A version of this story first appeared on KCRW’s Design & Architecture blog.
For the past four years, developer/restaurateur/filmmaker Andrew Meieran has been fielding two questions more than any others. When will Clifton’s reopen? And will there still be Jell-O?
Well, answers to both have finally arrived. Er, sort of.
This past Tuesday was supposed to be the grand public opening but it has been delayed a few days, reportedly due to Meieran’s “perfectionism.” But while you wait to get inside, here’s an advance look.
Longtime patrons will find many of their treasured traditional entrees and desserts — but gussied up in ways that some may find surprising.
Clifton’s upscale new Jell-O dessert is an awkward but nonetheless apt metaphor for the building’s spectacular new interior.
It takes a beloved key ingredient – the theatrical woodland-themed ground floor — and surrounds it with elements that make it fresh, contemporary, and no doubt significantly more expensive.
The restaurant is opening even as the epic renovation continues. Meieran’s long-term plan is to serve up to 2,000 people on five floors of bars, restaurants and public areas.
One of the themed spaces still to come: a tiki bar that incorporates décor items from the late, lamented Bahooka Family restaurant in Rosemead.
As dramatic as all the changes are, Los Angeles magazine columnist Chris Nichols says they’re in keeping with Clifton’s long history of finding new and surprising ways to keep people coming in.
“There were musicians here at one point,” says Nichols. “There was a woman who took your picture. There was a matchmaker service here. There were all kinds of weird things that Clifton’s did to evolve over the years. And this is just another step in the evolution.”
All photographs by Gideon Brower. You can listen to his report from Clifton’s, below. For updates from the restaurant, click here.