Gourmet Vegetarian Served Up at Solano’s
Solano’s Bistro used to be in a small space in La Quinta. Locals raved about their fresh cuisine, but size made getting a reservation difficult. This year, Solano’s moved to a new location in Old Town that is three times larger, yet it maintains the same charming look and feel. Not only did their space expand, so did their menu which features local favorites like the ‘famous’ beef short ribs and apricot glazed pork chops, along with new vegan and vegetarian options.
Owners Alex and Paco have always been known for their tasty, locally sourced fare and Chef Paco’s unique ability to combine ingredients normally not used together in dishes with outstanding flavor. Take the summer salad with grilled watermelon or the raspberry brie quesadilla. With mozzarella to cut the sharpness of the brie, the flavors blend perfectly for a creamy, almost pastry like taste.
Their vegetarian dishes include a Wellington with grilled zucchini, eggplant, spinach and mushrooms wrapped and baked in puff pastry; a veggie pesto pasta made with vegan pesto sauce and gluten-free organic quinoa pasta, topped with broccoli, grilled zucchini, sundried tomatoes and eggplant; and acorn squash stuffed with organic quinoa, chopped fresh basil, sliced almonds and golden raisins tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette.
“We offer organic seasonal ingredients from local farmers whenever possible,” says Paco, which is easy considering that the La Quinta Farmers Market takes place right outside their door on Sundays. Their direct relationships with producers minimize the eco footprint as well. They source free range meats, wild caught fish and serve fresh baked breads from L’Artisan Valley Baking Company in Thousand Palms.
Solano’s has always offered a variety of tasty fish dishes. Specials the evening we dined included a pan seared Chilean sea bass with a pomegranate butter sauce and a pan seared Halibut with peach relish. Both were served with grilled asparagus and choice of parmesan risotto, garlic mashed potatoes or roast fingerling potatoes (my recommendation). I asked Chef Paco how he seasoned the incredibly tasty potatoes and he replied ‘salt, pepper and fresh herbs from our garden.’ I was reminded what a difference fresh herbs can make. Paco and Alex built several stacked wooden herb gardens outside their dining room windows which adds to the charm–and certainly the quality–of their cuisine.
The ambiance is casual and sophisticated, which is also how I would describe their menu. Work of local artists covers the walls and their friendly staff wear matching black uniforms and ties. In the spacious bar, you can order a Kobe beef burger, coconut shrimp cocktail and Chef Paco’s famous fish tacos…panko crusted fried halibut with cabbage, cilantro, carrots and chipotle mayonnaise, wrapped in a flour tortilla and served with homemade coleslaw. The best! I remember them from his days as Executive Chef at PGA WEST.
Solano’s enticing selection of unique cocktails uses seasonal fruit and alternative sweeteners like agave. They have a diverse, carefully selected wine list (including Sonoma Cutrer by the glass) and both craft (Fat Tire) and import (Stella) beers. You can dine in the bar area, dining room or on the outdoor covered patio.
If you haven’t been to Solano’s in a while, Alex and Paco would love you to stop by to see their new location. A trip to Old Town La Quinta and Solano’s Bistro is well worth it!
Lunch and bar menu selections range from $6 – $14. Dinner entrees $11 – $30. Summer hours are Tuesday – Sunday for lunch from 11a – 2p and for dinner from 5:30pm – close. The bar is open from 11am – close and happy hour is 3p – 5:30p. They are located at 78075 Main Street in Old Town and reservations are recommended for dinner. 760.771.6655.