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THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE BIZARRE | Sidewalk
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Clifton's Magic Carpet Ride

March 29, 1998|Jim Heimann

Most customers enter Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria bent on a quick pudding and lemonade; few glance underfoot at the downtown restaurant's prized possession: its terrazzo sidewalk. Because of its costly price tag, modern-day merchants rarely use terrazzo--an aggregate of marble chips set in cement and polished--to seduce customers inside. In place since the Clinton family purchased and began remodeling a former Boos Brothers cafeteria in 1935, Clifton's terrazzo features a central compass design with the restaurant's name inscribed in chunky Art Deco letters. Pinwheels in muted yellows and reds form a border in the vibrant sidewalk carpet, but its most distinguishing trait is the series of 12 medallions that pay tribute to Southern California icons. Some--orange groves, oil wells, beaches and a cactus-filled desert--were undoubtedly geared toward the eyes of early tourists, while others--City Hall, the Coliseum, Hollywood Bowl and the La Brea tar pits with a mastodon stuck in the ooze--stand out as L.A. landmarks realized in precise prewar detail. Unlike most of Broadway's terrazzo patchwork remnants, pockmarked with chewing gum--including a baroque confection entryway to the Los Angeles Theater--Clifton's evocative sidewalk is a spotless oasis.

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