Clifton’s Cafeteria

Perfect For: Classic Establishment Lunch Quick Eats Unique Dining Experience Wasting Your Time and Money
PHOTOS: Holly Liss

You can trick a lot of people with your good looks in this town, but Clifton’s Cafeteria isn’t fooling us.

Yes, the newly transformed space is astonishing. The detail and imagination it took to revitalize this behemoth downtown cafeteria has not gone unnoticed. Eating lunch at Clifton’s is like picnicking with your coworkers inside Splash Mountain. Rocky outcrops, a 40-ft.-tall redwood tree, and hidden castles you can actually crawl into give the place an allure like no other. Frankly, if we were rating Clifton’s on aesthetic alone, this magical forest would be an easy 10.0.

But unfortunately, restaurants need to be much more than that.

Can someone please explain to us what in the hell happened with the food here? What Clifton’s is currently serving is not just bad, it’s borderline offensive. For $12, their “Thanksgiving Dinner…Daily!”, gets you a piece of turkey that tastes like it’s been held out of a moving car window for an hour and two side dishes you’d rather just buy at Ralph’s. $12 might not seem like a lot on paper, but with a beverage (no free refills) and a cup of salad you nervously picked off the counter, somehow you just ended up paying close to $30 for lunch. No thank you.

And as much as the public cafeteria concept could’ve really worked (it did for 60 years), the whole system is now utterly dysfunctional. Once you’ve got your tray in hand, it’s completely unclear where to go and what exactly you should be doing. The flow of traffic is basically just one giant clusterf*ck of confused business people trying to decide if there’s a dessert that’s edible. (There’s not.)

We suppose there’s still time for Clifton’s to get their sh*t together. But if something doesn’t happen fast, the biggest restaurant opening of the year will quickly be trumped by the biggest closing.

Nothing pretty about that.

Food Rundown

Thanksgiving Dinner

We wouldn’t eat this again if they paid US. The turkey tastes like a napkin, the mashed potatoes have clearly been microwaved, and that stuffing (long known to be the best food on Earth) tastes like wet bread and pepper.

Pumpkin Pie

This won’t kill you but it’ll definitely give you a stomachache.

Patty Melt

This actually might be the best thing currently at Clifton’s, but that being said, we could go anywhere else in town for a better one. For instance, our own home.

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