We hit Clifton’s Cafeteria a few weeks after its big comeback to check things out. The food was a combination of old-school favorites with a few new twists like stone fired pizza and fresh sandwiches on ciabatta. Unfortunately, the hot food was very much like what you would get at a school cafeteria, and refrigerated cake is never a good thing. We were not that surprised when Eater announced that talented chef Jason Fullilove was already leaving. But like the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Clifton’s is not really a place you go to eat. It’s a place you go to trip out. And as these pictures prove, it is definitely worth it.
The first floor houses the cafeteria and a large, open seating area with a great woods theme. There are tiered levels of dining along one side of the room, almost like balconies, leading up to the second floor, where the woodland theme continues. The giant tree that anchors the building is the centerpiece on this floor, and contains a little cubby for children to hide in. Natural history museum-style dioramas are a large part of the decor, as is a long copper bar. The furniture is stunning and probably one-of-a-kind, made with leathers, wood, antlers and possibly horn.
In contrast, the third floor is elegant, with detailed late colonial woodwork in creams and pastels with huge windows facing the street. The main room is an open ballroom that seems like the kind of place you could rent out for a wedding reception. The large dioramas continue here, and now that I think about it, perhaps a carnivorous hunt scene is not appropriate for a wedding. Half of the floor is sealed off, probably the future location of the promised tiki bar. There is also a basement area that employees say will be used for a bar. At this time, only a small portion of the basement is open, displaying old neon, a classic wood phone booth and a gorgeous bench. Oh, and they also have a waterfall.