Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He called for his Fiddlers Three

Reader "John Galt" wrote to me, asking what I could tell him about "a chain of coffee shops ... called Fiddlers Three" with locations scattered throughout Southern California. He remembers his dad, who he refers to as "a coffee shop nut," taking the family there numerous times.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any good photos of the place, which is why there's a random photo of the old Fashion Square Mall (one of many Fiddlers Three locations) in La Habra at the top of today's post. The only contemporary visual reference I could find for the chain is an ad, shown below, from the March 13, 1986 issue of the Los Angeles Times.
It appears Fiddlers Three arrived on the scene in the 1960s. It was comparable to the Marie Callender and Jolly Roger chains during the same time period -- a step up from places like Denny's and Tiny Naylor's. Think dark wood, fake plants and phony Tiffany lamps hanging over the tables.

The Fiddlers Three in La Habra was in operation in 1968 and was still open in the 1980s. I believe there's a Regal movie theater on that spot now.

Another Fiddlers Three opened next to Sears in the Laguna Hills Mall in late 1973 and was still operating as late as 1988.

Just last year, Tustin historian Juanita Louvre wrote about local restaurants in her newspaper column, and mentioned that the "Fiddlers Three Restaurant, which once occupied the Claim Jumper spot on Irvine Blvd. [in Tustin], is still remembered for making the best cheddar cheese soup ever tasted."

Classified ads in the mid-1980s claimed Fiddlers Three had locations in "the Orange County, Long Beach and San Fernando Valley areas." Further research produced references to Fiddlers Three branches in Fullerton, La Mirada, at the Puente Hills Mall, and at the Northridge Fashion Center. In Long Beach, they had a restaurant on Anaheim St. and possibly another one at PCH and Bellflower Blvd. The company's offices were on Signal Hill, and according to a 1986 Times article, the chain's owner was John Faber.

Yelp contributor "T.R." (we loved his review of San Juan Hill!) described the Fiddler Burger as "probably the greatest burger ever made. [It was] served on a long onion bun, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and don't forget to add your favorite cheese. It would come with a salad and they would serve it with [a] three bean salad on top of that."

Today, the chain is gone. However, those with a serious jones for a Fiddler Burger are directed to 12721 Glenoaks Blvd., in Sylmar -- An old Fiddlers Three that has changed hands and partially changed names (it's now just "Fiddler's Restaurant"). At least some of the old menu items are still available there, although opinions seem to vary on whether they're as good as they used to be.

Do you have any memories of Fiddlers Three? I have none. But I do miss the golden era of good coffee shops. Bob's Big Boy was a favorite of mine before they started their downward spiral -- I'm guessing somewhere around the late 1980s. But those kinds of restaurants were aimed squarely at the middle class, which has clearly been marked for extinction.

69 comments:

Fotos From Kyiv said...

Yes there was one at PCH and Bellflower. My Mom drug me there many a time as a child. I did not like it. It was dark and had typical burger fare. Bobs Big Boy was much nicer.

Anonymous said...

The La Habra Fashion Square Fiddlers Three was next to the AMC four screen movie theatre. The Fiddlers Three closed in the mid to late 80's, the theatre in the mid 90's. Both structures were torn down in 2000 and the current Regal theatre's parking lot is roughly where they stood.

JG said...

Chris, thank you for the great post!

The logo in the newspaper ad was the one I remember. It seems that there was a metal decoration on the building in that late '60's style with the Three Fiddlers from the nursery rhyme.

We were Bob's customers too. Both in SoCal and in their branches in the San Joaquin Valley closer to our home.

My Dad grew up in the San Fernando area and was familiar with Bob's from his youth. I enjoyed the little newsprint comic books too.

I really appreciate your effort in tracking down this information about a dim childhood memory.

Best Regards, JG.

Unknown said...

I grew up in Tustin and used to go with my family to the one on Irvine Blvd between Redhill and Newport. I liked it, but I remember my father got irritated with the waitress for poor service and left her one penny as a tip. When he explained it was meant to send a message, and the light bulb went off in my young brain, I thought that was the funniest gesture I'd ever seen.

lolokuchi said...

I worked at Fiddler's Three in the Carson Mall for many years while I was in school at CSULB. It was my first job experience waiting tables(I even had to attend waiter school)
I have thought about Fiddler's Three over the years and wondered what happened to it.(I live on the East Coast now)
I loved working there and often wonder what happened to the manager Sam Wright Jr. He was the best!
My fave thing on the menu...The Frisco Burger...the sour cream dressing(to dip fries in) and Cheese Soup...:)

Yacht Crew said...

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Brian McAfee said...

There was also a Fiddlers three in Lakewood near the mall. I went there many times with my mom and dad and always enjoyed it. They had friendly and good looking waitresses too. My favorite was the Frisco burger. I wish I could still get one.

Anonymous said...

There were 17 "stores" by 1978... I worked as a cook at #14 PCH and Bellflower Blvd. and cleaned the carpets for all the restuarants my senior year in High School. I managed at several locations shortly after high school. The owner was Ed Everly. John Faber was associated with the chain and utilized the commissary for his McKenna's Creek location. The following Restaurants were all part of the Fiddler's Three family: Fiddler's Three, Sixpence, McKenna's Creek, and Miss Lucy's.

Anonymous said...

