Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clifton's Brookdale Reborn

Clifton's Brookdale's new owner took the first step toward restoring the cafeteria to its 1940s heyday, when he peeled off the aluminum-grill facade at 648 S. Broadway St. in early February.

Historic facade unveiled Feb. 9.
Photo: Paul Clinton
Nightclub owner and filmmaker Andrew Meieran, who acquired the cafeteria in 2010, plans to reopen Clifton's Brookdale, retaining the decor that made it famous. He plans to bring back menu items that diners remember fondly, including maceroni and cheese, beef stroganoff, and fresh strawberry pie.

On Feb. 9, the cafeteria's late-1930s facade revealed lodge-like windows that allow streams of natural light into a dining room that's reminescent of a big redwood forest. The theme has captivated and beguiled diners and Los Angeles visitors through the decades.

Clifford, who had taken over a failed Boos Brothers cafeteria at the location in 1935, immediately transformed the white-tile box-like interior, modeling it after a forest lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As a young man, Clifford spent time at Mount Hermon and the Brookdale Lodge as a respite from the tribulations of business and family life. With its thick redwood trees, waterfall, and stream flowing through the dining room, the lodge had made an impression on young Cliff.

Cliff decided to recreate this scene in his new cafeteria. Renowned muralist Einar Petersen decorated the walls floor-to-ceiling with murals depicting the redwood forests. Columns in the dining room were covered with redwood trees. A cross-section of a sequoia in the dining room correlates the tree's growth with important historical events. Stuffed bear and deer look down on diners from platforms.

Meditation chapel at Brookdale.
Photo: CC_Flikr/hey skinny
On a mezannine, weekly live entertainment was performed at Melody Ledge at one side of the cafeteria. On the opposite side of this level was a small chapel with a blue neon cross offering a quiet space for meditation. A lighted diorama of a redwood forest inside the chapel featured a recording of Patience Strong's poem "The Groves-God's First Temples":

If you stand very still in the heart of a wood, you will hear many wonderful things-the snap of a twig, and the wind in the trees and the whir of invisible wings. If you stand very still in the turmoil of life and you wait for the voice from within-you'll be led down the quiet ways of Wisdom and Peace in a mad world of chaos and din. If you stand very still and you hold to your faith, you will get all the help that you ask-you will draw from the Silence the things that you need-Hope and Courage and Strength for your task.

Clifton's Brookdale was created to provide sanctuary and a warm environment for people who were new to Los Angeles to find a home-like environment. "Food for the soul is important too."

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