Clifton’s Cafeteria

Had a day off on Monday and went to Long Beach for lunch with my pal Steve Harvey of “Only in L.A.” fame (subject of a future column) via Metrolink and the Blue Line, the only way to travel. After lunch we paid our respects at Acres of Books, the used bookstore that’s closing, probably in mid-October (and subject of another future column). Discounts are now up to 30 percent but most of the best books have already walked out the doors.

On the train I read more of “The Distant Land of My Father,” the novel everyone in Claremont is supposed to be reading, although I have yet to hear anyone around town mention it. (This book, you won’t be surprised to hear, will also be the subject of a future column. No shortage of column topics here.)

Anyway. On the way back, I got off at the Seventh Street Metro station in downtown L.A., walked four blocks or so east to Broadway and took a little break at Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria.

Many of you will know Clifton’s. It’s the old-school eatery there since the 1930s and still chugging along; even though all its other outposts have closed, they’ve hunkered down here. Inside it’s the same forest-like scene you remember or have read about, complete with a waterfall and redwood trees. If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to visit at least once in your life.

I’ve been there maybe a half-dozen times over the years, but I had my first actual meal there a couple of months ago when I was downtown for a Last Remaining Seats screening at the Orpheum, and truth be told, the food is only so-so. The setting more than makes up for any shortfall in the taste department, though. Plus they have all the comfort food items you could ask for, even Jell-O with fruit inside.

Usually I go in the middle of the afternoon and just get a cold drink and a slice of pie or maybe a fruit salad, something to relax with, and that’s what I did Monday: a slice of cheesecake with chocolate, a bowl of orange slices and a lemon Ole. It all hit the spot, as did the kitsch. When you’re in a restaurant with its very own waterfall, it’s hard not to leave happy.

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  • Ramona

    The Metrolink is, indeed, a very pleasant way to get into downtown LA. The cars are clean and the folks are pleasant for the most part. The best part of the ride for me is getting off at Union Station. It’s a wondrous place. Sometimes I pretend that I’m in NYC.

    We generally ride into town in the fall to visit Olvera Street and the surrounds. Now that you’ve told us how to get to Clifton’s we’ll probably be adding that stopover to the itinerary. What a great place! I generally avoid cafeterias but Clifton’s is an exception due to the ambiance. I’m so glad it’s still there.

    Thanks for brightening an otherwise blah day.

    Ramona

    [You're welcome. Clifton's is accessible from both the Pershing Square and Seventh Street stops of the Red Line subway. -- DA]

  • Ms. Lois

    David,

    When I saw “Clifton’s Cafeteria” I thought you were talking about the one in West Covina. Now that was a treasure. The best part about it was when your parents paid the bill, each child could pick a toy out of this huge treasure chest! Waterfalls are okay, but a TOY, now that’s something to leave happy with. ;)

  • DAve

    If you get off at Union Station are you then across the street from Philippe’s?

    [You're across from Olvera Street. Philippe's is about four blocks north. -- DA]

  • Mo

    ” On the train I read more of “The Distant Land of My Father,” the novel everyone in Claremont is supposed to be reading, although I have yet to hear anyone around town mention it. ”

    This is good to know. I am a resident of Claremont and no one has mentioned that I was supposed to be reading this book. How did I miss that memo?

    [I don't know -- it was in my column a few weeks ago! But that's about the only publicity it's received. If this year is anything like last year, when we read "Cannery Row," events relating to the book will begin in September. I'm hoping to finish the book by the end of August. -- DA]

  • Edda

    David,

    Thanks for triggering memories of special trips to Clifton’s in “downtown LA” as it once existed. It was the heart of the city. Bullock’s, The Broadway, May Co., Robinson’s Dept. Stores, the financial district, etc. I am so pleased Clifton’s still exists and those redwoods are still there. My first trip was with my Mom and Grandma, when I was 6 or 7. It was a magical place to this child’s eyes.

    A group of my friends and I are going to take the Metrolink from the Industry/Diamond Bar stop and revisit the past. You’ve provided a big service to those who’ve lived here for a very long time. You’ve announced its existence.

    [You're welcome. -- DA]