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DTLA Eats: Clifton’s Cafeteria, A Unique Dining Experience

LA Restaurant Review

The word cafeteria creates images in our minds of the lunch line back in school and similar cafeterias where once you waited through the serving line, you ate in the most boring of environments.

Enter Clifton’s in downtown Los Angeles.  Once you step inside the old red brick five story building you enter the world of the great outdoors.  An almost shocking change from the crowded street you stepped off of.  The decor is so elaborate that I would say it gives the famous TAO Restaurant in Hollywood a reason to up their game!

Cliftons CAfeteria
Historic Clifton’s Cafeteria on 7th and Broadway since 1932. A dining experience.

The cafeteria, which was opened in 1935 by Clifford Clinton, served 15,000 diners a day at its peak.  That’s a lot of eating!  Developer Andrew Meieran bought the cafeteria in 2010 and spent the next five years — and $10 million — renovating it.

A giant faux redwood tree fills the center of the restaurant and rises though all five floors.  There are trees painted on the walls, and live foliage throughout.  Oh, and stuffed wild animals.  Lots of them.  There is a waterfall adjacent to the stairs leading up to the second floor and a 250 pound meteorite atop one of the bars.

The cafeteria is divided into five different themed dining areas: The Marketplace, The Monarch, The Brookdale, The Gothic Bar and The Pacific Seas.  Several of these have dedicated booths or areas where luminaries of the past hung out.

An example of such is in The Brookdale, the place where modern science fiction was born.  Science fiction masters like L Ron Hubbard, Forrest Ackerman, and Ray Bradbury met up on Thursday nights and sat on a bench on the second floor of Clifton’s when that back room was known as the Brown Room. And that sacred bench where the Los Angeles Science Fiction League once congregated is now a booth.

As for the eats, you’ll find pizza, roast beef and a Waldorf salad and other cafeteria fare.  And plenty of specialty drinks such as the Angels Flight, after the beloved Angels Flight Railway nearby, that is a mix of Hendrix Gin, cherry shrub, mint, soda, served tall with a mint spring.

648 S. Broadway Los Angeles CA 90014
213 627 1673


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