Friday, July 30, 2004

 

Amazing Places #1

Clifton's "Brookdale" Cafeteria
648, South Broadway (at 7th)
Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is one of the most mind-blowing places in the whole of the USA, and the crazy thing is - hardly anybody who lives in LA actually goes there [well if they live in West LA, Hollywood, Santa Monica etc]. In the five or six times, I've been in LA - I'd never been in Downtown before earlier this month, when I decided to try out the new subway system and go to check out the Bradbury Building. Downtown is like nowhere else, at street level it could be Mexico City - then glance up and you're surrounded by unbelievable 1920's / 30's art-deco buidlings - office blocks, old movie houses and theatres. More on this later when i finish printing & scanning my photos from this excursion.

One of the most incredible places I came across, completely by accident, was the Clifton's "Brookdale" Cafeteria, from street level these days it doesn't look like very much, but the art deco mosaic in the sidewalk outside must have caught my eye. Walk in and you are surrounded by the most insane decor - back in 1935, the owners of this establishment had decided that they were going to build an entire Redwood Forest inside their cafeteria... there are rock sculptures, fake giant trees, a twenty foot cascading waterfall, babbling brooks, a little stone chapel, Moose heads, giant murals of forests... all surrounding you as you sit eating, in the split level dining areas. Unfortunately they no longer have the live organist or the singing waiters and canaries.

The "Brookdale" is the only surviving establishment of several cafeterias, built by the Clifford / Clinton family - they also had the Polynesian themed "Pacific Seas" complete with an outdoor waterfall & volcano.

The food is very simple 'serve yourself' cafeteria style fair - and they have always operated a policy that they would never turn anyone away hungry, during the depression 10,000 people ate there for free... and even now they say "Pay what you wish; dine free unless delighted", which is pretty unusual, especially for Los Angeles.

Unfortunately I was unable to take any photos inside this establishment, but pay a visit to their website: www.cliftonscafeteria.com , for the full story, in the meantime here is a vintage postcard that will give you a taste of how it looks, even after almost seventy years.

Brookdale



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