Clifton's Republic Is The Historic LA Restaurant Inspired By The Forest

Redwood tree at Clifton's Republic
Redwood tree at Clifton's Republic - cliftonsrepublic/Instragram

Los Angeles has its share of historic eateries, but perhaps the most flamboyant and storied of all is the venerable Clifton's Republic in the historic downtown business district. The location was originally one of a chain of cafeterias founded by Clifford Clinton in 1931, sporting a dining room designed to look like a forest grotto. The former Clifton's Brookdale was transformed into a multi-story entertainment venue under the new ownership of Andrew Meieran.

Meieran's addition of a massive four-story artificial coastal redwood tree in the building pays tribute to the woodland theme originally crafted by Clinton, which was aimed at drawing more patrons to his cafeteria. Clinton drew inspiration from the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California for his cafeteria design. He recreated the lush landscape he admired, cleverly concealing pillars as tree trunks and adorning the walls with timberland murals.

Although the cafeteria weathered ups and downs in the Great Depression-era economy, it famously fed anyone regardless of their ability to pay and welcomed everyone in its racially integrated dining room. In 2010, the Clinton family handed over their long-standing business to Meieran, who has undertaken a phased renovation of the venue. To date, he has invested more than $14 million in the transformation.

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Drinks In The Forest Canopy

Forested dining area at Clifton's Republic
Forested dining area at Clifton's Republic - cliftonsrepublic/Instragram

The top floor of this remarkable entertainment venue houses the Tree Tops bar, described on the Clifton's Republic website as a space "dedicated to excellence and the celebration of nature through fine foods and spirits". Among the signature drinks to sip in the tree branch-adorned bar is the Red Woods cocktail, featuring flavors of pomegranate, lemon, rosehips, and black walnut alongside Jack Daniel's whiskey. There's also a wide array of spirit-free beverages available.

Two floors down in The Monarch, the forest vibe continues, in what the website calls a "mythical forest lodge" ambiance that includes the base of the giant coastal redwood tree and a chapel area designed for children to play in. Dioramas featuring taxidermy wild animals collected by the original owner enhance the natural atmosphere, emphasizing the importance of conservation in California. Clifton's also features the sea-themed Pacific Seas bar and the cathedral-like Gothic Bar.

The impressive renovation of the former Clifton's Cafeteria has experienced some setbacks along the way, and, as of November 2023, the owners reported on the restaurant's Instagram account that a burst pipe has caused the venue to temporarily close, much to the dismay of its fans. The Clifton's website says that it will reopen in late January 2024, and we'll all be looking forward to raising a toast in one of downtown Los Angeles' most unusual clubs.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.