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Clifton's

  • t

So I was reminiscing earlier about when I was a little kid, and my family used to take me to a cafeteria at Century City, Clifton's. I remember getting green jello and macaroni and cheese. Anyway, eventually it closed down when I was about 8--it was where the Pottery Barn is now, I think, or maybe Crate and Barrel, whatever. So a little searching on Chowhound said there's a Clifton's downtown. Is this the same thing? Could it be?! After all these years, does a Clifton's Cafeteria still exist?

Oh, and speaking of Century City places that closed, does anyone remember the cookie seller in the department store? I don't remember which department store it was, but it was right by the entrance, I used to get chocolate chip cookies. Wow, that place was good. I think. I was 5 so it might've been nuthin' special.

Someone, please advise!
Tarz

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  1. Yes, it's the same Clifton's. At one time there were dozens of Clifton's around town. I too ate green jello at the Century City location. I don't remember the cookie seller in the department store, but does anyone remember the food court with the supergraphics that said "pizza" or "sandwiches" above the stands? This was around 1966, and we had never seen anything like a mall food court before (I know, I'm dating myself). It seemed amazing to get all different kinds of foods in one place. Clifton's was still there when I worked in Century City in the mid-80s.

    1. I think the cookies were by David and they were in the Broadway store which has since become a Bloomingdale's.

      Iirc, David was from New York, where he had some fame for his cookies.

      1. Voila! Alas, only one remains.

        For a cafeteria, food is pretty good, especially if you throw in the nostalgia factor and the unique ambiance.

        Link: http://www.cliftonscafeteria.com/home...

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jack Flash

          Did the downtown L.A. Clifton's used to be bigger? I remember going as a kid and it was a virtual wonderland with the waterfall and woodsy setting and tiered seating. It was such a treat to go there. I stopped in last year and, though it was 25 years later, it seemed sooooo tiny. And there were a lot of homeless types hanging out. And the food was pretty bad. I wish I hadn't spoiled my memories! Ah well.

          1. re: JJ

            It's pretty big. There are several dining levels (including one or two that are closed off, at least when it's not really busy, or maybe those are for special events - whatever); it still has the waterfall thing going on with the woodsy theme as well.

            As for the food...well, it's a cafeteria.

            1. re: JJ

              You remember the Olive St. location. I wish I did as I've only seen pictures (the old 7th St. location had a great collection of photos).

              Visit the link below for some great photos and links. Clifton's has a site as well; this site links to it as well as other Clifton-related sites.

              Link: http://www.agilitynut.com/cool2.html

              Image: http://www.agilitynut.com/p/front3.jpg

          2. Wow, thanks. I'll have to try that Clifton's downtown at some point. You're right, Bob, it was called David's Cookies, I remember now, in Broadway department store.

            I can't remember the old food court. I remember when they put in all of the current stuff (well, 'current' as in before all the construction going on now) in probably the late '80s, the same time they got rid of Clifton's and did a lot of remodeling, and I vaguely recall what was there before this, but I was too young, really.

            Thanks for all the responses!

            1. s
              Silverlake Bodhisattva

              Yep, Clifton's was in Century City, at least into the late 70's; they had several other locations around town (sinage from a long-gone one can still be seen on the north side of W. 7th downtown near my office...)

              I'm thinkin' that as Californians got more attuned to baby lettuce, radiccio, pad woon sen and injera, the drawing power of steam-table vegetables, jello salad, and open-face turkey sandwiches fell off. Only a select few of us nostalgic odd-balls now regard this stuff with fondness (and, in many cases, ironic fondness; see the John Waters episode of "The Simpsons") and they're just not enough to revive these places (RIP Vickman's, Gorky's, and the TickTock in Hollywood!)

              RFGS


              rfgs

              2 Replies
              1. re: Silverlake Bodhisattva

                the good news about clifton's (on broadway) is that it's popular with latino families & they've really kept it alive. a new generation of kids have discovered its charms and seem to have fun with the decor. tres leches cake & mexican sodas have been added to the menu. for whatever reason, people with suitcases (?) like to hang out there. it remains fascinating, or depressing, depending on your outlook. it's dark & old downtown LA, much like cole's.

                1. re: petradish

                  The suitcases may be because the Greyhound Bus Terminal isn't too far from there. I remember my grandfather taking me there as a child, and getting a kid's meal. If you got a red flagged toothpick (and I think all kids did), you got to pick a prize out of a treasure chest on your way out.

              2. Like the poster who started this thread, I loved the old Clifton's Cafeteria in Century City. It reminded me of the old Ontra's chain that used to dot Los Angeles and offer the best hot turkey sandwich in the world.

                One day about a year ago, I decided to go to the downtown Clifton's to try and recapture the experience. Big mistake. First of all, the parking in that area sucks. Secondly, that area sucks. Thirdly, the downtown Clifton's turned out to be a dank, depressing place. I ordered all the same things I used to order at the Century City Clifton's and they were tasteless and bland. Very disappointing.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Hackenbush

                  Ugh, you don't go for the food. You go for the vaguely creepy window into the past, the Little Chapel downstairs and the displays on the top floor. It's the restaurant equivalent of the Overlook Hotel.

                  1. re: Robert Lu

                    the chapel, "The Garden," was in the 7th St. location and I thought it was gone forever. apparently it still remains!!

                    "When Clifton's Pacific Seas was closed and then razed in 1960 the figure of Christ remained in storage until Clifton's Silver Spoon was opened in 1975, where a new Garden was created. When that location was closed in 1998 the figure was relocated to it's new home at The Holyland Exhibition in Los Angeles (213) 664-3162."

                    Taken from the following url:

                    Link: http://www.cliftonscafeteria.com/page...