They also owned Sixpence which had the same food. There was one outside the lakewood mall- I would love to get the sour cream dressing recipe. I worked there as a teen.

Toffsmom said...

When I was a small child in the 70"s my mother and I used to go shopping in the Puente Hills Mall a lot. Nearly every weekend we would eat at the fiddlers three restaurant. It was one of my favorites. Another long gone favorite was the David Copperfield restaurant in the Santa Anita Mall. Anyone remember that?

Brian McAfee said...

Yes David Copperfield's does sound familiar but I never had the chance to go there. Did anyone else go to the Fiddler's Three in Lakewood by the Mall or the one on Bellflower Blvd? Just wondering if any of my old friends have read this. Quite a few of us used to go to both quite often. Brian M

Anonymous said...

My 1st paycheck as a kid was as a busboy at the Fiddler's in Lakewood. Worked up from there to dishwasher, cook, & later, to bartender. Worked at Lakewood, Sixpence, La Habra, Tustin in the 60's & 70's. The Fiddler Burger was great, especially w/the sour cream dressing instead of 1000 island.
For the Sour Cream dressing try the Coco's Sour Cream recipe on the net (if memory serves me there was some early connection between Coco's & Fiddlers Three).
For the Cheese soup, try the "Canadian Cheese Soup" recipe at Cooks.com. It's pretty close. You might want to add some diced mushrooms or bacon to get it right. Also, Fiddlers used to have a dish called "Cheese Benedict", made like Eggs Benedict, but with scrambled eggs instead of poached & thickened cheese soup instead of hollandaise sauce. Tasty.

Anonymous

Brian McAfee said...

They did have good sour cream dressing. I used it for dipping my french fries in as well as on my salad. Does anyone have any idea of there were thoughts to bringing Fiddlers Three back? It would be interesting to see some pictures if anyone has any to share.

Anonymous said...

What can I say...cheese soup! I have a recipe, probably from the L.A. Times in the '80's, that is supposed to be the recipe from Fiddlers Three. I need to try it sometime.

Brian McAfee said...

What were some of the other menu items that were favorites of yours? I usually enjoyed the Frisco Burger or Fiddlers Burger with a side salad. Share some of your favorites and jar our memories a little.

Anonymous said...

The Lakewood store was the first Fiddlers & John Faber was the manager there when I started as a busboy in 1965 (had to get a "work permit" 'cause I wasn't quite 16 yet), & almost got fired after the first month.
Some odds & ends of memories (in no particular order):
The Fried Chicken was very good. It was cooked in what was called a "Broaster" (kind of a combination fryer/pressure cooker)-cooked quickly, came out crunchy & juicy, but not greasy. I enjoyed the French Dip Sandwich also (the roasts were cooked on premises).
The fries were always cooked in clean, fresh oil (the real stuff, not that veggie crud they use nowadays), so they weren't soggy & the fryers for fried fish were always separate (I know, that was one of my jobs while there). The service plates for hot food were always taken from a plate warmer before plating the food, so it stayed hot, & the salad plates were chilled. The griddle was cleaned to bright metal w/a pumice stone & the broiler grates wire brushed & run thru the dishwasher every night.
When they added the Bar & Grill to the back of the Lakewood store, the Steamed Clams w/garlic toast was really good. The coffee was always very good, a cut above other coffee shops. I can't remember the name of the brand (perhaps Lingle Bros.?), but at that time you couldn't get it in a grocery store. The bread & pastries/pies were always delivered fresh, first thing every morning.

Anonymous

Brian McAfee said...

I had forgotten when they added the bar and grill in the back. That French dip sounds good. I do remember the French fries being really good and now I know why. It makes you wonder why Fiddlers didn't last. There are so many places around now that just don't match up that's for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope you share more in the future.

Anonymous said...

Regarding some of the earlier questions:
As I understand it, there is still (1) Fiddlers (sort of) left in Sylmar, Ca., that still has some of the old menu items, although the Cheese Soup reviews are disappointing.
For the Bob's Big Boy fans, I guess they're trying to make a come back, in a small way. I know for a fact that there was a new Bob's in Signal Hill, Ca., (just north of Costco) as of a year ago, 'cause I ate there. Had the Big Boy Burger (brought back some memories).
I filled in as a replacement cook at the Fiddlers in Tustin several times in the late 60's. At that time one of the semi-regular customers was Bill Medley (the taller half of the Righteous Brothers singing duet). I was told he was dating one of the waitresses.
The waitresses/hostesses at all of the Fiddlers were good looking & I dated a few of them (almost popped the question to one of them, but ended up marrying one of the customers instead).
Fiddlers, at its peak had a whole lot of stores (there was even one out in Palm Springs). The Sixpence started out as a sort of gourmet hot dog restaurant.
After opening the Bar & Grill addition to the Lakewood Fiddlers & opening McKenna's Creek & Miss Lucy's, from an outsider & occasional customer viewpoint (by that time), it seemed as if they had over-extended & lost focus. Anyway, the Lakewood store went through a series of other owners(?), for a few years, until finally closing its doors several years ago. It has been torn down & there's a tire store there now. RIP.
As far as "bringing back" the original Fiddler's Three, I don't see that happening & haven't heard anything about it, although I've not been in the area for some time now.
It was a great job for high school kids at that time & place. I made many friends & have a lot of fond memories (some great, some good, some goofy, some painful & some bittersweet). It's good to reminisce, but it's like the old adage, you can never really go home again, after you've left.
Anonymous

