Vintage Los Angeles: Clifton’s Cafeteria

For 70 or so years Clifton’s Brookdale has been serving downtown LA denizens cafeteria style food in it’s mountain cabin themed restaurant. They even guarantee you’ll love it or refund your meal. No really, they ask you to “return anything that is not satisfactory, while they are still in the cafeteria; we will replace the item or make a refund of the purchase price or compliment the entire meal.”

While there were a few hit and misses, we didn’t actually bother to return anything. Mainly because after all the food, we couldn’t move. Yeah, I overdid it a bit. But hey, how often do you get to file through rows of food, pile on side dish after side dish, desserts, and main courses onto a plastic tray without any immediate recourse?






Their is plethora of food, no not piñatas, but everything from chilled salads, fajitas, nachos, veggies, a ton of desserts, and entrees that included a delicious beef brisket, turkey legs, spare ribs, enchiladas, baked cod, and a very odd salmon dish. The customers are just as eclectic as the mix of food. Skid row residents, trendy loft dwellers, east side tattoo artists, garment workers, tourists, and even a preacher dressed in a colorful LED lighted suit.

The decor is cabin kitschy, with fake trees and a wall-sized mural of a redwood forest scene painted by muralist Einar Petersen setting the stage as you enter. A moose head now sits where a piano player once entertained dining families, a deer head overlooks the staircase up to the second floor’s tiny chapel, and fishing bears frolic just below a flowing waterfall.

The third floor is reminds me of an old 40’s parlor and is set up for larger parties, birthdays and such. Plus overflow for days like on thanksgiving when they serve over 3000 people.




How is the food? Well, things were mostly miss, a couple of hits on the table. It’s classic Americana though. My veggies were a bland bowl of steamed zucchini, coleslaw was crunchy and oozing with a tasty mayonnaise, mac and cheese forgettable, mashed potatoes were thick and chalkly, but the brisket was marbled with fat, and the meat cooked to perfection. Finally for dessert, the electric red strawberry shortcake. Oozing with bright red gelatin, there was something very afoul here and just the one bite sat in my stomach very unpleasantly. The meal wasn’t as cheap as I had anticipated. All those items quickly added up to $18 with a drink.


It was definitely a lunch to remember, and would gladly return with friends and family just so they could experience a little vintage LA for themselves. Full photoset on flickr here.

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Author:Matt Mitchell

A lover of everything LA has to offer, Matt created Dig Lounge to tell his friends about all the fun things to do in the city. Matt has worked in the dot com world since 1996, including some of the top online entertainment companies and digital marketing firms. He currently works as a Digital Producer.

One Response to “Vintage Los Angeles: Clifton’s Cafeteria”

  1. Louise
    August 12, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Thanks for this review and the fantastic photos! I will definitely go there the next time I am in CA!