Felipe’s convenient proximity to the Palm Springs airport and the fact that it serves three meals a day are just icing on the cake. The cake itself is fantastic Mexican food. From-scratch, that is, including even tortilla chips, which are thin, elegant, and ripe-corn flavored like no other. Of course, a basket of them comes before each meal, along with pink, pepper-charged hot sauce that ignites a nice little glow on tongue and lips.
Chips also are the foundation of breakfast chilaquiles, for which they are glazed with melted cheese and your choice of red or green sauce. The green is tangy, piquant, and a marvelous complement to the chips, some of which soften to virtual cornmeal under the onslaught, others retaining crisp edges. The big rectangular plate also holds creamy refried beans and a medley of roasted potatoes and vegetables, the whole big panorama topped with a pair of eggs cooked the way you like.
The family who runs the restaurant offers a full array of familiar Mexican-restaurant standards, but they make the most of seafood. Fish tacos, shrimp tacos, and enchiladas stuffed with shrimp are memorable. Best of all is a big fat pair of stuffed chilies rellenos in which shrimp sing dulcet harmony with cheese and a frothy crust that envelops long green peppers (stem-on) that retain al dente bite and deliver sunny vegetable flavor.
Shrimp-frowners can choose a beautiful carnitas plate, piled high with vividly seasoned shredded roast pork, along with a full array of beans, rice, guacamole, and pickled jalapenos.
The dessert menu is small, but not an afterthought. Choices include pastel de elote, which is a just-barely sweet corn cake; ordinary flan that is as creamy as they come, set upon a puddle of sweetened condensed milk; and Jericalla, which our waitress explained is a specialty of Guadalajara, where the family comes from. It’s similar to familiar flan but not as sweet and with a light crunch on its top, like crème brulee.
Creative margaritas, including an hibiscus version topped with flower petals, are rimmed with salt plus a measure of pepper, adding extra excitement to the well-crafted libations. One drink new to me is a rumchata: horchata (rice beverage) infused with rum and dusted with nutmeg. A simple, brilliant idea!
Felipe’s is a small restaurant with cozy, close-together tables and a sunny patio for al fresco dining. The waitstaff, who couldn’t be more helpful, serve meals with a sense of pride: this is their hometown food, and they are delighted when customers enjoy it.