Is this the perfect watering hole for children of the night? Read our Clifton’s Gothic Bar Review to find out…
It was inevitable that Hollywood Gothique would venture into Clifton’s Cafeteria to explore the shadowy ambiance of the Gothic Bar. Unfortunately, though we enjoyed some fine libations, the bar itself turned out to be not so Gothic as we had hoped.
Clifton’s Gothic Bar Review: Ambiance
Clifton’s, in case you don’t know, is a long-standing institution in downtown Los Angeles. Besides the famous cafeteria on the first floor, the multi-level building features several bars, located on the floors above: the woodsy Monarch on the second floor, the Gothic Bar on the third floor, and on the fourth floor both The Brookdale (elegant) and Pacific Seas (tiki). The most effectively themed is the first, with a large artificial tree, stone decor, and stuffed animals to suggest a California forest.
Located on the floor above, the Gothic Bar feels like an extension, with the Monarch’s tree rising up through the middle of the room and the same painted mountains on the walls. The room is suitably dark, with fleur-de-lis as a decorative motif throughout, but the only overtly Gothic element is the church-like structure behind the bar, suggesting a Gothic Cathedral. It’s actually quite magnificent, but it does not quite achieve the Castle Dracula effect we would have preferred.
The Gothic Bar actually has a closer association with science fiction than horror. Its claim to fame is that it served as a meeting place in the 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, including members Forrest J Ackerman (editor of Famous Monsters of Film Land magazine) and Ray Bradbury (author of The Martian Chronicles). In fact, the bar’s centerpiece is named The Bradbury: a 4.5 Billion-year-old meteorite weighing over two hundred pounds.
Clifton’s Gothic Bar Review: Menu
The drink menu also falls short in terms of moody appeal. Don’t expect Vampire wine or Blavod Martinis.
On the plus side, there are drinks that should tickle the fancy of science-fiction fans, named after genre icons who used to frequent the establishment: Forrest J (in honor of Ackerman); and the Two Rays (in honor of Bradbury and special effects artist Ray Harryhausen). There is also Electric Sheep (a nod to Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).
At least, those drinks are listed on the online menu. They were not available on the printed drink menu we saw in the bar, so we settled for a Hyperion (Jalapeno-infused Tequila with lime, passion fruit, strawberries, and agave). It was good but not quite what we had hoped to find.
Clifton’s Gothic Bar Review: Conclusion
Clifton’s Cafeteria is certainly worth visiting if you’re in downtown Los Angeles, so you might as well check out the Gothic Bar while you’re there. It is actually pleasantly comfortable; with all the crowds crushing into the new Pacific Seas upstairs, the Gothic Bar offers more available seating and a much more relaxed atmosphere. Just don’t set your expectations for a venue that lives up to its name.
1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
One of several themed watering holes in the building housing Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Gothic Bar is pleasant enough but does not fully live up to its name.
Note: On the Friday night we attended, the Gothic Bar did not open until 8pm, so if you arrive early, you will have to spend some time in the Monarch on the second floor. The new Pacific Seas room opens early, too, but there is nearly an hour wait to get in. (Update: Wait time for Pacific Seas is no longer a problem if you arrive near opening time. Also, Clifton’s is no longer a cafeteria but bills itself as an immersive hospitality experience.)
Clifton’s Republic (formerly Clifton’s Cafeteria) is located at 648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Phone: (213) 627-1673. Hours are 6pm to 2am most nights (varies for holidays). Website: cliftonsla.com.
If you are looking for spookier themed locations in Los Angeles, check out The 4th Horseman and The Cauldron bar. For more info, check out review links below.
Clifton’s Gothic Bar Review: Photo Gallery
Additional photographs of Clifton Republic’s Gothic Bar from a 2022 visit.