HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
What's your latest food quest? Tell us about it
TELL US

Clifton's?

d
Diana Aug 2, 2007 09:36 AM

The one and only time I went I was sort of distracted, as I went for breakfast and started the day off by slamming my thumb in the car door. I think I was 17 at the time.

Anyhoo, is it worth the trip, for fun or nostalgia's sake? Is the food at least edible?

My Husband has been jonesing to go, and since he's been so good recently, I thought I would stop distracting him with Rahel (his fave) and take him there.

  1. Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Chowpatty Aug 2, 2007 09:41 AM

    It's definitely worth the trip! If you choose carefully, there's plenty of edible selections, particularly the baked goods. I had a really good bran muffin stuffed with cream cheese at breakfast; and so-so fried shrimp at dinner. They have some good vegetable side dishes, Mexican fruit aguas, a lovely selection of jello salad...and the decor would be worth it even if you didn't eat anything. Here's some photos of the place:
    http://eatingla.blogspot.com/2007/04/...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chowpatty
      d
      Diana Aug 2, 2007 09:45 AM

      Thanks! Good pics. Now I'm hungry. Is that the texas toast by the fried shrimp?

      I see they do a free birthday cake. Hmmmmm, I wonder if I could take him now, and then again next February for his birthday.

    2. wilafur Aug 2, 2007 09:44 AM

      it's definitely a funky nostalgic place to go to soak in the atmosphere. however, i find the food to be a bit too salty all around (sans dessert obviously) for my taste.

      1. Woolsey Aug 2, 2007 09:50 AM

        Clifton's is definitely worth the trip, especially as it's the last cafeteria in town. (Not like I really mourn the late Beadle's, whose food was really pretty pathetic in its death throes.) While the food isn't as fantastic or as varied as the two great pillars of Southern cafeteriadom, Luby's (sigh) and Piccadilly, they have solid fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and, when available, oxtails. It's pretty good, if not sublime. And even if you load up your tray, it's hard to spend more than a sawbuck. And that room! Walt Disney would be proud. A running waterfall, faux redwoods, boulders and stuffed grizzlies and the Little Chapel - it's a treat.

        If you can pair it with a walking tour of the Broadway movie palaces offered by the L.A. Conservancy on a Saturday morning, it's even better...

        6 Replies
        1. re: Woolsey
          k
          keaton Aug 2, 2007 10:09 AM

          The bakery counter at the front has some good stuff---wonderful cookies. There's a real luck factor in the cafeteria itself--sometimes everything seems aged and icky and sometimes everything is good quality and satisfying. But the interior is always amazing.

          1. re: keaton
            Woolsey Aug 2, 2007 10:26 AM

            Very true. It's best to hit the line at peak lunch times, when the food is fresher, and on weekends, with items are turned over with more regularity. If one goes at, say, 2:30 on a Tuesday, the food is much more likely to be on the geriatric side. And it's also just best to pick items that hold up well to a heat lamp: A customer who gets fried chicken is almost certainly going to leave happier than one who gets roast turkey.

            1. re: Woolsey
              ipsedixit Aug 2, 2007 11:07 AM

              This is good advice for Clifton's.

              You've got to go during a high traffic time (e.g. lunch hour); otherwise, there is a good chance you'll get stuck with overheated, caked and dry mac 'n cheese and mashed potatoes that feel like they've reverted back to just being baked potatoes.

              I still miss the Clifton's in Covina at the old Fashion Plaza Shopping Center (now Westfield's). Sigh.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                l
                lolabelow Aug 2, 2007 11:33 PM

                Am I crazy or did I really go to a Clifton's in the Century City mall when I was a kid?

                1. re: lolabelow
                  n
                  New Trial Aug 3, 2007 12:30 AM

                  There in fact used to be one there, near where the Gelson's now is.

                  1. re: lolabelow
                    b
                    budlit Aug 4, 2007 12:50 PM

                    I went to the one in C.C.,when I was a kid too! I loved it

          2. s
            slacker Aug 2, 2007 11:59 AM

            You must go!! Choose carefully and it'll be fine. The strawberry cake is a famous long-time Clifton's dessert; I loved it as a kid, but now I would get it only for nostalgia.

            1. o
              Oh Robin Aug 2, 2007 12:52 PM

              Haven't thought about Clifton's since my first job at Lakewood Mall. Used to go there on my breaks. If they still have these then I recommend...

              -any baked pasta (rigatoni, spaghetti etc) covered with cheese and garnished with pepperoni, a little bland but delish nonetheless.

              -garlic bread: made on the grill with long dinner rolls. crusty & luscious

              -tapioca

              -cheesecake with strawberry topping

              -lemonade

              My friend gives a shout out to the mac & cheese. Enjoy and post your report!

              1. Will Owen Aug 2, 2007 01:13 PM

                We'd been inside to look around, but never eaten, until Pa-in-law begged to be taken there - when he was growing up in Pasadena, his mom forbade him to set foot in any Clifton's because that's where the hobos and riff-raff hung out, and he was still a Clifton's virgin at 82. So we all went, and we all had really delicious meals, including remarkably fresh and varied salads, and Pops was extra-happy because the tab was so small. The fried chicken, the wonderfully homemade-tasting mashed potatoes, and the rich and tender braised brisket were all especially good. After my one trip to Beadle's (yes, good riddance!) I was expecting only edibility, but this was some fine grub.

