|Clifton's Cafeteria Brookdale exterior c. 1936|
Image courtesy of the Whittington Photography Collection
USC Digital Library
Cafeteria trays and blogger are rejoicing at the news that after almost fours years, the newly renovated iconic Clifton's Cafeteria is about to re-open. Roger Vincent, in his Los Angeles Times article "Happy trays: A renovated Clifton's cafeteria is set to reopen after nearly four years," writes about "...Andrew Meieran, a local developer with an obsessive streak, has reimagined the downtown Los Angeles culinary institution, probably better known for its kitschy forest-themed dining room than its comfort food." What started out as a simple rehabilitation project, intended to last only a few months, stretched out longer as Mr. Meieran circled the globe and lashed himself to his computer looking for the perfect tchotchkes for the place. Blogger's inner foodie is already daydreaming of creamy golden orange macaroni and cheese.
|Clifton's "Pacific Seas" Cafeteria c.1940|
|Clifton's tropical themed dining room c.1939|
Clifton's relaunch heralds the return of the once-popular eatery dating back to 1935 that served as many 15,000 meals a day when Broadway was Los Angeles's entertainment hub. For whatever you could afford to pay, you would be served traditional cafeteria fare such as: pot roast, mashed potatoes and Jell-O in a rustic setting, complete with faux redwood trees and stone-clad waterfall referencing the Brookdale Lodge in Northern California. Ms. Besten continues, People can be obsessive about every feature but get lost in the weeds...Andrew understands why people respond to interesting historic places and how to maximize that.
|Typical Clifton's roast turkey lunch|
This legacy weighed heavily on Andrew Meieran's mind as he set out to restore the landmark cafeteria, while adding his own thumbprint, turning Clifton's into foodie destination. Mr Meieran understood that he would be pilloried by the devotees if ruined the Clifton's they venerated.
|Who wants Jell-O?|
Roger Vincent writes, "Clifton's Brookdale, as it was once known, was part of the Clifton's family cafeteria empire, which had a 79-year run that ended with the sale of a long-term lease to Meieran in 2010." In an acknowledgement to the Pacific Seas, one of the chain's eleven restaurants that closed in the sixties, the rehabilitate Broadway site will feature a Polynesian-style. The bar will share the fourth floor with a restaurant. Both rooms will be separated by an Art Deco-themed "map room" decorated with paintings of air travel when it was still glamourous by Los Angeles artist Sammy Beam. Mr. Beam also painted three-story murals of Yosemite Valley and the Muir Woods in the new atrium. The new Clifton's will house two restaurants, including the cafeteria, and five bars. Mr. Vincent reports, "In the basement bar, ice sculptors will carve frozen blocks in a glassed-in freezer..."
|Clifton's customers during World War II|
Clifton's Cafeteria, is possibly, Mr. Meieran's most elaborate project and it exacted a toll. During the project, he had to deal with divorce, the deaths of family members and interested acquaintances. Mr. Meieran admitted to Mr. Vincent, This has been a very tough personal time for me. Mr. Meieran is a filmmaker whose credits include co-writing and directing Highland Park (2013) and is currently working on a biographical movie about Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. He continues, I have a passion for storytelling in film or in actual spaces...It's about the narrative elements of history and design. Yes, thank you.
|Ray Bradbury in line at Clifton's|
"Search and you shall find." Find, he did, connecting with niche online communities. This is how Mr. Meieran was able to find wood from a "...naturally fallen 1,700 year-old Sequoia redwood tree that was carved into a bar and a piece of ancient bristlecone pine that is now a tabletop." He also picked up assorted odds and ends from a Parisian flea market.
|Nelda Mae and Clifford E. Clifton|
The newly rehabilitated Clifton's set to open in stages beginning September 17, with the denouement, the opening of the Pacific Seas Bar targeted by Halloween. How perfect. In the meantime, the Clifton family is eagerly waiting to see what has become of their family enterprise. Edmond Clifton III. the grandson of Clifton's founder, told Roger Vincent, We don't know much...We're all very interested to what they have done with the place. As are the Clifton's devotees.