LA Bus N00b Goes Downtown to Clifton’s

cliftonsexterior.jpg (I changed my title, figured it was more apropos as this point. Your thoughts?)

My day was long, I got a lot of reading done and was lucky enough to have a seat for the whole ride, both to and from downtown. I left my house at 11:00am and arrived at Clifton’s door at 12:32pm. My friend did end up driving and we had a great lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria, sitting and talking for about 2 hours. (More on Clifton’s after the jump.) We said our good-byes at Pershing Square around 2:50pm and I decided to take the subway to Wilshire and Vermont and jump back on the Rapid there. Subway was great, nice and speedy, though there were slightly more dodgy (read smelly) people on the train with me than there were on the bus. I got on the 720, ambled down Wilshire, I changed to the BBB #12 and continued down Westwood to my stop and walked 5 blocks home. I was in the door around 4:25pm. 3 hours of travel time. Wow. What have I learned? That I can take the bus on long trips, but I don’t always need to take the bus on long trips. Again, I’m fortunate in this regard.

Follow me after the jump for more of my n00by bus adventure and lots of photos.

The #8 Big Blue Bus had some great theater. A gentleman boarded, I think it was Mickey Rooney, looking a bit down on his luck* and he said loudly to the driver “SENIOR!” and tossed his quarter into the box and sat down near the front (where I was). A stop or two later he shouted up at her, “I want to stop at Manchester!” The driver was polite and said “Manchester? There is no Manchester on this route. Do you mean Rochester?”” Mickey didn’t hear her so a kind gentleman touched him on the shoulder and repeated what the driver said. “Manchester! Manchester!” Okay Mickey, we get it but there is no Manchester. He got up and said, “It’s two stops from here.” And we arrived at Massachusetts Ave. Aha. All was well. As he was getting off, a woman was waiting for him to pass and he said to her “Get on!” Thanks Mick.

While waiting for the east bound 720 there was this sign at the stop:
I wanted to get the arrival time, I really did. But the sign never changed. I had recently read Fred Camino’s blog post: 10 More Ways To Improve L.A.’s Public Transportation System and today was a real world example of why his #2 and #3 are really needed. I had worked in London for about 3 weeks in the fall of 2006 and took the bus every day to work from my hotel. It was great having constant updates about when my bus would arrive. Why is that not happening here? And the Rapid bus is a Bendy Bus, as they call them in London, though I found it funny that with an almost straight shot down Wilshire, there is not much necessity for bending.

The ride down Wilshire was uneventful and I read further along in “Pride and Prejudice,” occasionally looking up from Mr. Darcy to see where we were and to ooh and ahh over those beautiful old buildings the further east we got. I debus-ed and made my way to Clifton’s, taking some pictures while waiting for my friend who was only a few minutes behind me. As I was taking photos of the exterior sign, a male passer-by said, quite jovially, “Here you are! Here you are!” We smiled at each other.

I love the sidewalk out front with the multiple mosaics describing all things LA, like “La Brea Pits”

And “Stadium” (I immediately thought “Dodger” then looked closer…duh! This was from the 30’s after all.)

At the entry way Clifton’s invites you to:

Our Vantage Point (go see that movie by the way, my name’s in the credits) while we had lunch:

Our lunch — mmmm boy it was delicious! We went a bit overboard but I have to say the beef and mashed potatoes and gravy were really good and the mac salad some of best I’ve ever had (which is saying something serious when you come from Hawai’i) and oh that pumpkin chiffon pie. MMMMMMMMMMMMM is all I can say. Their motto should be “Come for the Kitsch, stay for the Food!”

After a long leisurely lunch, we walked around a bit, looking at all the details in the place. We asked if we could go up to the roped off third floor and they said yes, but that it was dark. It was fabulous and 180 degrees from the floors below.

There were a collection of photos taken of LA by Don Clifton in the 50’s. One was of the Biltmore and my friend pointed out that huge smoke stack belching out amazing quantities of filth! Go America!

Outside afterward, gazing down Broadway with its gorgeous old theaters, like this one:
I couldn’t help but notice and take a photo of this gem:
I love that for some reason — Family Pants. Pants for the whole family. You just don’t see those two words together as often as you might think. Family Pants.

It was a great day, and while I’m not going to bus downtown again in the very near future, I’m glad I know how to do it and what it is like. And Clifton’s! Oh how I will sing it’s praises up and down! I want to have birthday parties there and take visiting family there and make sure that we keep it busy enough so that it never closes! Please go there and eat eat eat! You will not be disappointed.

*Of course it wasn’t Mickey Rooney.

16 thoughts on “LA Bus N00b Goes Downtown to Clifton’s”

  1. I found it funny that with an almost straight shot down Wilshire, there is not much necessity for bending.

    Well, maybe not much, but there’s always the turning-around-and-going-back-the-other-way bit at both ends.


  2. I found it funny that with an almost straight shot down Wilshire, there is not much necessity for bending.

    Well, maybe not much, but there’s always the turning-around-and-going-back-the-other-way bit at both ends.


