Andrew Meieran father of Downtown exploration and restoration took on the famed cafeteria in 2011 with a promise to restore it to its original glory. Rightfully so, there’s probably no one better suited for the job than Meieran, whose passions in previous years had led him to restore the highly successful, Edison, located in the basement of the Historic Higgins Building.
But to better understand what Clifton’s had to offer the world and Downtown we took a trip through the forest of Memory Lane with the great grandson of Clifford E. Clinton, Edmund Clifford III, author of Clifton’s & Clifford Clinton: A Cafeteria & Crusader.
Meals for millions?
Sure, why not? Andrew Meieran’s newest Downtown adventure, “Cabinet of Curiosities, the Restoration of Clifton’s Cafeteria” is a complete success. Although he may not be giving away any free meals, as did its charitable founder, Clifford E. Clinton, his rebuild has solidified a good chance for the pay-per-item iconic location to accomplish such a grand goal sometime in the near future.
Edmund Clifford III, great grandson of Clifford E. Clinton, still remembers his great grandfather’s goodwill and tenacity. He explains how Clifford E. Clinton, the son of missionaries, held his strong faith in scriptures, fought City corruption, and stood up to do Godly works even if it would cost him his life, in his new book.
Clifford’s Santa Cruz mountain lodge themed hideaway once offered a place where no man, woman or child went hungry, even if they couldn’t pay. Instead the poor were offered a basement eatery, and his employees offered lodging and open access to the Clinton family home in Los Feliz. The restaurant gave way to a home-felt location, complete with a soda fountain, bakery, fireplace, and the angelic voice of the old chapel, as they sometimes fed over 10,000 people a day.
When we asked Edmund Clinton III why he didn’t take over the family business he replied,
“I used to bust dishes and it was hard. You have these peak hours when people are eating and leaving so you end up with piles of dirty dishes – I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life so I decided to become a doctor, that was a lot easier.”
Today, one can still give to the needy via Clifton’s thanks to the efforts of Meieran. Clifton’s hires locally, the stone wishing well and water fall once used to collect coins to help pay for charitable works still exist, and when paying your tab you’ll have the option to donate to a neighboring Downtown charity.
There are plenty of new additions like a 250lb meteorite, 3-story faux redwood tree, hand-crafted wooden chairs with or without antlers, dinosaur eggs, forever hungry taxidermied animals, 5 new bars, and the relics of an ever growing collection of curiosities sought out personally by Meieran. Yet those that held most dear to Clifford will always be the most valuable to die-hard fans of Clifton’s Cafeteria, all recaptured beautifully by Meieran. Like the retouched murals, the old owl, the longest burning neon light in history, the jello of course, and most importantly the heart-felt warmth and peace one feels in such a welcoming environment. www.cliftonscafeteria.com