Clifton’s Cafeteria

Best Banquet Hall, August 2011
We looked far and wide for a venue with the coveted combination of delicious food and knockout setting at down-to-earth prices. Some places enchanted with their history, others with their hilltop vistas. La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes has stunning ocean panoramas—to the tune of $12,000. The owners of Vibiana took downtown’s 1876 cathedral into the 21st century with gobo lighting and thumping bass but don’t offer dining. We didn’t find the right balance until we arrived at Clifton’s Cafeteria. The downtown landmark is in the midst of restoring its murals and plasterwork that, along with the waterfalls and replica redwoods, have inspired Angelenos from L. Ron Hubbard to Ray Bradbury. The main room can host 52, while the third-floor banquet facility—which is undergoing a makeover in a Hawaiiana motif—seats almost 300. There’s no rental fee, just the cost of the food, which follows the old-school model: hand-carved roast beef, velvety mac and cheese. For birthdays the restaurant throws in a free cake.