Brian McAfee said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It does sound as though they did over extend which can create problems. I'm out of the area now as well but do visit Long Beach/Lakewood from time to time. Bob's Big Boy was another place I went to quite a bit on Bellflower Blvd. I did also hear they are trying to come back but my sister lives back east and drop into one recently and was deeply disappointed. The Big Boy combo was good and I loved the sauce they put on it. The French toast they had sounds good right about now. Oh the memories. lol Do you have any other blogs you might share regarding Long Beach/Lakewood area? Thanks again for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I still have the September Special list. Sat. & Sun cheeseburgers or spaghetti were only $2.45, and a Coke was 25 cents! On the back of the specials are some mind bender puzzles to occupy your time while you wait.

Anonymous said...

They did have good Cheeseburgers. The coffee was good as well. Any idea what brand it was? Pass along any other blogs you may know of regarding Long Beach/Lakewood are of that era. I would appreciate it. Brian

Brian said...

Reading a previous post I noticed the coffee may have been lingle bros. I'm going to see if I can find that in my area. My wife and I went out to eat recently and I noticed a couple of things that have been posted previously. After ordering our meal out salads arrived on warm plates. Thinking back the plates were always cold at Fiddlers and the salads were delicious. When our meal arrived the french fries were limp and cold and the cheeseburger was dry and over cooked. I ordered it with a little pink. It is amazing how some of these places stay in business with all of the competition there is. There are many reasons I look back at Fiddlers fondly. Meals with my mom and dad are just one of them. Going there with family and friends brings back fond memories of enjoyable outings and reminds me of some great friends as well. I knew a couple of people that worked at the Lakewood store for quite a while and have lost touch with them. I'm craving just about anything off of Fiddlers menu right now. lol Some of there wonderful soup sounds good on this cold morning.

Brian said...

seI talked to my sister this weekend and she said isn't Fiddlers where we used to get that great strawberry pie? As I recall they did have great pie. I'm not sure if Im remembering this correctly but it seems they also had Boysenberry along with several others. Does anyone else recall or have any idea what the price of a slice of pie or even coffee was back in the day? Thanks to all the others that post comments.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the first day I hired on & looked at the menu, the price for just a standard hamburger (bun, burger, lettuce, tomato, pickles sliced onion on request, w/a dollop of 1000 Island dressing) was $0.65. You could add cheese for a nickle or dime. I think the combo cheeseburger (Burger/Salad & Fires)would set you back around $1.25, & I think a cup of coffee was a nickle or dime w/unlimited re-fills. That was 1965 & a Micky Dee burger was going for $0.15.
If the coffee wasn't Lingle Bros., it could have been Farmers Bros. Not sure, I was pretty busy w/other stuff.
The Strawberry Pies were actually pretty simple: you can do them at home during the season. Just get the biggest, ripest strawberries you can find, a good brand of strawberry glaze (you're gonna need a fair amount), a premade good pie crust in the pan & good whipped cream. Start w/a 1/4" layer of the glaze in the crust. Add a layer of the berries (cleaned), more glaze, more berries< & repeat until you've got a low mountain. Then another layer of glaze over the whole thing. Refrigerate for at least (4) hours to allow setting up (I think that's it). Slice for serving (good luck, it's messy), add whipped cream & enjoy. Not sure about the Boysenberry, but I believe they had fresh Peach Pie done the same way, in season (w/a Peach Glaze).
One of the reasons that I think the food was better (on time & hot), was that the Manager &/or Asst. Managers were on the front floor during the breakfast, lunch & dinner rush periods to monitor the food coming up on the pass-out bar, before the waitresses picked it up. When I first trained as a cook, I had my fair share dishes rejected by the manager & was told "do it again". Another layer of quality assurance, that I think is sorely lacking today.
The regular Dinner Salads were prepped by the waitresses. They had the chilled plates. We (the cooks) made the larger Chef Salads, etc., & had to get the larger chilled plates/bowls from the back (no room in the cook station).
Bob's Big Boy on the corner of Lakewood Blvd & South St. was our alternative hang-out.

Brian said...

Thanks for the last post. I have to laugh when I see those prices thinking back to how to scrape up enough to go out for a bite to eat or on a date just out of high school. Those pies were really good and now that you mention the peach pie that does ring a bell although I usually went for the strawberry. The coffee was good whatever brand it was. When you say the salad plates were chilled that they were. To be honest now that I think about it I don't think that happens most of the time now as well. Food being served hot when arriving at the table. What a treat. lol If you mention something is not hot or downright cold now they give you a kiss my a** look instead of offering to make it right. It sounds like they ran a pretty tight ship for the most part. Would you agree? Can you think of anything other things that they did that for the most part is not done now? It's really not much to ask for hot food and coffee and friendly service but it can be difficult to find that's for sure. Did they serve a french dip, shrimp,steak or ribs back then? With my budget I stuck with the Fiddler burger or something similar from what I can recall. I could be wrong but I believe they had a San Franciscan as well. My other hang out was the Big Boy on Bellflower Blvd and Atherton near Los Altos mall. I always enjoy your post and look forward to hearing more if you have anything to share.
Brian

Anonymous said...

