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L.A. landmark Clifton's Cafeteria closing two days a week for renovation

June 6, 2011 | 12:56 pm

Clifton's Cafeteria

Clifton's cafeteria, downtown Los Angeles' shrine to kitsch and comfort food, will be closing Mondays and Tuesdays over the summer as part of a deliberately slow-footed, phased renovation.

Developer and nightclub operator Andrew Meieran said he is repairing the Depression-origin eatery piecemeal to avoid a long closure that would throw employees out of work.

The staff of 69 includes many longtime workers, including the manager, who has been with Clifton's for 48 years, Meieran said.

Meieran, who also co-founded the hip Edison lounge downtown, took control of the four-story restaurant building at Broadway and 7th Street last September from the Clinton family, which founded the restaurant in 1931.

The chefs also have begun updating the menu, with fresh instead of frozen produce, organic vegetables when possible and real butter, he added.

In a back-to-the-future twist, the chefs are returning to original 1950s-era recipes -- which they unearthed from moldering files -- for standby dishes such as beef stroganoff and chicken parmesan.

"They love it," Meieran said of the employees. "The business had been down so long they learned to cut corners. Now they're excited by their ability to go back to the basics."

Meieran said he will be extending the sylvan theme of the main dining room, which includes a 20-foot waterfall and fake redwood trees, by building a giant Sequoia on the little-used upper banquet floor.

New cocktail lounges and another restaurant also are planned for the upper level, some of which will open by the end of the year, he said.

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-- Gale Holland

Photo: Clifton's Cafeteria. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

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