About 125 miles east of Los Angeles and 32 miles north of Palm Springs, Calif., there is a cinematic mirage. Here, on the desert floor among the tumbleweeds and Joshua trees, lies an Old West–style town straight out of Little House on the Prairie. But one thing is not a hallucination: That long, curly mane of untamed locks that’s slinging sweat onstage at the tiny, little-known roadhouse in the center of “town” does indeed belong to Robert Plant. And, yes, he really is spitting out Zeppelin tunes for a mixed crowd of leather-clad bikers, urban hipsters and cane-wielding retirees. It’s just another typical night at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Pappy & Harriet’s mythological evolution from a film set “cantina” in the 1940s and ’50s to an outlaw biker burrito bar called Cantina in the ’70s to the Tex-Mex–flavored Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace during the ’80s might be the stuff of Hollywood legend. But thanks to its latest owners, two ex-New Yorkers from film and music backgrounds, its rising status over the last few years as an intimate, cult-classic venue where some of the world’s most recognizable musicians forget they’re famous and kick back and relax among fans and Santa Maria–style barbecue is approaching mythological.
On any given weekend night in Pioneertown (the town is best known as the backdrop for classic Western flicks and TV shows like the 1950s The Cisco Kid
), you can stroll into Pappy & Harriet’s for some ’cue and a cocktail, and perhaps sit by the fire chatting with the likes of Plant, the Arctic Monkeys, Billy Corgan or Victoria Williams — who plays in residence most Sundays. All without the crowds, bodyguards or Ticketmaster. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 53688 Pioneertown Road, (760) 365-5956, www.pappyandharriets.com