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Clifton’s Ceases Cafeteria Service, Promising to Return as a Marketplace

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They’re rebranding the first floor dining area into a gourmet marketplace

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Outside Clifton's Cafeteria, Downtown
Outside Clifton’s Cafeteria, Downtown
Wonho Frank Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Earlier this year, perhaps in spring, though it’s unclear exactly when it stopped, Clifton’s Republic in Downtown LA ceased serving food at the first floor cafeteria. Franklin Avenue first reported the change when they received a tip that the cafeteria, which long had a “pay what you wish” policy under previous ownership, was closed to make way for what management was calling the Exposition Marketplace. Apparently the current management is promising the return of historic and traditional dishes while bringing on some “new classics.”

Meieran reached out to Eater to comment on the temporary closure, saying the Exposition Marketplace will open in the first quarter of 2019, with classic Clifton’s dishes plus some globally inspired dishes based on travel. Meieran says he hopes to serve a wider array of dishes instead of the more traditional American offerings that the cafeteria used to serve. To comment on the cafeteria’s closure, Meieran did say that they were working on the marketplace idea about a year after Clifton’s reopened because of the “peculiarities and complexities” of operating the cafeteria.

Considering the mixed reactions of the reopened cafeteria, it perhaps makes sense to have a more streamlined and easy to operate food situation at Clifton’s. Fans of the cafeteria reacted strongly to the cafeteria’s closure on social media.

New owner Andrew Meieran spent years refurbishing and rehabilitating the massive Clifton’s interior, which spans multiple floors, and opened a slew of nightlife-style bars, including the rather impressive Pacific Seas in a hidden space. When it reopened in 2015, the place drew long lines for its cafeteria, which chef Jason Fullilove helped put together before he left abruptly.

Ever since, the cafeteria seemed to decline steadily with few diners visiting the ground floor eatery, and much of Clifton’s foot traffic coming in the evenings coming for its numerous bars and lounges. Meieran brought on former Corner Door bartender Beau du Bois last year to help revamp the cocktail menus, though du Bois has since moved on to The Meadowood in Northern California.

Clifton’s Republic will open its newest bar and lounge called The Neverlands in the near future, and it will go into the basement. Clifton’s originally opened in 1932.

Clifton’s Republic. 648 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014