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10 Things to Know About Clifton's Cafeteria, Opening Tuesday Downtown

This one's going to be big.

Inside Clifton's Cafeteria, Downtown
Inside Clifton's Cafeteria, Downtown
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The absolutely torturous wait for Clifton’s Cafeteria is now just about over, as the iconic Downtown all-in-one space seeks to reopen as of this coming Tuesday, September 22.

That’s the word being spread across the various Clifton’s social media channels, from their Twitter account (yep, Clifton’s got a Twitter account) to their Facebook page. You might also find a few more interesting tidbits floating around the interwebs, if you look hard enough. Here’s what we know so far:

It’s on as of Tuesday. That’s less than a week away, with a September 22 arrival timed out to 11 a.m.

Expect late nights. Even their opening day party is going to last until the wee hours, with a 2 a.m. shutter time listed. That means the bar(s) inside will be in their full glory — just as they likely will be most nights of the week.

Meieran is obsessed with the place. In a wide-ranging interview with the NY Times, owner Andrew Meieran calls himself a bit of an obsessive, especially when it comes to decor. Look for kitsch that doesn’t "cross the line" into becoming something harder for the incoming hip kids to swallow.

Behold the Return of Clifton's in Downtown

That includes the working neon sign in the basement and an entire Map Room. Expect old images of bygone Downtown buildings, a showcase for the working neon sign from the basement that’s considered to be absolutely ancient, and some recipe cards from the restaurant’s long tenure.

Yes, they’ll be using those old recipe cards. Chef Jason Fullilove says they got many old recipes from the original family that owned Clifton’s, and are using those as guideposts for keeping things within the boundaries of nostalgia.

And even rethinking some of the classics. New pastry chef Michael Luna is tasked with serving Jell-O and birthday cake (sprinkles and all) that feels vibrant, without crossing into unknown (and therefore bad for anyone trying to relive their glory days) territory. It’s a tough task, but the former Wolfgang Puck / Gordon Ramsay chef has the chops to make it work.

That goes for savory stuff, too. Right this very moment, the culinary team on site is rehabbing a staid cafeteria menu to fit today’s modern food ethos. So yes there will be mac and cheese, just don’t expect it to be as gloopy and processed as the stuff straight out of the box.

There’s a brand new pizza oven though, and it’s already being put to work. Here’s a perfect example: the very first pizza came out of the oven just last night, and while yes, it’s just a pizza, it also has pork belly and chile sauce, and lime on top.

For Downtowners, forthcoming takeaway service could be a boon. There are plans for takeaway pastries, coffee, breads, and more, meaning even early morningwanderers in the area can get a quick Clifton’s fix, as needed.

It’s as woodsy as you remember. This one is just cool. As the in-progress photos show, Clifton’s is going to keep a lot of the funky, out-in-the-wild charm that made it so absolutely famous for decades. Here’s to sitting under that big open tree sometime soon, downing some Jell-O just like old times.

Clifton's Republic

648 South Broadway, , CA 90014 (213) 627-1673 Visit Website