When I started at Fiddler's in 1965 I believe my hire-in wage was $0.85 an hour, until I didn't need a work permit & it went up to $1.35/hour. So, when a cheese burger deluxe cost an hours wages, you were careful about how you spent your money. Of course, you could also get a gallon of gas for less than $0.25. Fiddlers put themselves a cut above the other chain burger joints by paying attention to the little details.
In no particular order: There was always a Hostess/Cashier on hand during the rush hour (that was her only job). No one was ever seated at a dirty table. When I was a busboy, part of my job (when I wasn't busing tables was to run a hand pushed carpet sweeper over the rug (away from current customers)& make sure the condiments at each table were clean & filled, & to re-wipe down the unoccupied tables, booths, chairs, etc.
None of the food was store-bought. It either came in prepped from the commissary, bakery, or was prepped fresh in the store. None of the frozen veggies you see nowadays. Another thing, was that the Fiddlers I worked at, always had a double door entrance set-up, so that any cold outside air didn't blow in onto the customers sitting at the counter. Neither was the ventilation set up so that any air (hot or cold) blew down onto the tables (& no stupid fans over the tables). That's a pet peeve of mine. If you serve a dish (especially hot), even if it's on a hot plate, if there's a draft, the food might as well be cold. The idea that a server is there to take care of the customer at the risk of losing a tip has gotten lost in the "ME-ME-ME" mentality of today.
The menu was mostly standard fare of ham, bacon, Hash Browns, eggs, omelets, pancakes, cereal, hot oatmeal, etc. for breakfast. Burgers, fries, sandwiches, salads, etc., for lunch. Dinner was a bit more upscale. In addition to all of the stuff offered for breakfast & lunch, Steaks, Halibut Steaks, Liver, Fried Chicken/Shrimp/Fish, Baked Potatoes & a few years later, Prime Rib were offered. The French Dip was always a staple. Don't recall any ribs. Maybe that was added later. Two other dishes that I recall when the Lakewood store added the bar & grill, were the Stuffed Mushrooms (with a Crab/Shrimp mix) & Grilled Jumbo Shrimp on skewers. the 'Frisco Burger came along just as I was leaving to go into the Navy, so I was never familiar with that.
One odd bit of trivia when I was a cook: about once a week, an older gentleman would come in alone, sit at the counter & order a plain hamburger (cold bun, lettuce, tomato, etc., & a raw, cold burger patty). He'd chow down on that, pay & walk out with a wave & a smile. Always wondered what happened to him.

Brian said...

I can remember making $1.65 per hour a few years later. Yes you did have to think before you spent. I think gas may have been a whopping $0.35 per gallon. When you went to Fiddler's you knew you were getting a good meal. As I have said before I went there with my parents and they usually picked up the tab fortunately. I did go with friends and on dates a few times as well. I do recall the tables always being clean and also the carpet sweeper as well. It just seemed to me that people took pride in working there or were afraid if they didn't do there job they would be working somewhere else pretty quickly. I can't remember if the Fiddler's near Lakewood Mall had a double door but I think it did. We usually sat at a table so I probably didn't pay attention to that. What year did they add the bar and grill at the Lakewood store? I'm guessing 1973 or 1974 perhaps. I loved the Fiddler Burger but I also wolfed down the Frisco Burger when it came onto the menu. I did enjoy the salads with sour cream? dressing and the round croutons. We always found the food good and the waitresses always helpful and friendly. Just curious. Were you a chef in the Navy? It seems as though your experience at Fiddler's was a positive one for sure. I look forward to your next post.

Brian said...

I was trying to remember if Fiddlers did anything special for mothers day. We did take mom there on mothers day and she always had a good time and enjoyed the meal but I'm having a hard time with if they had anything special on the menu even dessert wise?

Brian said...

As fathers day approaches I remember us taking dad to Fiddlers several times. Brings back great memories for sure. He usually had the fiddler burger with french fries which he requested "well done". lol He usually got a little bit of a look with that request. Same look when ordering his toast with breakfast "Dark". Funny how you remember these things. Knowing me I probably rolled my eyes when he ordered. I will be thinking of him on fathers day. I would enjoy hearing any other stories anyone might want to share.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been on this site for a while.
I think Fid's always did something special for Mother's/Father's day, but I was never on that side of the business. I just cranked out the meals without paying attention to what day it was, other than the fact that Mother's Day was the busiest of the year, with Father's day not too far behind.
A unique thing about the Fiddler's Burger: It was 1/3 of a LB (unheard of at that time, when a 1/4 LB burger was the standard. Also, in a different twist, it was shaped into an elongated form vs. the standard round burger, so it would fit on a special Onion Roll that made the Fiddler's Burger its signature burger. I know, 'cause one of my jobs was to form those burgers. I haven't been able to find those buns, but there are round ones available that approach the texture & flavor. Also, try that with the old Fiddler's Sour Cream Dressing instead of the standard 1000 Island Dressing. Tasty!

Brian said...

