Clifton's Cafeteria - 30 DEC 2010

Finishing out the year, a friend and I drove downtown to have lunch at Los Angeles’ oldest surviving cafeteria style eatery.

Located on Broadway between 6th and 7th, this is the same "Historic Downtown" area that I documented on March 12, 2010: The neighborhood is an interesting mix of recovering slum and young professionals moving into newly created loaf apartments. The gentrification is crawling forward in patches. And since Clifton’s was recently purchased by Andrew Meieran, owner of the Edison Bar, this 80 year old eatery will be next on the list.
When this family owned business opened in 1935, it was named Clifton’s Brookdale.

The outside still has its original custom sidewalk tile-work depicting different areas Los Angeles. Below is an image of City Hall, built in 1928.Below is an image of Griffith Park Observatory which also opened in 1935.
Per their website, the “interior is reminiscent of the California Redwood groves with waterfalls and brooks that remains today the largest public cafeteria in the world.”
Their service trays looked fresh and clean but still use the original artwork.

The food was surprisingly decent, unlike most cafeterias. The green beans were fresh roasted instead of being over-cooked out of a can.
The waterfall is covered with snow for Santa’s sleigh.

There is a slice of a California Redwood tree with yellow labels making it’s growth through time:
The Height of Mayan Culture 500 A.D.
Charlemagne Crowned Emperor of Rome 800
Leif Eriksson Discovers America 1000
Columbus Rediscovers America 1492
United States Declares Independence 1776
David Clinton Opens Restaurant in L.A. 1888
Cliford Clinton Opens “Clifton’s” Cafeteria 1931

It was fun seeing the place all decked out in Christmas decorations. The eating area has several levels.

Einar Peterson created a life size forest on canvas covering one wall, it can still be seen on the left in the photo below.

Where there once was an organ and a live organist there is a moose, what was once live plants are now artificial.

Meieran purchased the entire five story building and plans to keep the cafeteria open, restart Clifton’s commercial bakery business and add four bars: two speakeasy bars, one tiki-themed in the basement; the other, on the third floor which can only be accessed through a hidden entrance on the 1st floor; a bar on the Mezzanine level, serving the cafeteria; a main bar which will take over the Red Room on the second floor.

Walking back to the car, I caught this inner city image.