Thursday, February 09, 2012

Peeling Back the Years

The house specialty at Clifton's Cafeteria on Wednesday was filet de grille, with the promise of a beaux-arts surprise for dessert.

As part of a long-awaited restoration of the Los Angeles landmark, new owner Andrew Meieran peeled away the grate-like aluminum covering that for nearly half a century concealed the South Broadway building's original 1904 facade.

But there were a few murmurs from a crowd of roughly 200 spectators as work crews lifted a huge tarp and revealed that many of the building's original windows were filled in with ugly concrete blocks.

Not to worry, said Meieran, who acquired the downtown cafeteria in 2010 from the Clinton family for $3.6 million.

As soon as seismic upgrades are completed, the concrete blocks — installed for earthquake safety in 1988 — will be removed. Glass panes will replace the blocks and natural light will again flood into the cafeteria's famous redwood forest-themed dining room, he said.

Meieran, a Hollywood filmmaker and developer of the downtown subterranean night club, The Edison, plans to retain the cafeteria's signature redwood tree columns, its kitschy fireplace, mountain cabin accessories and the rock-hewn chapel with its diorama and 4-minute narration that suggests "redwoods were God's first temple."

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