Throwback Thursday: Remembering the Sounds of the Little Tokyo Atomic Cafe

Do you remember the sounds of the Atomic and Troy Cafés? Long before the days of the Señor Fish Mexican food joint on the corner of First and Alameda in Little Tokyo stood two landmark establishments, a late-night noodle house/punk rock hangout and a young Chicano artist gathering spot.

On Saturday, February 22, Atomic Nancy of the Atomic Café will be DJ-ing music from the famous jukebox in an amazing tribute to the cafés that used to call this historical brick building home.

Event information:

  • Saturday, February 22; doors open at 8pm, DJ set starts at 9pm
  • Señor Fish Restaurant; 422 E. First Street, Little Tokyo (Restaurant side)
  • $15 suggested donation

With the upcoming celebration of this historical space, we’d like to take a moment to share with you a little more about the past tenants that occupied the building that currently houses Señor Fish.

The Atomic Café was opened by Ito and Minoru Matoba in 1946, not long after they were released from the Japanese American internment camps. At the time, it was a quiet diner serving steaming bowls of hot noodles. When their daughter, Nancy Sekizawa, took over the café in the 1970’s, the restaurant was transformed into a lively punk rock hot spot with well-known regulars such as Bowie, Blondie, and Andy Warhol. The jukebox that blasted music until 4am was one of the very few at the time that played punk rock music as well as Japanese folk and pop songs.

After the Atomic Café closed its doors in 1989, the Troy Café took its place. The Troy Café was also a lively space that welcomed a variety of younger Chicano musicians and performers such as Quetzal and Chicano Secret Service. Beck also made appearances and performed at the coffee shop.

Now, the corner of First and Alameda will undergo a monumental change with the coming of the new Metro regional connector underground station. The space where the Atomic Café, Troy Café, and currently Señor Fish reside in the iconic brick building will be demolished in the coming year. Even though we’ll miss the familiar red brick building, we will always remember the sounds of the Atomic and Troy cafés.

Sources: Goodbye to Little Tokyo’s Legendary Punk/Chicano Hangout, Share Your Memories of Historic Atomic & Troy Cafés, Iconic Punk Scene Hangout Atomic Café to be Demolished