AKA: Clifton's Cafeteria #2, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - restaurants

Designers: Plummer, Wurdeman, and Becket, Architects (firm); Wurdeman and Becket, Architects (firm); Young, Robert Brown, Architect (firm); Welton David Becket (architect); Einar Petersen (painter); Charles Forrest Plummer (architect); Walter Charles Wurdeman (architect); Robert Brown Young (architect)

Dates: constructed 1916

4 stories, total floor area: 31,800 sq. ft.

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648 South Broadway
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90014-1807

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Building History

In 1935, Clifford and Nelda Clinton picked up the lease on the failed Boos Brothers Cafeteria on Olive Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The second Clifton's Cafeteria in a chain that eventually expanded to 10, this institution has occupied a retail space at 648 South Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, CA, since 1935. In 1939, after an extensive renovation, it was rechristened, "Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria." The name derived from a lodge building that Clinton had visited in the Northern California Santa Cruz Mountains in his youth. Like the original restaurant, Clifton's Brookdale also featured a lenient, "pay what you wish" business model.

The Los Angeles Conservancy said of this late 1930s renovation into Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria: "Welton Becket and then-partner Walter Wurdeman designed the forest-themed wonderland of dining, which became a destination for generations of Angelenos. It is considered the world's largest public cafeteria and the only one remaining from the Golden Age of cafeteria dining."

In 2007, Clifton's was one of the few remaining cafeterias left anywhere in Southern California, a restaurant type very popular during the 1920s-1960s.

Andrew Meieran obtained the building in 2010, and spent four years seismically upgrading and renovating the facility into two restaurants and five bars. The LA Conservancy stated: "The team painstakingly restored the historic spaces on the first and second floors, as well as the original 1935 facade, which had been covered in the 1960s by a metal screen. They removed other 1960s additions and uncovered original features that were hidden for decades, including murals and a tiny grotto near the front entrance.Meieran even discovered an original—and still glowing—piece of neon in the basement." Meieran's renovation has incorporated items obtained from the defunct Polynesian-themed Bahooka Family Restaurant in Rosemead, CA.

Building Notes

Artist Einar C. Petersen (1885-1986) painted a mural of a forest scene for this Clifton's outlet.

In the 1940s, two small shops flanked the Brookdale Cafeteria, Sally's Home Made Candies stood on the south and what appears to have been a shoe shine shop to the north of the restaurant's central entryway.


A new alumnium facade was installed covering the previous one in 1963. A marquee sidewalk sign was also installed at this time. The facade and sign were removed in 2011-2012. (See Nathan Masters, KCET.org, "Lost LA History & Society Photos: Historic Clifton's Cafeteria through the Decades," published 02/08/2012.

Los Angeles County Assessor Number: 5144002023

PCAD id: 1860