Anonymous, Do you have a favorite place to go now? Just curious since you worked in the business. I have not found a onion roll that I really like but really did enjoy the ones used at Fiddlers. I did on occasion get the Fiddler burger but usually got the Frisco burger which I believe came along after you had left Fiddlers. That sour cream dressing was really good. Is there any on the market that compares in your opinion? Loved it on my salad and also for dipping my french fries.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Sixpence Restaurant in Lakewood from 1981-1984. I loved it! I worked with a great bunch of girls. Before starting every one that was hired had to go to waitressing school in Signal Hill. I learned so many things that I still remember today.

Brian said...

Anonymous, I ate at Sixpence a few times but usually went to Fiddler's since my friends and parents enjoyed it as well. I had not heard of the training in Signal Hill. I wonder if that training is still used? I would be interested in some of the other things you learned while working at Sixpence. We now live in Colorado but when going out for the most part service is lacking and some of the small things that really made businesses stand out just don't seem to be a high priority today. One of the small things that really does stand out when going to Fiddler's was the salad plates were actually cold and that made a huge difference I think. If there happened to be an issue with how something was cooked or turned out it was never a problem to have it corrected. I hope you will share other things you learned at Sixpence. Thanks for posting.

Tisha Hampton said...

Wow I worked at Sixpence, Fiddlers Three in Carson and La Puente hills starting in Dec 1987. Our District manager was Sam Wright...Yes training was at Signal Hill. You had to pass tests on the menu memorized and abbreviations to everything or you were not given your wings to serve :) I was the Am opening serving at Carson Mall previously to moving to La Puente Hills. I also worked at nights at Bobs Big Boy at the same time in Whitter right across the street from Whittier college. Back to Fiddler Three...ok yes the coffee was Lingle bros. The big difference with the coffee there to other places was it was ground one pot at a time as you made a pot. NO ONE had beans back then. That was the cleaniest place I ever worked. You had to bleach everything. I always loved being the bleach set up person as my rings would sparkle. Heres a few odd memories. Girls could only have one earring in each ear, they had to be pearls, you had to wear pantyhoes every day, our uniforms consisted of a blue button up, ribbon tie, and these wrap around skirts closed with Velcro at waist that would get caught in the front frigs coolers: so if you were not careful you would lose your skirt in front of the entire bar as you walked away...happened twice at Carson to me. They had outstanding pies, fresh strawberry pie yum! They were sent home with us at night or out they went as the pies were FRESH everyday! We served awesome bread rolls that was kept in moisture drawers to keep them fresh and soft. Real ice cream always. Yes as someone else said plates were held cold for salads and cold pies, in freezer for ice cream or hot for kitchen. This was a very well run place, I do believe they over extended them selves rather then updating the existing restaurants. Bobs down fall seriously was when they took there soft serve shakes and replaced them with real shakes. People were so ticked over that.

Who are you? We must have worked together....
(Blogger lolokuchi said...
I worked at Fiddler's Three in the Carson Mall for many years while I was in school at CSULB.)

Anonymous said...

Tisha, I agree that there pies at Fiddlers were really delicious. It interesting hearing from people that actually worked there. Other than over extending were there other issues you feel contributed to them eventually closing? It seems they had a recipe for success and just didn't follow through or update as they went along. As I had mentioned in previous posts we went to the Lakewood Fiddlers near the Mall. One of the waitresses was a friend of the family and it was always fun to see and talk to her. We would ask for her area when arriving. Thanks for posting Tisha.

David Carr said...

Yes, I remember it from the Puente Hills mall location. My Mom, Grandma and sisters would usually go after doing some shopping. Thanks all for sharing your memories. Good times.

Anonymous said...

Haven't posted for a while, but recently been craving a French Dip Sandwich ala Fiddler's, which led me to thinking more about some of the other sandwiches & dinner dishes you could get there, that are hard to find nowadays, or are politically incorrect. Such as Liver & Onions (I know, not a lot of folks like that, but Fid's did it right), or the Super-rich Mac & Cheese w/sliced tomatoes, the Cheese Soup, the Cheese Benedict, the Fiddler's Burger with that sour cream dressing instead of 1000 Island Dressing. If you asked nicely, they made a mean fried egg sandwich. All omelets were made with (3) eggs, lots of whatever ingredients were ordered & no one had ever heard of "Eggbeaters" or an egg white omelet, & if you wanted it really rich tasting, you could order it made with butter instead of oil.
As you can probably tell, I'm sick of the "Food Police". I've lived through (60) years of food fads & distrust all that comes out these days. Give me some of that old time Fiddler's food & I'll be a happy camper.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of the food police as well. Everything in moderation I say. You have to live and eating is part of it. You can treat yourself once in a while without killing yourself. I wish I could go to Fiddler's today. I'm craving a Fiddler Burger big time. I enjoyed there sour cream dressing as well. Used to dip my French Fries in it. lol A piece of there delicious pie sounds good too.

Phil said...

Phil said

I worked at the long Beach store in 1965 it was #2, #1 was at Candlewood and Clark The training was very through A manager there called Big Daddy checked the food coming out of the kitchen all the time.I went to the North Long Beach store as Assistant Mgr. to open it with the Manager, don't recall his name. I also worked in the Tustin after it opened I recall that one of the owners was Clay Whitaker, one of the Managers at #2 was Jock don't recall his last name. When they started Marie Calendar supplied the pies until they opened their own stores. I will post more as i recall it I am 70 years old it does not seem that long ago.

Phil said...



