In 1935, Clifford Clinton opened his Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria location in downtown Los Angeles. With its neon sign declaring "Pay what you wish", Clifton's was dubbed the Cafeteria of the Golden Rule by its patrons, many of whom had been made jobless by the great depression.
A rare integrated eating establishment, Clifton's provided free newspapers, free punch from the beverage stream, a sherbet mine, and a tour bus. Customers could also avail themselves of a free "Guests' Exchange Service," "Clifton Hospitality Bureau," which offered tickets to theater shows and studio broadcasts; and Clifton's "Personal Problem Guidance," in which diners could discuss their life dilemmas with the restaurant higher ups. Along with the offer to serve anyone who couldn't afford the tab went a guarantee of full satisfaction: DINE FREE UNLESS DELIGHTED.
At the height of its popularity the Clifton's cafeteria chain boasted 11 restaurants in southern CA. Now only Clifton's Brookdale remains. Bought by Andrew Meieran in 2010, Clifton's closed in 2011 for an 18-month renovation that stretched to four long years of uncertainty. Would he gut the cafeteria and turn it into a nightclub? Would they still serve the classic recipes? We are proud to report that Clifton's Brookdale has finally reopened in downtown Los Angeles, complete with mashed potatoes, carving station, and, of course, jello.
Here are some photos from the re-opening night, where Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, celebrities such as June Lockhart and writers such as Andrew Meieran and Chris Nichols checked out what was coming from head chef Jason Fullilove's kitchen.
The full set is on google drive.
Photos: Star Foreman