  3. Santa Monica with all of it’s leftist posturing I’ve always wondered why they never stressed the Big Blue Bus more. They are spending time on things like, “no plastic” when they should be spending more time on a much more impactful move of “no cars.”

    (The Big Blue works. It amazes me how these little city buslines work so efficiently the Montebello busses also work shockingly well. Maybe the MTA should be cut up in little pieces and be farmed out so that competition will foster efficiency.)

    Except for on major streets out of Santa Monica, I’m not understanding the car thing in Santa Monica. All of the parking, all of the car culture, they need to really encourage people to take the bus to get there to go to the beach and encourage the residents to use the bus.

    Oh next think about taking the 10 express (Big Blue Bus) it drops you off at seventh and fig, ten minute walk to Clifton’s and it’s very quick, though I don’t know your exact location, this may be a good option.


  4. Browne is right. Santa Monica has this in common with Berkeley. Places which profess leftist ideals but which suck without a car.

    By your description you seem to be south of UCLA. That’s too bad because the #10 Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is the best way in and out of downtown. You’d have to get it at Pico & Bundy or Olympic & Bundy, though, before it hops on the freeway.

    Check out the 920 from Westwood & Wilshire. It makes about 3 stops to Western at the subway. I think it only runs at rush hour, though.

  5. I live near La Cienega and Olympic and have been bus commuting for over a year, during that time going to Century City, Santa Monica and now downtown L.A. My thoughts are:

    The MTA buses cover more distance in less time (courtesy of the rapid buses). It’s almost exactly the same distance to downtown SM as downtown LA, but the downtown LA commute happens 20-30% faster.

    BBB needs more #7 buses.

    The MTA needs to figure out why on Friday evenings there are consistently ZERO eastbound 720s at Grand/6th. Every other day, I have no wait.

    The BBB has problems when it rains when suddenly there are no eastbound buses in the evening.

    The next bus cellphone thing is nice for the bus lines that they support, but it does seem to go down a lot.

    A universal stored value card would be really great so you don’t need to worry about change. The BBB Little Blue Card is nice, but only works on the BBB. Now that I have an employer-sponsored transit pass, I pay my employer pays the extra $8 for the one that lets me use all the Muni buses as well. It hasn’t really paid for itself yet, but I like the piece of mind of knowing that I can hop on any bus that I see with it.

    The city needs to fix the pavement in the right lanes on Wilshire and Olympic, Those are seriously bumpy rides.

  6. What an awesome excursion, but I’m curious why you opted for a bus trip that involved transfers (mo’ buses, mo’ money, mo’ waiting) instead of the No. 439 I recommended, which would take you from the West L.A. transit dock by the Fox Hills Mall to Figueroa and 7th, about five blocks from Clifton’s?

    You should definitely give that line a try next time, even though it won’t be in the near future.

  7. Julia asking for public transit riders about the best route is sort of similar to asking car users is yahoo maps or google maps better.

    People will fight to the death in regards to why their way is better.

    BusTard has been taking the bus for years and he’s always getting annoyed at me for doing things like taking a local when there is a rapid, but you know sometimes I want to see stuff. I’m not just riding just to get somewhere. I’m riding because I have issues and I think riding the bus is fun.

    I also feel you don’t really know a neighborhood until you’ve walked the place where people in the neighborhood live and the bus forces you to do that.

    I like complaining about Metro, but I like taking the bus and people watching more than I hate Metro and I have faith that one day they will get it together.

    I also really believe that cars are killing the planet. I think it was Fred Camino of MetroriderLA who talked about how cars have killed more people than guns. I think that says alot.

    If you care about your kids get out of your car, at least sometimes.

    I’m very stoked that all of these new people are taking the bus. That’s going to be the thing that will change METRO. We have to get all kinds of people taking the bus across socio-economic, racial, and gender lines.

    If you noticed most bus advocates are guys, because it’s a daunting task for a middle class woman to take the bus on a regular basis everywhere, but it can be done. I’m proof it can be done and you can go anywhere from Watts to Beverly Hills to the SFV and you’ll be perfectly fine.

    You’re doing community service when you ride the bus, because there are people who have to take it, elderly and disabled people. People who don’t have a bike option or motorboard option or today I feel like getting in my car option. They have no voice, but you have the energy to have a voice to say, “this bus runs badly” or “this bus runs well” or “this is an unsafe stop.”

    So riding the bus helps the earth.
    It saves you money.
    It helps people who don’t have a voice.

    This will be a great adventure for you Julia.


  8. Mr. Campbell eloquently argues the expediency of the MTA 439, whereas I maintain that the BBB 10 is best.

    In the far past, there were gun duels. In the recent past, there has been the bicycle vs. POV (was that not you, Mr. Campbell?). I propose a bus race to, well, not the death, but a near-terminal point. And as there is such passion in whose busway is the best way, perhaps now is the time to see whose way is best–for the time, and fortune smiling.

    Whaddya say, Will?

