Clifton's Brookside Cafeteria is the proper name - it's been there since 1935. You step into a dark fantasia of California forest in the Sierras. The structural pillars are decorated to look like redwoods, and there are scenic vignettes of mountain scenes. Beside the stairway to the second floor, the figure of a bear stands on his hind legs and fishes for salmon. There is a chapel and a waterfall. There is a moosehead hung high up on one wall. The room is lit with pink, blue, and violet colored lights to add a theatrical effect. My photo is blurry because the room is so dark, but I think this faithfully depicts the surreal feel of the place.
You pass through the first floor dining room and into the fluorescent-lit cafeteria line, and it's just like any cafeteria you've ever been at - fiberglass trays, stainless steel rack to slide your tray along, and rows of food displayed in little white melamine dishes. Cole slaws, jello salad, pickled beets. A carving station with a heat lamp for roast turkey. Steam tables with mashed potatoes, greens, beans, salisbury steak. I got a small dish of macaroni and cheese and another one of steamed spinach; a plastic glass of iced tea.
When you go through the cashier line, you transition again from the sanitary fluorescent brilliance of the cafeteria line into the colorful, fantastic gloom of the dining room.
As soon as I stepped away from the cashier, I saw him. A slender, older black gentleman, seated in the first table out of the cashier line. He was dressed all in black, with a wide-brimmed black hat. He wore a vest beneath his jacket that was covered in black and white iridescent sequins in a checkerboard pattern. The hat's brim was trimmed in white marabou, and on the crown were small decorative pins with rhinestones and flickering LED lights. The pins were in the shapes of all manner of things - coke bottles, Olympic logos, stars and shamrocks. A crest-like pattern was picked out in rhinestones at the center front of his hat. Oh, he was stylish! He sat with silent dignity, drinking his coffee. The red LED lights blinked and chased.
An elegant dude, for sure. Exactly right in this fantastic setting.