Clifton’s Cafeteria: Landmark Closing for Remodel Sept. 26

Clifton’s Cafeteria Brookdale dining room features a woodland theme complete with forest mural, faux trees and boulders, and animals.

Discover LA by Metro:

Last Chance for Hearty Food in LA Woodland Fantasyland

It’s one of those places you take for granted will always be there, because it always has been — for more than 75 years. But Monday, September 26, 2011 is the (hopefully temporary) end of an era for Clifton’s Cafeteria. It will be closing for up to six months for remodeling.

Clifton’s Cafeteria, on Broadway just off the corner of 7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles, has been a destination for locals and tourists alike.  It’s filled with the stuff of great memories.

So we had to hop on the Metro Rail Red/Purple Line to Pershing Square and get one last look at Clifton’s amazing woodland fantasy. And it is as amazing as everyone’s childhood memories of this unique place.

Servers dish up hearty, reasonably priced food at Clifton’s Cafeteria.

This last remaining Clifton’s Cafeteria was the second in a chain started in 1931. It opened at its current location in 1935 and was remodeled as the Brookdale in 1939.

A carved wooden bear welcomes guests to Clifton’s Cafeteria.

The restaurant is almost entirely unchanged from that time. It features a 20-foot waterfall flowing over faux rocks throughout the dining room, faux redwood trees, woodland animals, and a forest mural backdrop. The effect is part fantasy, part Disneyland, part kitsch, and all totally unique.

Geared toward affordable family dining, Clifton’s still offers what is probably the original kids meal — a children’s “treasure tray” meal for those under 12. It is described as a well-balanced, healthy meal which includes the choice of a toy from the treasure chest.

Daily and Blue Plate Specials are part of the attraction of Clifton’s Cafeteria. A Downtown LA institution since 1935, it is closing for remodeling on Sept. 26, 2011.

Clifton’s Cafeterias have an interesting history, having been in the same family for more than 75 years. The restaurants became community landmarks known for their excellent quality, affordability, and service in addition to their decor.

The family is known for strong values of service to the community and their philanthropic activities. Founded during the Great Depression, the founding restauranteur’s philosophy was that no one should be turned away.

Last year the Clinton family, Clifton’s owners, sold their landmark to Downtown LA restauranteur Andrew Meieran, who is known for opening The Edison, a bar and nightclub in the Higgins Building. Plans call for keeping the look of the original dining room while doing structural upgrades and adding a bar lounge on the upper floor.

An elaborately patterned sidewalk sets off the entrance to Clifton’s Cafeteria in Downtown LA.

We hope the new owner will follow the credo set by founder Clifford Clinton:

We pray our humble service be measured not by gold,
but by the golden rule”

Clifford E. Clinton

We’re looking forward to the re-opening and are glad we got one last look. We hope you get to see this fun landmark before it closes on September 26.

Clifton’s Cafeteria
648 South Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles, 90014
213-627-1673

Be sure to call and check on hours of operation.

Directions: Use the 5th Street exit from the Red/Purple Line Metro Rail Station at Pershing Square. When you exit the station Pershing Square will be behind you. Walk straight ahead (east/away from Pershing Square) on 5th Street to Broadway. Turn right on Broadway and continue almost two blocks. Clifton’s is on the east side of Broadway, just before the corner of 7th Street.

Exit the Pershing Square Metro station on 5th Street and walk east to Broadway. Turn right and Clifton’s Cafeteria will be on the left just north of 7th Street.

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2 Responses to Clifton’s Cafeteria: Landmark Closing for Remodel Sept. 26

  1. David Lamb says:

    When I was a child in the forties, my father made business trips to LA and usually took my mother and me with him. My mother and I were frequent diners at Clifton’s and those visits are among my cherished childhood memories. We also frequented another Clifton’s a few blocks away. It had a Hawaiian theme with tables under grass umbrella-like things to shield us from the occasional tropical rains that drenched the roof over our heads. There were also volcanoes that erupted from time to time during the meal. My mother was very patient and took me there several times a week. It was my favorite place for breakfast. I hope they manage to restore it as close to the original as possible. Does anybody else remember the Hawaiian?

  2. Bruce Mitchell says:

    Thanks for this post. I used to go to Clifton’s fairly often because it was close to the office of a client and offered good food in a pleasant funky atmosphere. I think I shall check it out once again before it closes.

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