I have to confess that I'm not particularly fond of "the desert." Living in Southern California, I don't quite get the need to escape to the east for an even drier environment. Still, the Sonoran Desert serves as a popular getaway for a lot of the more populated areas within a three-hour drive. The people who live there—in Los Angeles, San Diego and other cities—tend to believe that 60 degrees is 10 below zero. They need to get to a place where they can play golf in warmer weather the whole year.
My experience with the desert is not focused on golf. Or tennis. I am usually there only once or twice a year for a conference or convention. The desert appears to seem particularly exotic to folks who are from other parts of the country. There are Native-American casinos. Nice restaurants. A luxury outlet mall attracts large numbers of foreign tourists who arrive on plush buses from Los Angeles to buy premium goods at what they consider a discount.
This last trip, I finally made time to visit Fame in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. Fame is an oasis. Walk in and there is nothing distinctive: just a bunch of beer and wine on the right, the humidor to the left. Step through the door to the lounge, though, and you're in a comfortable brewpub in which cigars can be enjoyed. No cigarettes, please. Take them outside to the tables on the sidewalk.
Mel Shah, who opened the lounge in the current location 12 years ago, owns Fame. "We still have locals discovering the lounge," Shah says.
In 2006, wine was added and a year later you could have a glass in the back. The back used to be a huge humidor, but Shah was convinced that if he built a bar with beers on tap, put some overstuffed chairs and sofas around and turned on the TV, people would come. And they did.
To use the lounge, you need to buy your cigar there and have at least one drink. Hardly a burden since that's why you're there in the first place. If you don't want to watch the game on the flat-screen, enjoy the Sinatra-era music. Shah had just started serving espresso when I visited, but I wanted a beer and I noticed the Firestone Walker's Velvet Merkin. I settled in to watch the game.
Fame has 30 cigar lockers that rent for a $200 per month credit towards purchases in the store. Additionally, if you rent a locker, you get 20 percent off. Shah says that the less expensive cigars sell best except when the Cigar Aficionado ratings come out. "Then the top-rated cigars sell like crazy."
Next time I'm in the desert, unless there's a good game on, I'm going to sit at Fame's sidewalk tables. It's always fun to see the desert crowd walk by while enjoying a great cigar.
Fame Wine and Cigar Lounge
155 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Suite A-3
Palm Springs, California 92262
Monday through Wednesday, and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.