Clifton’s Cafeteria – Los Angeles, CA

I meant to post this earlier but Maya’s been sick! So I got a little distracted. She’s got a terrible hot spot and has been in distress over it. She’s doing better but isn’t 100% yet. Hoping she heals fast!

Now… onto this post! Last weekend Jake and I made a little trip up to LA and visited with Alyssa (who used to write for this blog!) and her family. She suggested we all meet up at Clifton’s Cafeteria in Downtown Los Angeles. I had never been before and had seen it on Yelp and couldn’t wait to check it out.

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

I loved the look of Clifton’s building. It definitely looks like it from another era! 

Clifton’s was once part of a chain of eight restaurants. This location (founded in 1931) is the oldest surviving cafeteria style eatery in Los Angeles and is the largest public cafeteria in the world. Each location was known for having its own theme and for aiding people who could not afford to pay for their meals. Clifford Clinton, the founder of Cliffton’s, never turned away any hungry people. The original restaurants were founded during the height of the Great Depression and made it a point to never turn anyone away, even if they had no money. How’s that for cool! (source: Wikipedia)

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

This is to the left when you first walk into Clifton’s. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Also right near the front was this small model of Clifton’s. There were a few of these little diorama scenes. I love mini things like this. You can see on the left side it says “PAY WHAT YOU WISH”. Back in the day patrons only paid what they felt was a fair price for their food. 

At Clifton’s, it is cafeteria style. They have a TON of different options to choose from!

Tiny salads at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Tiny salads. HOW CUTE ARE THESE. I love that each one has a different small container to hold the salad.

Tiny salads at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

I was also amused to see the tuna salad in a tin can. Very clever. 

Pot Pie at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Giant pot pies in mason jars. You have a choice between turkey and beef (not shown). 

Pastries at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA


Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

In the back there’s a hot food line where you can order a variety of things. This is a small selection of that menu. 

Pizzas at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

There were also pizzas. 

Muffins at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

They also had a variety of breakfast items available (which I didn’t photograph) along with a case of muffins.

Desserts at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Very important station…. DESSERT. 

Desserts at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

So many dessert options…

Desserts at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

I had a hard time choosing. 

Pies at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Mmmmm. Pie. 

Roast Beef at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

There was also a carving station featuring roast beef.

Roasted Turkey at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Along with roasted turkey and meatloaf! There was also a station that had other hot foods, like cornbread pudding, roasted veggies, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, etc. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Check out this neat bread display! 

Turkey pot pie at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

I ended up not being able to resist getting a turkey pot pie. I loved the giant dome of puff pastry on top of the mason jar. Since the pot pies are in a mason jar, there is no bottom crust. If you like eating the crust with your pot pie, you may want to do what Alyssa does and stuff the crust down into the pot pie innards. Me? I just ate it separately. The bottom is almost like a turkey soup with lots of pieces of turkey and fresh vegetables. I thought it was quite tasty! Jake ate some of it and wished the innards were a bit thicker, like a gravy rather than a soup. 

Breakfast at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Jake opted for breakfast and tried out the chilaquiles, some breakfast sausages, and bacon. He saw they made their own sauce for the chilaquiles and used cotija cheese on top so was interested in trying it. He ended up not really liking it all that much, unfortunately. He wasn’t really into their sauce. The sausages were good though! Nice, thick, and had a good seasoning on them. 

Sides at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Jake and I both really enjoyed the macaroni and cheese. They give you a very generous scoop of macaroni and then top it with bread crumbs and some micro herbs. It was quite cheesy and creamy. I enjoyed the flavor of it and I also liked the little “crunch” from the bread crumbs on top. 

Jake also got a basket of french fries. He was assuming the portion would be much smaller than this. They make a fresh batch of french fries when you order them and put some seasoning salt and herbs on top. Yum! 

Pecan Pie at Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

I ended up picking the pecan pie as our dessert. This leaned towards a nuttier pecan pie with a little less of the gooey filling. I liked that there were a TON of pecan in this pie since nuts are my favorite part! Excellent piece of pie. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

After our lunch we roamed around inside of Clifton’s. There’s a pretty woodsy-outdoors feel to the place with the fake trees and forest scene on the walls. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

This is another look at the second level. Wood everywhere!

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

There was even a little waterfall inside on the second level. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Hello, Mr. Buffalo. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

In the back bar area there is this giant tree! I loved the lighting and the tree! 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

Up on another level there was a closed off area (probably for special events) that had a bit more taxidermy to look at. 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

This is one of the other bars. Check out those antler chandeliers! 

Clifton's - Los Angeles, CA

One more diorama that I saw down in the cafeteria area. 

I got a real kick out of exploring Clifton’s. I loved all of the kooky decor, the woodsy feeling inside, and the vast array of food options. What a cool place!! I’m so glad Alyssa suggested it and that we were able to spend a little time with her and her family. 

648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

On the way back to our car (we used the ParkWhiz app and scored all day parking for $4) we passed by this shop. The name of it amused me. 

9 thoughts on “Clifton’s Cafeteria – Los Angeles, CA

  1. Holy #%@! So RAD that you went here! I’ve heard of this place and have been wanting to go but was afraid of line lines and a long wait since it was a tourist destination. Just curious, did you have to wait long? This place also underwent some massive remodeling. It looks ginormous and I like that the rooms are themed. Everything that you all had looked good, like the sausages on Jake’s place and especially your pecan pie slice with more nuts than goo. That’s my kind of pie! The bread foxes were cute too! I’ll have to make another excuse to go to DTLA just for Clifton’s. Great post – I consider it our preview! 🙂

    1. Hey CC! We went on a Saturday afternoon. We got there about 1PM and there were not really any lines so we didn’t have much of a wait at all. Maybe it’s busier during peak times (like peak lunch or dinner) but we didn’t have a problem. We parked about 2-3 blocks away using the Park Whiz app and scored all day parking for $4 by paying in advance. I think it was $5 otherwise. I know you would get a kick out of this place! There’s a ton to look at and I didn’t take photos of everything but it’s really fun to walk through! I had a hard time picking just one dessert. Almost got two. But I had a feeling we would be full with all of the food we got. Ha!

      1. Thanks for the tips! Afternoon is better, check. That, plus that parking app that I need to install. Because parking sucks royally over there, omg. Clifton’s has been around forever and with the new remodel, looks like visual overload (in a good way).

  2. I want to come here now! I’ve never heard of this place. I LOVE cafeteria style ordering. It’s just visual overload for foodies like us I think. Was it pricey though?

    1. Hi Faye – This place is so fun! You should totally take a trip and visit it! I didn’t put prices because I didn’t know the breakdown of everything, but I think our total was just over $30 for everything (we didn’t get drinks, just water). We also had way too much food. I think the pot pies were around $10. That’s the only price I remember seeing (besides dessert prices). So, not super cheap, but not super expensive either.

    1. Hi Soo – I loved the interior at Clifton’s – it felt like eating in a forest! There was so much stuff to look at, too. A really fun cafeteria!

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