down with their laptops to write the next Great American Novel.

Ernest Coffee Co. patio

A shaded patio runs along West Via Lola Street and continues to the entrance of Bootlegger Tiki. If you can take the heat, you can enjoy some nice views of the mountains.

Ernest Coffee Co. interior

Ernest serves up Stumptown Coffee and all the espresso drinks one would expect: americano, latte, mocha, etc. (plus iced versions, but no blended beverages). I hear they also make a mean dirty chai.

Ernest Coffee Co. iced latte

A large iced hazelnut latte was a refreshing pick-me-up after touring the nearby House of the Future (aka the “Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway”). Admittedly, I was also biding my time until Bootlegger Tiki opened at 4 p.m.

Ernest Coffee Co. beers

If you’re looking for something stronger, there’s also wine, mimosas with fresh orange juice and several bottled beers including Mana Wheat from Maui Brewing Co., Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Einstök Ölgerð Icelandic White Ale.

Ernest Coffee Co. pastries

A variety of pastries are available — almond croissants, muffins, danishes, date scones and chocolate escargot — plus bagels and oatmeal. In the afternoon, patrons can compose their own platters of cheese and charcuterie.

Ernest Coffee Co. mug

There’s a great display of merchandise with Ernest Coffee Co. logo coffee mugs ($8), tank tops ($20) and t-shirts ($25) with the logo or the slogan “Serious Coffee…Seriously”.

Ernest Coffee Co. shirts

I snagged the last gray logo shirt — it’s super soft! You can also buy Bootlegger Tiki souvenirs like flasks, pint glasses and cocktail shakers, Stumptown Coffee beans and other goodies.

Ernest Coffee Co. in Palm Springs

Ernest Coffee Company is open every day from 6 a.m.-7 p.m., with happy hour 4 p.m.-6 p.m. offering half-price house wine and $3 beers. Since alcohol is served, it’s technically supposed to be a 21-and-up crowd.

Ernest Coffee Palm Springs

1101 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262

Related Posts:

Tiki Bars in Palm Springs
A Look Back at the Torches: Modernism Week Architecture Bus Tour

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The Best Things I’ve Eaten at Tiki Bars – Part 1

Pupu platters of crab Rangoon and spare ribs are staples on menus at tiki bars, but some places offer more unexpected fare like pizza, burgers and more.

I wanted to spotlight some of the best food I’ve encountered at tiki bars. My made-up rules are that the tiki bar still has to be open (alas, no Bahooka stuffed shrimp then). Also, it has to be a legit tiki bar, so I can’t include any of the awesome grub from A-Frame. Here’s the first installment of what I imagine will be an ongoing series. (Later I plan on doing an all-California edition.)

1. Biscayne Biscuits – Psycho Suzi’s, Minneapolis


The gut-busting Biscayne Biscuits are my go-to brunch order at Psycho Suzi’s in Minneapolis. I describe them as the unholy (but amazing) offspring of eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. Two biscuits were topped with a sausage patty and poached egg, then covered with creamy housemade sausage gravy.

Psycho Suzi’s Review

2. Pulled Pork Nachos – Tambu Lounge, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Orlando


The pulled pork nachos at Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are famous among parkgoers — and for good reason. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. (Technically I tried these at neighboring restaurant Capt. Cook’s where they’re also served.)

Tambu Lounge Review

3. Pizza – Tahiti Nui, Kauai


Pizza in paradise is what’s in store at Tahiti Nui on Kauai. The toppings are flavorful, and the buttery crust puts it over the top. We loved the #3 Huli Huli Chicken with red onions and cilantro as well as #5 Da Hui with pineapple and kalua pork.

Tahiti Nui Review

4. Truffle Arancini – Mahiki, London


Although the attitude at London’s posh tiki lounge Mahiki wasn’t to my taste, the truffle and wild mushroom arancini certainly were. Sadly, these delicious risotto balls don’t appear to be on the menu anymore.

Mahiki Review

5. Thai Fried Chicken – Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago

Pupus at Three Dots and a Dash

Three Dots and a Dash in Chciago offers several small plates, including crab Rangoon and egg rolls. However, I think the best thing on the menu is the Thai fried chicken in garlic-chili sauce (upper right).

Three Dots and a Dash Review

What are your favorite foods from tiki bars?

Alohaland – Retro Hawaiian Slideshow with Charles Phoenix


Who needs a DeLorean when you have the ever-entertaining Charles Phoenix to take you on a time-traveling adventure? At the Alohaland event at Don the Beachcomber in March, the “Ambassador of Americana” transported us decades back with a slideshow composed of vintage slides taken by tourists on Hawaiian vacations in the 1950s and ‘60s.


We all lined up for our wristband and drink ticket then headed in to the Hidden Village section of the restaurant. After securing our seats for the slideshow, we collected our complimentary Mai Tai from the Coconut Bar. (If you were still thirsty you could order additional drinks for $9 each.) The Smokin’ Menehunes and Polynesian Paradise hula dancers entertained the crowd until Charles Phoenix took the stage at 8 p.m.


He took us on a hilarious romp filled with fabulous mid-century architecture, hideously amazing hotel décor, cabs turned into thatched tiki hut shacks and buttoned-up visitors donning leis and grass skirts.


He kicked things off with some images of epic backyard luaus on the mainland. The volcano-shaped dessert in this slide gave him an idea for something special to create at this event…


Behold, the P.U.D.Cano! (aka Pineapple Upside Down Cake Volcano) Charles Phoenix is famous for his over-the-top Test Kitchen creations, like the Cherpumple and Tiki Turkey Meatloaf (recently immortalized in mug form by MP Ceramics.) Frosty the Cheeseball Man tends to make appearances at our holiday gatherings.


This pièce de résistance was brought out with much fanfare and everyone cheered when it “erupted” with smoke and maraschino cherry lava. (In this photo we have Charles Phoenix in all his splendor on the left, and his friend Terry who helped make the P.U.D.Cano a reality.)


Slices of warm, delicious pineapple upside down cake were served as a sweet finale to the evening. (We didn’t actually consume any of the volcano — it’s a showpiece.) We had such a fun time at this event and met some wonderful fellow tiki fans too.


Alohaland will return to Don the Beachcomber on June 27, 2015, at 7 p.m. and tickets ($49) are available at The first two events both sold out so don’t miss out!

For more information on upcoming retro slideshows from Charles Phoenix, visit