I worked at the long Beach store in 1965 it was #2, #1 was at Candlewood and Clark The training was very through A manager there called Big Daddy checked the food coming out of the kitchen all the time.I went to the North Long Beach store as Assistant Mgr. to open it with the Manager, don't recall his name. I also worked in the Tustin after it opened I recall that one of the owners was Clay Whitaker, one of the Managers at #2 was Jock don't recall his last name. When they started Marie Calendar supplied the pies until they opened their own stores. I will post more as i recall it I am 70 years old it does not seem that long ago.

Anonymous said...

@ Phil,
I worked at several of the Fiddlers (Lkwd, Tustin, Long Beach, La Habra, Sixpence)off & on from '65 thru '69 before going into the Navy. Clay Whitaker was indeed one of the owners. He left to work for the another chain (Jolly Roger, I think?) in Hawaii, & someone at Fid's had told me about it. I met him in Hawaii while on a Navy cruise for a few hours at that restaurant. If I recall correctly, he was the only guy to get away without wearing a tie.

Brian said...

Phil and Anonymous, I always enjoy your stories and feedback. As I have mentioned previously I went to the Lakewood Fiddler's many times and agree with what has been said about the food being high quality and served correctly. Do you both feel the bottom line these days make it impossible for a place like Fiddler's to successful? I know it's all about the money (profits) but look at the money being forked out for lousy food and even worse service at places that remain open today. Should this not motivate someone to revisit the (Fiddler model) and give it a try? There are plenty of us out there today that would pay today's prices for a meal as good as we used to get at Fiddler's. Just my humble opinion. I look forward to more comments and stories you might want to share.

Sleepy Sally Sandman said...

Such a wonderful trip through Memory Lane...loved reading about your experiences. You all mush have served me at some time or other as I was a customer at least once a week... Today I am hankering for that wonderful Canadian Cheese soup and I'm looking for a recipe that will satisfy my craving. I remember it having a smoky flavor to it, but none of the recipes I've found address that ingredient. Maybe the brand of cheese had the smoky flavor or maybe they left out the magic ingredient in the Faux recipes... I've been gone from Lakewood since 83 and often reminisce about Fiddlers, Marie Callender's...Even, Don Calender's Silver cloud alcoholic beverage...Yum yum

Brian said...

Sleepy Sally, I had forgotten about the Canadian Cheese soup. We have been out of state as well for about 20 years but crave those places as well even if some don't exist any more. I do miss Hof's Hut on Bellflower as well. Another place we used to go is Claim Jumper in Los Alamitos but I was told it might be gone as well. One of the waitresses at Fiddler's was my friends girlfriend and later wife. The service there was always excellent. Brings back many memories for me as I used to go there with my parents quite often. I enjoyed the Fiddler Burger, Ths San Franciscan which they added later to the menu and the salads were fantastic on those cold plates. Thanks for sharing your memories as well. I hope you will share more.

Anonymous said...

To Sleepy Sally & Brian,

That Cheddar Cheese soup was delicious. I too have looked for a decent replica recipe, but haven't found one yet. The soup wasn't made at the restaurants, it came direct from the commissary & I never saw the recipe. The taste WAS a little smoky, which could have been either finely diced Smoked Canadian Bacon &/or Smoked Cheddar. Or, they could have added a touch of Liquid Smoke.
We used to make a Fiddler's version of "Boston Baked Beans" at the restaurant. As I recall, it was a big can of Van Camps Pork n' Beans, a bit of Brown Sugar, some Yellow Mustard & a touch of Liquid Smoke. Pretty tasty & the customers seemed to like it.
I mentioned this before, but the commissary also made a cheese sauce (I think it was a reduced version of the cheese soup) that was used on the "Cheese Benedict" breakfast dish instead of Hollandaise Sauce. Very Good.
To Brian,
As far as re-creating something similar to Fiddler's now-a-days, it IS possible, but the owner/management commitment has to be there & knowledgeable. They also have to have the cahones to be hard-nosed regarding service, employee attitudes, etc., & they have to think long-term.
There are some TV shows that illustrate the do's & don'ts of the business that come to mind:
"Restaurant Impossible", "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" (& one other which I can't remember the name of) on the Cooking Channel.

Brian said...

secondrobtrunAnonymous. I appreciate you response and always enjoy your stories regarding Fiddler's. Regarding it being possible to recreate something like Fiddler's today I agree that discipline would be needed and my take is that it would be more difficult to have people dedicated to serving the public in that manner. Not impossible but certainly more difficult than back in the 1960's and 1970's. Fiddler's Three did it right that's for sure. I look forward to more of you thoughts and stories. Happy New Year.

Ian said...

I too worked at the carson mall store and the puente hill mall store back in the mid to late 80s....loved working for Sam Wright jr will never forget his gold teeth....would love to hear from some old employees that worked at the same stores.

Anonymous said...

