Clifton’s Cafeteria reopens Sept. 17

Clifton's Cafeteria, Los Angeles

The historic Clifton’s Cafeteria of downtown Los Angeles will reopen Sept. 17 after a $10 million, multiyear remodeling, reported Los Angeles Magazine.

A few days ago, the restaurant’s reopening appeared imminent because of a job fair last week. Now, there’s a date.

The magazine was allowed in the building to take photographs for a sneak peek of the transformed restaurant, which opened near the western terminus of Route 66 in 1935.

The article contains a lot of detail on what visitors will encounter when Clifton’s reopens. An excerpt:

Former customers who visit the new Clifton’s will pass through the double glass doors to find a place both familiar and entirely different. There’s still a bakery—albeit with high-end coffee and house-baked breads—along with the cascading waterfall, the animatronic raccoon, and the original log pillars. Meieran also uncovered a series of small grottoes for kids that Don Clinton, Clifford’s 88-year-old son, vaguely remembers running through in the ’30s. The cafeteria is inspired by the trend of European-style food halls. The tray line has been divided into a series of “action stations,” not unlike the café portion at any Whole Foods, with a few fussed-up versions of Clifton’s classics thrown in. “I promise you’ll like our mac and cheese even more than the stuff they were serving before,” says Meieran. He’s added a retail shop that focuses on California goods—dates, Ghirardelli chocolate, craft beer, and wine—and kept the faux-stone chapel.

One of the big new additions at Clifton’s is a 40-foot-tall artificial redwood tree with a fireplace inside. It’s the centerpiece of the atrium.

And although the restaurant will continue its long tradition of feeding visitors who cannot afford it, paying customers will have the option of making a donation to help defray those expenses. Clifton’s also will distribute vouchers for meals so nonprofits can distribute them to volunteers.

Owner Andrew Meieran, based on the interview, acquired and renovated Clifton’s as a labor of love. In fact, he was so devoted to preserving its history and adding to the original owner’s vision that he had a falling-out with partners over the project.

Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservatory, is impressed with the makeover.

“You want somebody who respects what it is—you don’t want somebody who is going to strip that away,” she says. “But then you don’t want somebody to go ‘Clifton’s crazy,’ either. Andrew did a fabulous job. He took spaces that had not been included in the restaurant and made them into a Clifton’s for this century.”

(Night image of Clifton’s Cafeteria in January by Omar Barcena via Flickr)

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