Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week: Clifton’s Pacific Seas Cafeteria, Los Angeles, 1950


Clifton’s Pacific Seas Cafeteria, Los Angeles, 1950

A turquoise neon backlit waterfall is the centerpiece and crowning touch of what has to be the most exotic and over the top restaurant façade ever. The craggily cafeteria front has ’lil caves of multi-colored light and a jungle of tropical plantings. This was Adventureland before Adventureland – the Tiki Room before the Tiki Room. Clifford Clinton, the king of cafeterias, dreamed this up in 1939. It must’ve been shocking then. It still is today. His son, Don, took this slide IN 1950. Thank you Don!

In the realm of Polynesian themed eateries Clifton’s Pacific Seas is, without a question, one of the most spectacular ever! It is the younger and shorter-lived sister of Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria. The Brookdale, delightfully done in a most charming redwood forest theme, serves up steam table savories and delicious desserts at the corner of Seventh and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles just as it has since it opened 1935. Clifton’s Pacific Seas was just blocks away on Olive just below Sixth. After just twenty-one years the Polynesian palace closed in 1960. For what reason I don’t know. The parking lot that replaced it is still there.

Themed interiors and environments were not invented in Southern California, but they certainly were perfected here. Clifford Clinton was a master right up there with Walt Disney, Walter Knott and Alex Madonna (Madonna Inn.)

Even without our dearly departed Clifton’s Pacific Seas cafeteria, downtown Los Angeles is still a hotbed of unique, unusual, bizarre and breathtaking vintage places to experience. And you can do so this Sunday Oct 14 and next Sunday the 21st. Of course, we’ll be eating lunch at Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria!!!

Here’s to Clifton’s Pacific Seas Cafeteria, the DISNEYLAND TOUR OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES and YOU!!!

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