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First Look Inside the Huge Makeover at Downtown's Weird and Wonderful Clifton's Cafeteria

Photos by <a href="https://instagram.com/wonhophoto/">Wonho Frank Lee</a>
Photos by Wonho Frank Lee

Nearly four years ago, the Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria closed for a huge renovation that will make it into a hipster hotspot with multiple bars and restaurants tucked into its strange and whimsical space, which originally opened in 1935. There have been a few intriguing reveals since—metal grating was taken down to reveal the building's brick facade for the first time since the 1950s and its neon sign was relit for the first time in decades—but otherwise the rehab has dragged on and on with no opening in sight. But it's finally here: in maybe about six weeks or so for the first restaurant (the cafeteria). Meanwhile, Meieran has begin letting in press and photographers to check out the space, which is as weird as it ever was.

Andrew Meieran, who created the Edison bulb boom with his The Edison club, bought Clifton's in 2010 from the family that had owned it for more than 70 years, and began "by far the biggest undertaking the building has experienced since it was founded" in 1935, according to the Downtown News. Back then, it was meant to be a fantastic distraction from the Depression, with a wooded wonderland inside with real trees and a running stream. The decor and their age made this an incredibly tough project; Meieran says "If I literally picked the most difficult project and populated it with the most difficult features, it would be Clifton's."

Meieran has kept many original features of the 50,000-square-foot cafeteria, but has also added a three-level atrium (made out of old storage rooms), now pierced with that replica redwood tree you see in the photos. The new Clifton's will house an old-timey cafeteria, a bar and soda fountain, a ballroom for private events and Sunday brunch, a Gothic Bar, a fourth-floor Art Deco bar and lounge, a tiki bar, a steakhouse, and a basement bar decorated with fossilized brontosaurus eggs. Damn. Eater LA has more on all the chefs and mixologists involved. The first openings should begin this fall.

· Inside the Reborn Clifton's Cafeteria in Downtown [Eater LA]
· Behold the Original Clifton's Facade For First Time Since 1950s [Curbed LA]
· Here's Clifton's Lit Up in Neon For the First Time in Decades [Curbed LA]
· Here's Broadway's Weird, Woodsy Clifton's Cafeteria in Its 1930s and '40s Prime [Curbed LA]