Photos: Inside Clifton's Cafeteria, Restored To Its Magical Glory
Clifton's Cafeteria is finally ready for us to eat and imbibe within its many nooks and crannies after four years of precise and detailed renovations. And we can now say with certainly that it is everything we hoped it would be.
The ribbon was cut outside the doors of the historic Clifton's Cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles earlier this afternoon. Guests to this sneak peak were greeted with the jubilant sounds of a big band, while servers in suits and vintage dresses passed around wine, champagne, Moscow Mules and other classic cocktails.
Clifton's looks like something out of a dream you had when you were a child, where you're in a strange otherworld and everything is bigger than you. It's truly a magical place, and we can now see why it took owner Andrew Meieran (The Edison), who bought Clifton's in 2010, so long to show us what he was up to. The attention to detail is incredible, with many points of interest that you could easily overlook if in a rush to grab a tray in the cafeteria and fill it with Clifton's comfort foods. There's the neon sign in the floor of the cafeteria that reads "Welcome to Clifton's," and the winding bit of neon on display near the entrance to the bathrooms. According to the placard there, it's the "oldest continuously active neon light in the world," installed in the 1930s and found within a wall in 2012, still lit.
While there's ample seating around the joint—as well as well-placed shelves to set a drink while having an animated conversation—there are numerous places to tuck yourself away, and even a few places where we think you could legitimately hide. A cave-like structure near the bakery case on the Redwood Forest-themed first floor reveals a hidden nook low to the ground where peeking inside will reveal a taxidermy bobcat letting out a growl and a diorama of foliage. And that's just one of many secrets—and hidden dioramas. From the second floor, head to the right of the bar and you'll find a hidden cave, then a narrow staircase that leads to yet another hidden cave, this one with a door that can be latched to conceal your clandestine discussions. You could spend hours wandering around and finding new treasures, or peering at the numerous taxidermy animals or examining the woodsy furniture scattered throughout.
Those who come hungry will be able to line up in the cafeteria portion. Grab a Clifton's branded tray and sample their many American comfort offerings, including carved meats, mashed potatoes, tuna salad, pizza, soups, chili, grilled veggies and fresh-baked rolls. For dessert, they've brought back Clifton's beloved jello, and Clifton's Cake as a standard white cake with white icing and sprinkles. While Chef Jason Fullilove is using many of Clifton's old recipes, Eater LA reports that you can expect modern, upscale twists on old favorites—we tried a lavender jello!The second floor—known as Cathedral Grove—features stained glass and a bar that also has a soda fountain. A bartender told LAist that while they'll initially start serving at 11 a.m. as they get settled, they'll soon begin opening up at 6 a.m., just like Clifton's used to do. So, you could theoretically grab a brew before most people head to work. The bar program will include a lot of creative cocktails, classic concoctions and a wide selection of California products.
Clifford Clinton founded Clifton's in 1931, and this particular store is the last that remains of the chain. Clinton was renowned for his activism, and he even gave away free meals to those who couldn't afford them.
As you walk into the bar, you'll find a sign near a cave-like archway. It reads:
However clever is the thing we do, however beautiful our craft or art, our busy lives must have their backgrounds too, yet back of every hand must be a heart. Our characters behind our work must rise, and link our life and labor with the skies.
When all five floors and the basement are open, you'll be able to visit the third floor Gothic Bar, the Treetops bar and lounge on the fourth floor, the Pacific Seas tiki bar on the fifth floor, and an industrial-style bar full of ice sculptures in the basement called Shadowbox.
Clifton's Cafeteria is located at 648 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. It will be open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., starting October 1.