There’s great buzz right now around the reopening of Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown LA, but what do we really know about Clifford Clinton, the man who created it all and was considered one of the most powerful—and controversial—men of 1930s Los Angeles?
He looked like a chemistry professor and talked like a man of God. He made certain his establishments followed the Golden Rule. He offered a "Pay What You Wish" policy and believed the profits he earned from the restaurants could help feed the needy. For them, he created the Penny Cafeteria, a downstairs meal room where the hungry could buy meals for pennies.
He opened the first Clifton's Cafeteria in 1931 at 618 S. Olive St. with $2000 in his pocket and 2,500 recipe cards. Soon, he had created a franchise catering to weary souls during the Depression, a haven for the rest of the city and a place to speak one's mind.
He also made enemies—most notably the chief of police, the district attorney and the mayor. When he saw corruption, he went after it. Plus, his vision for what he hoped Los Angeles would become could very well read like a treatise about Los Angeles in 2015.
Edmond Clinton III, eldest grandson of Clifton’s founder, Clifford Clinton, and author of "Clifton's and Clifford Clinton: A Cafeteria and a Crusader" (Angel City Press, 2015); he grew up working at Clifton’s Cafeteria as a teenager and has been an internist on staff at Huntington Memorial Hospital since 1978