Bar/Restaurant: Lord Fletcher’s
Area: Rancho Mirage
Typa Joint: Historic/Old School
Signature Cocktail: The Brandy Ice
Lord Fletcher’s is hands-down my favorite restaurant in the Coachella Valley. It hasn’t changed a bit since 1966, and as Anthony Bourdain said in his review, “That’s what I like about it.” Most significantly for me is that Francis Albert Sinatra loved the place.
Lord Fletcher’s is open Tuesday through Saturday. The valet parks your car every night of the week, busy or slow, even though there is a huge parking lot with ample and accessible parking adjacent to the building. It’s the little touches like that that make Lord Fletcher’s so cool.
The coat rack is full of gold and silver lame’ and faux and real fur. If you’re lucky you’ll arrive when Mr. Fletcher himself and his wife are there. They are in their 80s now, and he visits the restaurant every day. His son Michael Fletcher, a handsome, tall drink of water with a smooth baritone voice, literally grew up at the restaurant. He now runs the place, sometimes sharing his memories of Sinatra, politicos, dignitaries, and movie stars.
The table by the fireplace was Sinatra’s table. He did not care for the photo the restaurant hung on the wall in his honor, so one day the portrait that hangs there now was delivered to the restaurant.
Sinatra was known to toss $20 bills under the table, commenting that the cleaning crew would get quite a surprise in the morning.
Over at the bar, Andy has been with Lord Fletcher’s for 11 years. Michael, Andy’s predecessor, tended the bar for 30 years. There was one other bartender prior to Michael. In 45 years, Lord Fletcher’s has had three bartenders.The only way to describe Andy is superb. He remembers your name and your drink, tells a great joke, and entertains you with mechanized toys kept behind the bar. This time of year, most of them are holiday – themed. Behind the toys is an impressive collection of Royal Dalton figural mugs.
Andy knows everyone who walks through the door, and he makes introductions. By the time you leave Lord Fletcher’s, you feel a part of its family and community.
On my first visit, I took a photo of Sinatra on the wall, and Michael Fletcher immediately asked if I would like a photo with the portrait.Andy mentioned the Bourdain review, and he played it for me on the DVR as I sipped my cocktail. I was all ready to write my review when I realized I violated one of the few rules of Bent: I did not order the restaurant’s signature drink.
I returned last night to have Lord Fletcher’s signature Brandy Ice, an after-dinner treat of Brandy, crème de cacao, and vanilla ice cream. I got there just in time for happy hour, and two prime rib sliders with potato salad for $6.95 fit the bill. There were lots of patrons at the bar, and Andy introduced me around. I sipped a potent Mai Tai with dinner and chatted with Jo, a spirited and beautiful 80-year-old woman who danced with Sinatra and Spiro Agnew in the 70s.
I am so glad I returned to Lord Fletcher’s for that Brandy Ice, because Michael Fletcher regaled us all with some wonderful memories and stories that night. He recalled the times that he had to tell Sinatra that his table was not available. He laughed at the memory of one night, when he returned sheepishly and fearfully to Sinatra’s table, twice, to tell him that the money for the bill was short. Sinatra took it all with aplomb.
Michael told us that Frank never left his table to greet other stars; they always visited his table. The one exception was the night that Sinatra walked over and sat down with Lucille Ball. As for the general public and the hoi polloi, one of Michael’s jobs was to steer them away from Frank. One night Frank told Michael to allow an elderly woman to say hello. She told Frank she saw him 35 years before, in Pittsburgh, and how wonderful he was. He replied, “I remember! You looked beautiful that night!”
Then there was the night that Frank and astronaut Alan Shephard got behind the bar and sang “Fly Me to the Moon!” Can you just imagine???
Michael remembers a kind Sinatra – the man who gave the Fletcher family front row, center seats to his concert in London, addressing them first when he came onstage before even saying hello to his audience. When a busboy fell ill, Sinatra called the hospital and paid all the medical bills.
I chatted so long with Michael and Andy that the valet brought me the car keys so he could go home; I was the last car in the parking lot! (Mind you, this was 10:30 p.m.!) The Brandy Ice was on the house, and I floated home on a cloud of goodwill and great memories.