                    Image: http://www.cliftonscafeteria.com/imag...

                    1. re: est

                      Bummer! Remembering the wrong Clifton's. Guess I have to go to that old Academy Awards photo in the Biltmore for my eeriness fix.

                      1. re: Robert Lu

                        the nature scenes in the remaining Clifton's on Broadway offer eeriness-a-plenty

                2. I remember the CC Clifton's, which was one of the two restaurants my father used to take me to when, as a child, I would go to work with him. (The other being Señor Pico.) I also occasionally visit the downtown Clifton's, and agree with the assessment of the other posters -- it's interesting mostly for history/nostalgia.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: David Kahn

                    My dad loved Senor Pico too. He was thrilled to live in L.A. and get to have Mexican food after growing up in Chicago with his mom's bland cooking. He also liked a place in West Hollywood called Por Favor, while my favorite back in the day was the Sundance Cafe on Robertson. In my mind, they invented the fried tortilla tostada bowl.

                  2. I have a picture of me and my parents out for a night on the town at the downtown Clifton's. This was in the mid 50's and they say Cliftons was a destination place at the time. I've stopped in a couple of times in the last few years to see if it was the same and it was. I knew better than to eat there although I love a "good" hot turkey sandwich.

                    1. I used to go to the CC Clifton's with my family when I was a kid too. I remember getting the jello. I thought it was so cool that you could pick among so many choices and put it on your tray.

                      I was traumatized there once when I was six or so. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and saw an old man take out his dentures to clean them. I was not aware of the concept of dentures and was terrified/horrified. I started screaming and ran back to the table in a panic. That and jello are my two Cliftons associations.

                      I had been thinking of checking out the downtown one but wont as I think I'd rather keep my memories.

                      1. Old memories of Centiry City past...

                        Clifton's pudding with the skin on top
                        The singing flower guy (he always gave me the creeps)
                        Walking over the bridge to the movie theater at the Shubert (RIP)

                        aaah, the old days.

                        I have found the downtown Clifton's nothing like the Centiry City location, but still worth a trip for a good laugh. Try to avoid the homeless people on the way in too. Don't make eye contact. It is decorated with a sort of 1059s kitch version of "the forest" with fake trees, animals, etc. The food? Who knows - I can't even remember. For me a cafeteria brings back the excitement of being a kid and thinking "you mean I can just take whatever I want?" It's about taking control of your own meal. Pudding? Yes! Fruit cup? No!

                        Go forth and take control.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Ashly

                          I was just singing the song that the singing flower guy used to sing at the end of his shift...I decided to Google him, and lo and behold I find your blog plus a string of emails on Clifton's.

                          This is what I recall of the song" "Flowers for sale, pretty flowers for sale. It's quitting time, it's party time, it's time to go home time, time to go home." As you can see, that song still haunts me. But he was nice and several times gave my sister and me a flower.

                        2. one more thing...

                          Remember the Bob's Big Boy down by where Macy's is now? I used to get spaghetti with american cheese on it. Even a 8 year old knows haute cuisine when she see it.

                          1. It just hurts so much to see dear old Clifton's get banged around like that. They try sooooo very hard. "Pay what you wish, dine free unless delighted" is still their slogan. What Clifford E. Clinton started in the depression to feed hungry people down on their luck evolved into a powerhouse chain by the '70s and had expanded to West Covina, Lakewood, Century City and the North Valley. His grandson Robert is still there every day. They are back to their one location and really know how to operate in the middle of a city. They are one of the most historic and most urban spaces in all of Southern California. If they served artisan cheeses they would alienate their core constituency, the "common man." Clifton's is a wonderland and I love it just the way it is. The way it's been for over 70 years. Don't jinx it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nix

                              We used to frequent both the downtown and Century City Cliftons. My grandpa lived downtown it a pretty bad area, but we used to love meeting him there on Sundays for fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. I was sad when the Century City location closed. It was quite an institution!

                            2. Clifton's is amazing. You have to try the turkey sandwich. fresh turkey right off the turkey brast, put on a roll with all the basic toppings for old school food. the slaw is the same as pantry and phillipes. the price is kinda high. but i do agree for being a cafeteria it is very cool inside. also there use to be another 1 but it seems like this one the only left. its a real gem in the middle of busy broadway.

                              1. I loved the Lakewood Clifton's until it became Bed Bath & Beyond about ten years ago. I'd always go on my lunch break for the fresh lemonade, baked spaghetti, grilled garlic bread and tapioca. I think there's still one off the 60?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Oh Robin

                                  Hm. I may just have to try Clifton's tmr.

                                2. I had jury duty last week and since they give you 90 minutes for lunch, I decided to take the DASH bus down to Clifton's. Big mistake. I have to agree with hackenbush above. I wish I would have just left alone my memories of the awesome Century City Clifton's. The downtown location was bleak and drab at lunch time, with very few customers and warmed-over food. The cold food was warm and the hot food was cool. And the prices were really high! $1.49 for a biscuit, $3.00 for a side of mac & cheese, $2 for coleslaw and $2 for a veggie adds up quickly. With coffee it made for a $10 lunch and I didn't even have an entree or dessert!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jillso

                                    When we went there with the in-laws on a weekend earlier this year, Pops picked up the tab, and was greatly pleased with how cheap it all was. I can't imagine considering a $10 lunch in any way "expensive" - a burger and a coke will cost you that, or more most places. Anyplace I'd care to eat, anyway. We also enjoyed the food very much - my braised beef was better than any I'd ever made, for one thing.

                                    As for the slumminess of the neighborhood, that's just too bad. It's a big dirty city, which is hardly Clifton's fault. I think it's wonderful that they've managed to stay there and provide decent food to all comers. Long may they wave!