During the Great Depression Clifton’s Cafeteria eateries boasted the slogan “Dine free unless delighted.” In the original restaurant’s first three months of business, ten thousand customers took him up on the offer. Enough customers paid their bills to make them a success.

During the Great Depression, ‘Penny Restaurants’ Fed the Unemployed

New York’s 107 West 44th Street had been home to Bill Duffy’s Olde English Tavern. But with the Great Depression emptying wallets and Prohibition yet to be repealed, it was difficult for upscale establishments to stay open. In place of the old restaurant’s “merriment,” the New York Herald Tribune reported, a new restaurant was opening at the same address. It could accommodate crowds that would have swamped Duffy’s: 9,000 customers a day. The cuisine was humble: Pea soup and whole-wheat bread featured prominently on the menu. But it was dirt cheap, an aspect reflected by the establishments’s name. The Penny Restaurant was a place for the downtrodden and not-quite penniless to have a bite to eat.

The establishment was not without preceden… Continue Reading (5 minute read)

5 thoughts on “During the Great Depression Clifton’s Cafeteria eateries boasted the slogan “Dine free unless delighted.” In the original restaurant’s first three months of business, ten thousand customers took him up on the offer. Enough customers paid their bills to make them a success.”

  1. 134444

    Fun fact: Clifton’s Cafeteria in LA is where one of the first science fiction fan clubs, organized under the Science Fiction League, met: The Los Angeles Science Fiction League. This club was where Ray Bradbury got his start in science fiction.

    Some more info about Clifton’s and Bradbury’s entry into scifi: [https://firstfandomexperience.org/2020/06/14/ray-bradburys-clubhouse/](https://firstfandomexperience.org/2020/06/14/ray-bradburys-clubhouse/)

  2. gilthead

    The smell of the air was incredible. It is loong gone. It was a combination of soups, fresh corned beef and pure goodness. It was pure wizardry.

  3. windershinwishes

    Clifford Clifton also lead a public campaign to root out rampant corruption in Los Angeles. He dodged attempted assassination and eventually got the Mayor of LA and his whole network of cronies run out of town.

    [http://www.thenativeangeleno.com/2012/09/28/clifford-clinton-the-cafeteria-kid-who-toppled-city-hall/](https://web.archive.org/web/20161030000719/http://www.thenativeangeleno.com/2012/09/28/clifford-clinton-the-cafeteria-kid-who-toppled-city-hall/)

    >Clinton got involved in politics almost by accident. In 1935, LA County Supervisor John Anson Ford asked him to investigate food operations at County General Hospital. Clinton’s report was shocking: patients were being served low-grade, often spoiled food, while, according to Buntin, “waste and favoritism were costing the county $120,000.”
    >
    >All of a sudden, Clifton’s Cafe was hit with random health inspections and food poisoning complaints. Outraged, Clinton resolved to fight back. In 1937, he got Ford to get him appointed to the county grand jury.
    >
    >…
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    >Clinton responded by taking the reform fight directly to the public, rousing enough reaction that Mayor Shaw reluctantly allowed Clinton to assemble a committee of his own to examine vice in Los Angeles. He found it: 600 brothels, 1,800 bookies, and 300 gambling houses.
    >
    >…
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    >The report was scathing. It found that “underworld profits” were being used to finance the campaigns of “city and county officials in vital positions.” In exchange, local officials from all three of the principal law enforcement agencies in the county, the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department, and the LAPD, “work in complete harmony and never interfere with the activities of important figures in the underworld.”
    >
    >…
    >
    > On the night of October 28, 1937, a bomb exploded in the basement of Clifford Clinton’s home at 5470 Los Feliz Boulevard. Miraculously, no one was hurt. The LAPD suggested that the bomb was planted by Clinton himself to get more publicity; according to Buntin, “a car seen speeding from the scene had license plates that tied to the LAPD’s intelligence division.”
    >
    >…
    >
    >Under City Charter, a mayor could be recalled by gathering enough signatures and calling a special election. It had never been successfully done before – not in Los Angeles, not in any major American city. Despite constant police harassment, Clinton and his band of reformers gathered 120,000 signatures to put the recall on the ballot.
    >
    >To run against Shaw, Clinton turned to his old ally, Judge Fletcher Bowron. In September, Bowron defeated Shaw in a landslide, 233,427 votes to 122,692. Bowron forced Davis to resign. The mayor’s brother was later convicted of 63 counts of selling civil service appointments and promotions. Fitts was defeated in the next election. The Combination was smashed, and organized crime figures fled to Las Vegas en masse.

  4. noise-nut

    I remember Clifton’s from when I was a small child. I loved it.

  5. My-Name-Is-Davey

    Is that where the saying “don’t ever go to clifton” came from?

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