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Better desert dining at The Fox Bistro

Go to Borrego Springs for flowers and stargazing, stay for this hotel restaurant

The Fox Bistro dining room straddles a line between elegant and casual.
The Fox Bistro dining room straddles a line between elegant and casual.

We’ve reached that time of year when folks head out to the easternmost reaches of San Diego County in search of desert wildflowers. Thanks to a drier than usual winter, this spring won’t be hyped as a #superbloom, but the lack of trend chasers may be a good thing. It means lighter traffic, less crowded hiking, and easier access to the few worthy dining options available in Borrego Springs.

Place

The Fox Bistro

3845 Yaqui Pass Rd, Borrego Springs

And given it’s two-hour drive from downtown San Diego, you’ll likely want to eat before you return home. I had a chance to check out several Borrego-area eateries during a recent visit, and there was a clear number one. Whether or not you stay overnight, the best dining east of Mount Laguna can be found at hotel restaurant, The Fox Bistro.

Name and ownership has changed over the years (including the Union-Tribune's Copley family), but that’s currently what they call the food program at La Casa del Zorro, a 42-acre resort that makes the most of its remote, desert environment. Highlights of the scenic property include multiple swimming pools; tennis, bocce, and shuffleboard courts; a life-size chess board; and an outdoor stargazing theatre built to take advantage of Borrego’s status as a dark sky community.

A smoked salmon appetizer modeled after a popular bagel shop order

The upscale feel carries over into The Fox Bistro, which occupies a space both elegant and rustic. The spacious dining room echoes the whitewashed adobe of old California, warmed up by exposed beams, hardwood floors, and occasional splashes of color. Pleasant as that is, the more romantic bet might be taking a meal on the so-called rose garden terrace, a yet more spacious covered deck spruced up with plants, string lights, and a large outdoor fireplace.

The resort offers guests a rather flimsy continental breakfast buffet, but lunch and dinner service (consider reservations) proves there are kitchen staff in Borrego Springs who care about quality of cooking and ingredients. Even a 9- to 10-dollar kids menu surpassed other options in the area.

The rose garden terrace makes a case for outdoor dining in the desert.

Lunch keeps it light, with the likes of sandwiches, tacos, and fish and chips, each running in the 19-dollar range, and for those seeking a dinner deal, Sunday through Thursday “sunset dinner” specials cost about the same, with a different, single-choice entrée on special from 5-7pm: fried chicken on Sundays, for example, and spaghetti on Wednesdays.

Really, when if comes to dinner, it’s more about how casual or refined you want to be. You can find satisfaction with a $22 meatloaf as well as with a $50 sea bass, indulge your grilled meat cravings with $31 baby back ribs, or a $44 rack of lamb.

Mushroom risotto with roasted vegetables and asparagus

I’d liked to have tried them all, but would need to stay for a week to get through the elevated comfort food menu. In limited time, I was able to enjoy a playful smoked salmon appetizer that deconstructs a classic bagel shop offerings, complete with herbed cream cheese, capers, and red onions.

The surprising part is, I was impressed enough with the vegetarian entrees that I bypassed the likes of $36 blackened mahi mahi and $29 chicken Oscar (with crab cake) for a well rendered $23 mushroom risotto with asparagus. And it was a tough choice between that and a $25 portobello mushroom wellington.

I can’t go as far as claiming I would drive two hours just to dine again at The Fox Bistro, vegetarian dishes or otherwise. But I will definitely pay more frequent visits to the Anza-Borrego Desert knowing I can eat well while I’m out there.

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If you’re only going to do one thing, do it well
The Fox Bistro dining room straddles a line between elegant and casual.
The Fox Bistro dining room straddles a line between elegant and casual.

We’ve reached that time of year when folks head out to the easternmost reaches of San Diego County in search of desert wildflowers. Thanks to a drier than usual winter, this spring won’t be hyped as a #superbloom, but the lack of trend chasers may be a good thing. It means lighter traffic, less crowded hiking, and easier access to the few worthy dining options available in Borrego Springs.

Place

The Fox Bistro

3845 Yaqui Pass Rd, Borrego Springs

And given it’s two-hour drive from downtown San Diego, you’ll likely want to eat before you return home. I had a chance to check out several Borrego-area eateries during a recent visit, and there was a clear number one. Whether or not you stay overnight, the best dining east of Mount Laguna can be found at hotel restaurant, The Fox Bistro.

Name and ownership has changed over the years (including the Union-Tribune's Copley family), but that’s currently what they call the food program at La Casa del Zorro, a 42-acre resort that makes the most of its remote, desert environment. Highlights of the scenic property include multiple swimming pools; tennis, bocce, and shuffleboard courts; a life-size chess board; and an outdoor stargazing theatre built to take advantage of Borrego’s status as a dark sky community.

A smoked salmon appetizer modeled after a popular bagel shop order

The upscale feel carries over into The Fox Bistro, which occupies a space both elegant and rustic. The spacious dining room echoes the whitewashed adobe of old California, warmed up by exposed beams, hardwood floors, and occasional splashes of color. Pleasant as that is, the more romantic bet might be taking a meal on the so-called rose garden terrace, a yet more spacious covered deck spruced up with plants, string lights, and a large outdoor fireplace.

The resort offers guests a rather flimsy continental breakfast buffet, but lunch and dinner service (consider reservations) proves there are kitchen staff in Borrego Springs who care about quality of cooking and ingredients. Even a 9- to 10-dollar kids menu surpassed other options in the area.

The rose garden terrace makes a case for outdoor dining in the desert.

Lunch keeps it light, with the likes of sandwiches, tacos, and fish and chips, each running in the 19-dollar range, and for those seeking a dinner deal, Sunday through Thursday “sunset dinner” specials cost about the same, with a different, single-choice entrée on special from 5-7pm: fried chicken on Sundays, for example, and spaghetti on Wednesdays.

Really, when if comes to dinner, it’s more about how casual or refined you want to be. You can find satisfaction with a $22 meatloaf as well as with a $50 sea bass, indulge your grilled meat cravings with $31 baby back ribs, or a $44 rack of lamb.

Mushroom risotto with roasted vegetables and asparagus

I’d liked to have tried them all, but would need to stay for a week to get through the elevated comfort food menu. In limited time, I was able to enjoy a playful smoked salmon appetizer that deconstructs a classic bagel shop offerings, complete with herbed cream cheese, capers, and red onions.

The surprising part is, I was impressed enough with the vegetarian entrees that I bypassed the likes of $36 blackened mahi mahi and $29 chicken Oscar (with crab cake) for a well rendered $23 mushroom risotto with asparagus. And it was a tough choice between that and a $25 portobello mushroom wellington.

I can’t go as far as claiming I would drive two hours just to dine again at The Fox Bistro, vegetarian dishes or otherwise. But I will definitely pay more frequent visits to the Anza-Borrego Desert knowing I can eat well while I’m out there.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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