Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Remembering Clifton's Cafeteria

Q: You briefly mention Clifton's Cafeteria in your book, Violence Girl. I've heard other interviews with you where you go into more detail about this unique place of LA's restaurant history. Why didn't you write more about it in your memoir?

Alice: I actually thought I wrote much more about Clifton's. It's possible that I did in an early draft, but I had to cut out some scenes that didn't advance the overall story. It may have ended up as a deleted scene.

Q: Why was Clifton's so memorable for you as child?

Alice: It was a total sensory experience. For me, atmosphere is really important in a restaurant. Clifton's definitely had atmosphere. You could tell you were getting close because you could hear the tambourines going and the preaching and singing. The "Hallelujahs" were out front preaching The Word. I was a little kid. I thought they were there to entertain the customers going into Clifton's. My parents just wanted to get through them and not have to give them any money.

Q: Describe the interior of Clifton's for us.

Alice: It had a forest theme with lots of trees, taxidermied woodland creatures, bears, giant boulders. I think it was four floors. You walked in on the ground level and there were curved staircases leading up on either side to different dining terraces. Each of the rooms was decorated differently. My favorite room was at the very top. I think it was called the Red Room because it had red painted walls, flocked red wallpaper and red carpet. I thought it was very elegant. Come to think of it, I have used the same deep red color in my own house for years now. My daughter calls it the "Welcome to Hell" look.

Q: So what did you like to eat at Clifton's?

Alice: Well, it was kind of tricky because of the cafeteria style. If you walked by and picked up the first tasty thing you saw, the dishes would accumulate. You wanted to take the tasty thing, but if you took it too early, you would load up before you got to the main courses. I tried to get either mashed potatoes, or the mac and cheese. Not both (laughs). Although I wanted both. I would usually get peas, although I also liked the carrot raisin salad. Really good...and then they had Waldorf Salad too, that was really good. And it sounded fancy cause it was from The Waldorf. My main course was always Salisbury Steak!

Q: Salisbury Steak? Isn't that just a hamburger patty with gravy?

Alice: No, Salisbury Steak is made from wild, organic Salisbury. Free Range Salisbury Steak - it's really good. You should try it sometime. I think they carry it at Whole Foods.

1 comment:

trouble said...

Thank you for the wonderful article about Clifton's. I grew up eating there and I loved the food, the atmosphere and the employees. A big step in my life was advancing from the Treasure Tray to being able to pick out my own food.