RESTAURANTS

1. El Mirasol

The ambience is pure Mexican Riviera at this new restaurant adjacent to Los Arboles Hotel in uptown Palm Springs. The outdoor patio, sheltered by a high wall, is surrounded by lush greenery, or you can dine inside in hot weather. Visit at lunch, when Mexican combination plates start at $8.75 and half of the 20 combos offered are less than $10.

784 N. Indian Canyon Drive (entrance on Via Altamira), Palm Springs; (760) 459-3136, http://www.losarboleshotel.com/dining.

2. El Taco Asado

This fast-food diner, near the entrance to Palm Springs International Airport, draws hungry locals on a budget. Don't look for a pleasant ambience: lights are bright, tables are uncomfortable, and you may be seated next to an ATM. But portions are huge, prices are right and food is authentic. Combination plates range from $6.75 to $9.85.

440 S. El Cielo Road, Palm Springs; (760) 323-7544

3. Fisherman's Market & Grill

The fish at this small, family-owned chain tastes fresh enough to have just come off the boat in San Pedro. That's because the owner is a fishing fanatic who was so passionate about his sport that he went into business. There's not much ambience here — and many entrees are pricey — but you can get fish tacos for less than $10 and there's a value lunch menu for $7.99. The early-bird dinner (3-5:30 p.m.) is $10.95.

235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, (760) 327-1766 (other locations in Palm Desert, La Quinta and Banning), http://www.fishermans.com.

4. John's

Order at the counter, then take a seat at a comfy booth at this uptown Palm Springs diner that's one step above a fast-food restaurant. You'll find lots of heart-stopping dishes on the menu, including the "Heartstopper Burger," a high-cholesterol cheeseburger that includes two sausage patties, bacon and an egg. John's specializes in big portions and low prices. Breakfast is served all day and a special dinner menu is priced under $10.

900 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (760) 327-8522.

5. Lulu California Bistro

Take a seat at a high-top table and save as much as 40% at this new, popular downtown Palm Springs restaurant. Lulu's, which opened in September, has a 12-hour happy hour that begins at 11 a.m. and lasts until closing. All you need to do is sit near the bar at a high-top. Among the sharply marked-down items: $7.99 for barbecue chicken pizza (regularly $13.99); $7.99 for fish tacos (regularly $11.99).

200 S. Palm Canyon at Arenas; (760) 327-5858, http://www.lulupalmsprings.com/menu-breakfast.htm.

6. Sherman's Deli & Bakery

New York deli fans can find lox, gefilte fish, cabbage soup and other favorites at Sherman's Deli, which has been serving Palm Springs residents since 1953. The downtown restaurant hasn't changed much over the years, except for its prices, many of which are now out of our price range. But budget travelers can still find a substantial selection of breakfasts and sandwiches for less than $10.

401 Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; (760) 325-1199 (another location in Palm Desert), http://www.shermansdeli.com/lunch.html

7. Thai Smile