                1. b
                  burntcrisp Aug 2, 2007 05:23 PM

                  Due to the historic nature of Clifton's, this is a must visit. Unfortunately, things are a little worn inside. Expect food quality that is slightly better than what you may have eaten at a school cafeteria. Maybe best to get some pie and coffee and eat at one of the other restaurants in DTLA. Many relatively new small restaurants such as Blossom (Main St.), Wood Spoon (9th St.) & Colori Kitchen (8th St.) are evidence of the resurgence of a new DTLA. Also check out the just opened Ralph's Fresh Fare on 9th between Flower and Hope.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: burntcrisp
                    k
                    keaton Aug 2, 2007 06:08 PM

                    Pie is actually a good reason to go to Clifton's.

                    1. re: keaton
                      a
                      AGENT FOODIE Aug 2, 2007 11:54 PM

                      ive never been there. i used to live near the one in west covina

                  2. m
                    ML8000 Aug 3, 2007 12:04 AM

                    I have to disagree, in part.

                    For historic and nostalgic reasons - sure go but just don't have any expectations AT ALL. Also the place has gotten ratty...and not in a cool retro way.

                    I went last year and it was BAD. Granted it was a Sat around 6 p.m. so I figured part of it was a turn-over issue...still 3 out of 3 meals were awful bad...inedible and toss it out bad. I'm willing to give it a 30% benefit of the doubt...but I won't ever go back. I was at least expecting a frozen diiner quality meal and it was WAY worse.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000
                      ipsedixit Aug 3, 2007 11:33 AM

                      Sometimes you can walk in to Clifton's and wonder if you've crashed an AARP meeting.

                      I think for the same type of food, but at better quality and quantity, head over to the Original Pantry Cafe.

                      Still, there IS something to be said for nostalgia.

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        m
                        ML8000 Aug 3, 2007 12:28 PM

                        Hey...sometimes the AARP thing is a sign of good, reasonably priced food. I know it's true of some of the places I go. Any way, I guess I was disappointed by the nostalgia thing this past time. It's gotten a bit ratty. Of course if the food was half way okay, I would have been fine. I hadn't gone in 20 years and remember it to be so much better.

                        Oh well, I shouldn't say I'll never go back. I hope they stay in business because they do provide a real service. I read about the history of Clifton's in the obituary of the wife(?) of owner who passed away last year. One of the reasons why they opened was in part to help feed people in the depression. Got to like that kind of thinking.

                        1. re: ML8000
                          s
                          slacker Aug 3, 2007 12:32 PM

                          Yes, it was pay as you're able, totally on the honor system. And lots of people who otherwise may have gone without food were able to eat there. As I've posted before, Ray Bradbury used to go there when he had no money. Thank goodness for Clifton's for feeding Ray Bradbury.

                          1. re: slacker
                            m
                            ML8000 Aug 3, 2007 01:56 PM

                            Funny you mention Ray Bradbury. One of the times that I went to Clifton's was before a "Martian Chronicles" play (big production on the "Miracle Mile") in high school looking for cheap food.

                    2. d
                      David The Diner Aug 3, 2007 05:46 PM

                      I used to eat at the one that was near 7th and Olive before it closed. Gosh, was that twenty years ago? Anyway, the food was decent and decently priced. Most recently I stopped by the other downtown location further east from Olive and picked-up a banana cream pie for my wife's birthday. It was really good.

                      1. likesweets Aug 4, 2007 12:10 PM

                        It's worth it to go because it's definitely an L.A. landmark. It is very DIsneyland like inside, actually quite beautiful at Christmas time. I would go for side dishes and desserts and steer away from the main deals. My faves:fried eggplant and boston cream pie.

                        1. a
                          April P. Nov 6, 2007 09:12 PM

                          Ok, I've read all of the replies and not ONE mentions the turkey and dressing. That is the only thing I have gotten there in 20 yrs. Fresh turkey, real stuff, not the pressed canned turkey. The dressing and gravy, mashed potatoes. When it was in West Covina we used to go there on Thanksgiving for years and years.
                          I miss it so much. I moved to Arizona, so I could only go a few times a year, then when they closed the West Covina one, I have only been able to make it twice. There just isn't anything like it.
                          I hate the location it is in mainly because I feel like I'm taking my life in my hands to park and go eat.
                          If you go, be sure to walk around, up the stairs, to the third floor. They have a "dumb waiter", lots of memorabilia. It is sooooo worth the trip.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: April P.
                            d
                            Diana Nov 7, 2007 06:46 AM

                            Really, that neighborhood isn't too dangerous. People are mostly there to shop and such. There are homeless, and they are MOSTLY harmless. Just wear your purse slung over one shoulder, across your chest and under your arm, and keep aware.

                            No more dangerous than say, a square in Italy or the metro in Paris. Would you avoid Paris?

                          Show Hidden Posts