09.13.16
Josh Kun | Observer Quarterly

Atomic Cafe



In the aftermath of wwii’s Japanese internment camps, Ito and Minoru Matoba opened the Atomic Cafe in 1946 on First and Alameda in downtown Los Angeles. For the next forty years, they served teriyaki dinners, chow mein, chashu ramen, and chop suey alongside Little Tokyo cultural mash- ups like Hamburger Gacha to an ever-changing downtown crowd. When the Matoba’s daughter Nancy—a vet of social justice jazz band Hiroshima— took over the jukebox and the front of the house in the late 1970s, the Atomic became the L.A. punk scene’s after-hours headquarters. Beneath walls filled with punk posters, Little Tokyo old-timers rubbed elbows with members of X and the Germs as the restaurant filled with songs by Roy Rogers, Yuzo Kayama, Henry Mancini, and The Weirdos. The jukebox became as famous as the food, and by the 1980s listings for pork chop suey and a side of kamaboko were printed atop faded 45s by the B-52s and the Selecter.

 To read more about the intersection of design + food, buy a copy of Observer Quarterly Number 3.

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