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.
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.