  9. Hey all, this is getting more fun by the day, thanks for everyone’s input!

    Will, I will try your route on future trips. My outbound route cost only $1.25 (75¢ for the BBB and an additional 50¢ for the transfer to the 720) and seemed reasonable. Would it be less on the route you mentioned? And as Browne says, sometimes I want to see stuff, be a tourist in my own town.

    And Browne, I will also try the BBB #10 though I do have to go west a little ways before heading east again. No biggy. Thanks for all your positive thoughts and suggestions, especially the philosophy behind it all.

    And Mr. Bustard, I think your idea is awesome! I say we all race to Clifton’s or Phillipe’s or the Original Pantry some day and loser buys dessert and coffee. In fact, we would all be winners…

    Great input everyone and I look forward to so much more.


  10. I love the BBB. My one gripe is that they need more north-south routes within Santa Monica. I know the recent Mini Blue buses have some routes–one even going right in front of my apartment–that run north-south, but they don’t run all that frequently, and they are loop routes, not routes featuring buses going in opposite directions. I know there’s the #3 for Lincoln and the #14 for Bundy, but all that in between seems underserved. A line on Cloverfield seems like a no-brainer to me.

    When it comes to errands, I still tend to use my car, because I’m home during the day with my baby, and she’s a little too small to ride the bus–can’t walk yet, and can get cranky quickly. But when she’s older, I can’t wait to go everywhere on the bus with her!

  11. Hi All, Browne, I am a chick (don’t know if I am “middle class” or not). I ride the bus and subway often- to get to work, to take my daughter to school or the museum or library, to go to the market, to visit my o mom (who lives in Santa Monica and I live in Silver Lake- the 704 get me there faster then driving) and I must say I see just as many women as men on the buss. This may be because I am on the buss very early in the AM or mid day, not the typical rush hours. I don’t believe riding the buss is harder or less safe for a women than a man.

  12. Dorit,

    I see lots of women on the bus, but I’m talking about women advocating for the bus or public transit in generl.

    You know wasting large amounts of times, taking different busses, talking about it, having a blog dedicated to it, starting an organization… lots of guys do this, but not many women. I didn’t say there were none, but not many.

    I have to disagree with your opinion that taking the bus is the same degree of safe regardless of gender. It really depends on where you live and the time you take it, because taking the bus as a woman can be unsafe, because you’re an easier target.

    I have lots more stories than my friend BusTard in regards to just being harassed and bothered on the bus and trains and even if people don’t touch you, it’s annoying. It makes you feel unsafe. I have even had busdrivers try to pick me up and it gets real old.

    One problem I have is I look alot younger than I am some people think I’m in high school and that opens up a whole new kind of weirdness, because you can tell they think that and it’s just creepy or the guy is really young and that’s also creepy.

    If you’re an older woman taking the bus (saw an elderly woman in Little Tokyo who had gotten beaten about two weeks ago after she had walked up the street getting off the bus, I don’t think that would have happened to a man, but maybe I’m wrong) it can be unsafe, especially if you go to the bank at the same time everyday, someone can easily watch you and the economy is getting very scary, so people are looking for easy targets.

    I’ve taken the bus from Long Beach to LA at 2am, for me I think it was more dangerous that if I were a guy.

    But if you’re taking the bus in the morning and in the afternoon before dark, you’re right. I think it’s just as safe for man or woman to take the bus.

    I think though in regards to freedom of movement though I have to think more than a guy.

    My male friends can just jump on a bike by themselves at 12am if they decide they are hungry and then jump on a bus, I don’t feel confident enough to do that.

    Maybe I’m just scary. I don’t know, this is all my opinion, not any hard research.


  13. Bustard, you’re on! But just to be clear, I’m certainly not anti-Rapid, and definitly there’s nothing rapid in the No. 439, just singular. I like the idea of getting on one bus all the way over on one side of town and about 75-90 minutes later being all the way hella across it.

    Julia, the 439 will cost you a flat $1.25, but probably isn’t as scenic as what you’ve taken already. It pretty much works its way over Ladera Heights and then into the westside before hoping on the 10 Freeway to get to downtown.

  14. OMG I love Family Pants! They’re a chain, I think: I’ve seen several in the downtown area.

    I always preferred to think of it as the sole pair of pants allocated to the family. “Sorry Bobby, your sister gets to wear the pants today. You’ll have to walk to school in your boxers.”

  15. “Mr. Campbell eloquently argues the expediency of the MTA 439, whereas I maintain that the BBB 10 is best.

    In the far past, there were gun duels. In the recent past, there has been the bicycle vs. POV (was that not you, Mr. Campbell?). I propose a bus race to, well, not the death, but a near-terminal point. And as there is such passion in whose busway is the best way, perhaps now is the time to see whose way is best–for the time, and fortune smiling.

    Whaddya say, Will?” BusTard

    “Bustard, you’re on!” Will

    I’m picking out my scarf right now. I am not sure where my Pink Ladies Jacket is though or maybe I’ll just be Cha Cha…


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