Hope all had a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!
I was thinking about something to fix for Super Bowl Sunday, which led me to thinking of some of the dishes they had at the Bar & Grill at the back of Fiddler's in Lakewood. It's been a long time, but I think they opened that part around 1972-74 as a test run for developing McKenna's Creek (I think that's the name of the larger upscale place they built in Marina Pacifica, in Sunset Beach).
At Lakewood, originally, it was like (2) separate restaurants: the coffee shop restaurant up front & the more upscale (& pricier)one in back, but a few items of each were available either front or back.
Since I was originally thinking of super bowl food, a few come to mind:
Crab & Shrimp Stuffed Mushrooms.
Fresh Clam Steamers w/drawn butter & Garlic Bread.
Grilled, Marinated Shrimp Ka-bobs.
These come to mind, 'cause up here in the mountains, FRESH ocean type seafood is next to impossible to come by, without paying a fortune.
Sure would like to get that Stuffed Mushroom recipe.

Brian said...

Anonymous, I think the addition to the Lakewood store was around 1973-74. I graduated from Lakewood High in 1973 and remember the work being done either that year or the next year. My family and I went there quite often and always enjoyed the food and the service was outstanding. Did you work there or just enjoy the food like the rest of us? I remember the parking becoming a little more difficult while the addition was being worked on. My friends girlfriend and future wife worked at that store for several years during High School and after. Thanks for you post and Happy New Year to you as well.

Anonymous said...

@Brian,
Ah, 1973-76 was my wild period, after getting out of the Navy. It was when that part of Lakewood added a whole bunch of restaurants & I tried them all. There was Fuddruckers right next door to Fids, a night club next to that (forgot the name, but it was partially owned by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers), Don Calendars, across the street & there was a Black Amgus in there somewhere. I hit them all. That's what screwed up the traffic. Worked at Fiddler's as a part time bartender for awhile in 1976, as a 2nd job, until I got married & settled down.

Brian said...

Anonymous,As you tried those other places how did they compare as far as menu,quality of food,overall service etc? Competition no doubt always has something to do with keeping your customers or getting them to return after trying other places in the area. I realize things change and competition has a lot to do with it but boy do I wish Fiddler's Three was around today.Curious, Did you ever eat at Claim Jumper in Los Alamitos? If so how about some feedback. Others chime in as well.

Anonymous said...

I just happened to come across this blog about Fiddlers Three today! I was basically born into this company my Dad (Ron Pine) was an asst. mgr at the one in Lakewood in 1967, and he worked at all of them and was the commissary mgr in Signal Hill, My sisters and I all worked at the one in Lakewood and I also worked at the one on Atlantic in LB and helped out at Sixpence, I know I have an old menu somewhere.

Brian said...

Anonymous, I hope you post the menu if you can find it. As I have stated in previous posts My family and I ate there many times while I was in Jr High and High School. Great service and great food. One of my best friends girlfriend and future wife worked at the Lakewood location. Looking forward to your next post.

MaryKayPam said...

Wow! Memories! - My mom, Shirley Brown, worked Lakewood Fiddler's for 27 yrs!
1966-1993? - Long time w/ Denise, Hallie, & Linda. Remember them?

MaryKayPam said...

I also worked at La Habra '77 and Long Beach '78-82.
I agree the BEST burgers, Cheese soup, 3 bean salad, teriyaki & fresh strawberry pie!

Brian said...

MaryKayPam, Shirley Denise,Hallie and Linda do sound familiar. My parents and I ate there often. My friends girlfriend and future wife worked there as well. As you can tell from the posts Fiddlers was one popular place that knew how to do it right for sure. We always enjoyed the food and the waitresses were always very pleasant. We started going there when I was at Marshall Jr High and continued even after graduating from Lakewood High in 1973. Any stories that you or your mom want to share? Look forward to more posts from you. Wish I could have a Fiddler Burger right now.

Tia Marshall said...

I worked at the Carson, Long Beach and Sixpence (Lakewood locations) for many years while in college under Sam Wright's supervision. Fiddler's Three was amazing-- the regular customers, the food, the friendly co-workers. My regulars loved the Fiddler Burger, of course BUT the Soup-a-salad Burger, Patty Melt (with 1000 island surprise) and French Dip were lunch favorites while the FISH & CHIPS entrée was my best seller. Customers would buy the cinnamon rolls by the tray (qty:4) and the pies were all magnificent. I have yet to find a three bean salad that compares to Fiddlers.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been at this site for awhile.

@Anonymous, Mary/Kay/Pam, Tia & Brian:

Anonymous: I worked with your dad & remember him as a good man, & an even tempered manager (unlike some others, who didn't last long).

Mary/Kay/Pam: I worked with your mom & I remember her with fondness. When everyone was going nuts during a rush, she was the calm in the middle of the storm.

Tia: the french dip/fish & chips were always among my favorites, even though I got tired of making them during the rush sometimes. I was never a big pie fan, but once in a while, I'd bring home a whole Strawberry or Peach Pie w/a couple of cans of whipped cream, make a pig of myself & go to bed in a sugar coma (oh, those days!)

Brian: The whole Fiddler's experience was one more of a family type thing, both with employees & customers, than the way most of today's restaurants are.

I'm semi-retired now, up in the mountains north of L.A. & to tell you the truth, I don't miss that rat-race down there, because of the way it's changed. I had to come down to Costa Mesa recently for some work & the only thing that was good, were the Steamed Clams/Fresh Oysters at Ritter's.
They reminded me of the Bar & Grill at the back of the Fiddler's in Lakewood, when they 1st opened. Can't get that kind of stuff up here & I miss it. I also had a good time back there at Fid's as a part-time bartender with Tim B. for awhile.

Mike D.

