Christine Ryan

Clifton's Cafeteria is back—a living piece of L.A.'s past. (Lisa Corson)

When we heard that Clifton’s Cabinet of Curiosities was soon to reopen, we were intrigued and relieved. Founded in 1932, the downtown L.A. cafeteria was Clifford Clinton’s attempt to bring elegant dining to struggling working people, and it worked—if you think of elegant dining as including giant plaster of paris mountainsides and artificial forests. Which we do.

The cafeteria, which is now open, will soon be joined by a tiki bar, a steak house and more. (Lisa Corson)

Unveiled on October 2, the revamped landmark will ultimately encompass four over-the-top floors and, yes, the cafeteria’s iconic Jell-O, thanks to chef Jason Fullilove. (That’s him, below, with the lion.)

Fullilove brings a blue-chip résumé to the job, having worked at Campanile, the Patina group, and Malibu Pier Restaurant. (Lisa Corson)

But what won our hearts was the fact that, although the famous pay-what-you-could policy is history, the new owner, nightclub baron Andrew Meieran, has committed to hiring no less than 10 percent of his staff, forever, from among the graduates of such local recovery programs as The Midnight Mission and CORE. Bravo. $; 648 S. Broadway.

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