The Joshua Tree Country Kitchen
Our goal is to serve quality blue-collar diner food at fair prices with a smile for our local community. We welcome tourists who visit the Joshua Tree National Park to experience our local vibe and enjoy the small town experience. We are very interested in preserving the now-vintage look and truth of an old time desert greasy spoon with a friendly down home atmosphere.- Joshua Tree Country Kitchen Co-Owner Rex Dakota
JT Country Kitchen origins and new beginnings
Joshua Tree’s original country diner, the Joshua Tree Country Kitchen sits in Joshua Tree’s bustling small-town downtown area, surrounded by fellow mom ‘n’ pop shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The Country Kitchen is one of the area’s connections to the community’s past with decades-long history and a strong customer base of long-time locals. While the restaurant’s new owners plan on keeping it that way, they are looking to gradually make changes such as creating new menu items, adding a patio and expanding hours to better serve the community.
The restaurant was built as a house in 1949, part of the original subdivision of Joshua Tree village. The building later housed a quilt shop, a retail store, and a realty office. As a restaurant, it was known as “The Burger Barn” prior to becoming The Country Kitchen sometime in the mid to late 1970s (the earliest confirmation of the name The Country Kitchen occurred in 1978).
The restaurant’s new owners, Joshua Tree residents Rex Dakota and Sarah Taylor first learned of The Country Kitchen while visiting Joshua Tree, prior to their move to the desert nearly six years ago from Los Angeles. They became friends with then-owner Mareine Uy, who ran the diner from 1989 until her retirement in 2016.
Rex Dakota has been a musician for the past quarter century, and also worked a general contractor, in one of his last jobs in LA, he built the Stories bookstore and cafe in Echo Park. In November of 2010, Rex underwent a liver transplant, which led to the couple’s move to the high desert in 2011 for Rex to have a quieter place to recover. Sarah was an entertainment exec for 25 years, worked in indie film production, international licensing and home media distribution. The couple had previous experience with a food operation; they had run Pizza Sarita in La Bufadora, Baja Mexico for a few years (where they still have a house and spend time).
In 2016, when Sarah’s job of the past 15 years at Paramount Pictures was coming to a close, she was ready for a major life change. She had previously found herself in board meetings thinking she’d be happier waiting tables, being closer to the community. The timing was perfect as the fate of their next chapter, the opportunity to purchase The Country Kitchen, was perfectly timed. Mareine was looking to retire, and the couple jumped right in.
The Country Kitchen’s world’s most flavorful secret recipe hot salsa!
What many consider the world’s most flavorful hot salsa is a top-secret property of the previous owner, a Cambodian immigrant, who will under no circumstance give up the recipe! When the deal memo for the restaurant purchase was written up by Sarah, the hot salsa was the only thing in the two-page letter that was redlined. The only possible compromise was that the previous owner, Mareine would continue to make the hot salsa for the restaurant.
The Country Kitchen: Now!
The Country Kitchen offers quality food and good service at a fair price. Each and every menu item is cooked to order. The restaurant features daily homemade soups and occasionally whips up delicious homemade pies and baked goods. Customers often rave about the blueberry pancakes with comments such as “these are the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten”!
The JT Country Kitchen embraces the area’s tourists as much as their original core local customer base and aims to preserve and honor the spirit of the restaurant’s long-standing history as a “community diner” while looking to make subtle and gradual changes which will better serve all of its’ patrons. Be on the lookout for new menu items, an outdoor patio, dinner events, and other gradual changes as Sarah and Rex look toward the future.