But still signing off as anonymous.

Ian said...

Tia i think i remember you me and my brother were both cooks at the carson location for a few years,when did you work there???

Brian said...

Mike D and Tia. Thanks so much for your posts. I always enjoy them and remember more after having you share your experiences. Keep em coming. Your right in that it was like a family and although I have found a few places I enjoy now I can honestly say they don't match Fiddler's. There is a place that opened a couple of years ago that I hear is from California called BJ's Restaurant and Brewery that I like but still not Fiddlers. Keep the posts coming.Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

@Brian,
Sorry, I missed your earlier post asking about the other restaurants around Fid's in Lakewood. They all started out as dinner houses (except for Fuddruckers & that night club owned by Bill Medley),& were good at first. Don Calenders was an upscale version of Marie Calenders, run by her son. Hired an upscale chef, with prices to suit. The food was good but didn't last long as it was a bit too expensive for middle class Lakewood. They got rid of the chef & went to a different menu. It became a Marie Calenders w/a cocktail lounge. Black Angus hasn't changed over the years. Fuddruckers allowed you to (sort of) build your own burgers & is/was a sort of novelty. The nightclub was just too loud (I worked a few years at the Reuben's Plankhouse in Cerritos as a bartender in the cocktail lounge w/a live band & I know loud). All in all, they were OK to visit, but they weren't places you could go to for a relaxing meal or just a cup of coffee like Fiddler's.

Brian said...

@Anonymous, I ate at all but Fuddrucker's throughout the years. My second choice I would say was Marie Calender's but not sure after all these years whether it was the menu, service or just fond memories with my family of going out and spending sometime together. Next time I make a trip out to Long Beach/Lakewood I need to drive the area since it's been a few years and see what's changed. Right about now I could go for a Fiddler Burger, Fries and a salad on that always cold plate with Sour Cream or Blue Cheese dressing. I'm thinking it was Sour Cream and I loved those round croutons. I'm drooling here.lol Thanks for your post and keep em coming. Hope you have a good holiday weekend. Thanks to everyone that has served our country.

Brian said...

I was talking with a friend who mentioned they had seen several famous people while out eating or at sports bars and wondered if anyone working or eating at Fiddlers Three recalls seeing anyone famous or someone you thought looked familiar from sports or the entertainment world. I know a couple of my friends did spot a couple of entertainers down at Marina Pacifica years ago but I can't even recall who they were now. Just asking for fun. Boy, a Fiddler Burger sounds good about now.

Anonymous said...

I ate at that location several times a week from '73-79. Still make the cheese soup but would love to find the sour cream dressing recipe. Made a great salad.

Anonymous said...

@Brian: Bill Medley (the tall half of the Righteous Brothers singing duo) used to frequent the Tustin Fiddler's. I was tending bar at Rueben's Plankhouse in Cerritos when Evel Kneivel came in for dinner. I was having a drink at a Brazilian BBQ on PCH in Long Beach, when Tom Lasorda, Bill Russell & Steve Yeager of the Dodgers came in for dinner. A buddy of mine & I were having lunch on the after deck of the Rueben E. Lee in Newport Beach, when all of a sudden he stood up & yelled "Hey Duke!" across the water & a very tall guy on a patio deck about 100 feet away raised his glass in a salute. It was John Wayne.
@Anonymous: Try the Sour Cream Dressing Recipe from Coco's Restaurant. It's virtually identical to Fiddler's, as the folks who started Fiddler's originally came from Coco's.

Brian said...

Anonymous, Thanks for sharing those sightings at local places. I would usually look around but didn't see anyone show business wise that I recognized. I love that sour cream dressing as well and will look for the recipe. I enjoyed it not only on my salad but would dip my fries in it as well. Anonymous, Have you eaten at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse? We have one here in Fort Collins Colorado and was just curious if you had tried it. They are based in California.I have had a couple of Burgers there with fries that was good. Portions were good size and service was better than normal for these days. Thanks for you post and always look forward to you posting more.

Anonymous said...

@Brian,
Try the Sour Cream Dressing on a Fiddler Burger (just a regular burger on an Onion Roll w/lettuce & tomato) instead of the standard 1000 Island Dressing. It's tasty.
Mike

Anonymous said...

@Brian,
Sorry for not posting in awhile. Had a problem with getting a comment to post. Yes, I've eaten at the BJ's in Irvine, Ca., once. I don't remember much, just an impression the burger was good. I was meeting family there & the (3) hour drive down from the mountains took (4) due to traffic & So Cal drivers. It was a Sat. morning! Then I got lost. What a pain. Sorry for the rant, but over a year later that still rankles. I was down for a week & couldn't get out of there fast enough. The family says I've been living in the mountains too long.
Mike

Brian said...

Mike, I gave it a try and it was really good. Maybe not Fiddler's but not bad at all. Going to Fiddler's with my parents is something I really enjoyed and as much as I enjoyed the Burger it would be so much more special had it been with my parents at Fiddler's on Candlewood in Lakewood. I'm going to make it again for sure. I wish I could find the little round croutons they used to have for the salads too. It sounds like your drive down from the mountains was quite an adventure. Maybe makes you appreciate where your at now more? Any idea where we may find more information on Fiddlers's? Maybe on Facebook perhaps? Thanks for writing and I will look for your next post.