Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Compton | KCET
Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Compton
The City of Compton is one of the oldest cities in all of Los Angeles County. The first settlers arrived in 1867 in the form of thirty pioneer families, who had left Stockton, California in search of new opportunities as the prospects of gold had begun to dwindle. Despite many hardships in their new home, including poor weather, floods and lack of firewood, the group persisted. In 1869 they christened the settlement Compton after their leader, a man by the name of Griffith Dickenson Compton. Almost twenty years later, in 1888, the settlers decided that it was time to incorporate their city, making them the 8th city in Los Angeles County to do so. At the time of the incorporation, the new city had a total population of 500, nearly 100% white.
While Compton may have started off exclusively white, the city has a rich history within the black community. In the 1950s and 1960s, after a Supreme Court ruling declaring racially exclusive title deeds unconstitutional, the first black families moved to the city. In 1969, Douglas Dollarhide became the first black mayor of not only Compton, but of any metropolitan city in California. Blacks continued to integrate into Compton’s community throughout the following decades and by the 1990s, the majority of the city’s residents were black.
Today, Compton is home to a richly diverse community with over 100,000 residents. While the population has grown, the city has maintained a strong sense of community and this has bled from the families making their homes there into the businesses that have thrived.
Bludso’s BBQ: No list of Compton restaurants would be complete without a mention of Bludso’s BBQ. Featured on the Food Network’s hit show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this joint has become a staple for not only locals, but pretty much everyone within a thirty-mile radius. Owner Kevin Bludso comes from a family with a long history of old school Texas BBQ. Formerly a corrections officer for the city of Los Angeles, he always dreamed of opening a restaurant and serving up the recipes he learned from summers cooking with his Granny in Corsciana, Texas. In 2008, he opened Bludso’s BBQ on Long Beach Boulevard in his hometown of Compton. The secret to Bludso’s BBQ fame is Kevin’s Spicy BBQ sauce, which is made up of about 20 different ingredients, mixed daily and soaked overnight to extract a beautiful, mouth-scorching flavor. The sauce is used to drench the ribs Kevin is cooking out back in his outdoor smoker. While Bludso purists all agree that the food coming out of Kevin’s kitchen in Compton is second to none, those not willing to make the trip out can get a taste of second best at his new location on La Brea. With its growing popularity, Bludso’s has gone from a Compton neighborhood joint to one iconic to all of Los Angeles. 811 S. Long Beach Blvd., (310) 637-1342
Naka’s Broiler: Naka’s Broiler has a strong identity within the community of Compton. The restaurant was opened in 1956 by Katherine “Mama Naka” Banks and her then husband Nathaniel Banks. At the time, it was the very first black owned and operated restaurant in the city. Banks got the name Mama from the way she interacted with the young residents of Compton who would often dine at her establishment. One such child was David Fisher. Fisher grew up at Naka’s and would often spend long afternoons after school eating burgers and chatting with Mama Naka. The two became so close that he often thought of her as a second mother. So when Banks decided to sell the business in 1991, Fisher knew it was the right decision to continue on running the business in her name. The menu at Naka’s is utterly classic and hasn’t changed much since the place opened in the 1950s. It is the perfect spot to stop by for a hearty meal and a healthy dose of history. 1961 W. El Segundo Blvd., (323) 566-5450
Mom’s Burgers: Thirty-five years ago, a woman by the name of Joyce “Mom” McLaurin purchased a small kitchen on Alondra Boulevard called Richie’s Drive-In. Richie’s had been serving up burgers and fried chicken to the residents of Compton since the 1960s. McLaurin changed the name to Mom’s, but she kept the iconic sign; a UFO-sized burger reaching thirty feet in the air. At Mom’s you order at a glass, walk-up counter, where you can bask in the old school rap & R&B blasting from the outdoor speakers while watching the cooks frying up some of the city’s best burgers. In fact, the local favorite, the Chronic Burger, has often been mentioned on lists of top burgers in Los Angeles. Of course, with a double patty smothered in cheese and crispy slices of bacon, what’s not to love about it? 336 W. Alondra Blvd., (310) 632-6622
Loreto’s Fried Turkey: Joe Loreto, owner and founder of Loreto’s Fried Turkey, always dreamed of opening his own restaurant and in 2006, the Loreto family came together to buy a small space in a Compton strip mall. When Loreto thought up his menu, he always knew it was going to be all about his deep-fried turkey recipe. And indeed it is. The menu at Loreto’s includes turkey tacos, turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, turkey soup, turkey burritos – you name it and Joe Loreto is putting turkey in it. Each of Loreto’s turkeys is seasoned in Cajun spices and deep-fried whole in 100% peanut oil. What comes out is mouth-wateringly moist poultry, which Loreto is selling whole and putting in just about any dish you can think of. While Loreto’s may not have the finest curb appeal, the interior is cozy and the food is delectable and affordable. 983 W. Compton Blvd., (310) 537-7612
Cliff’s Texas Style Burritos: Cliff’s, home to Soul Man Burrito, is owned and operated by one Cliff Williams. Williams started his career in the food business pushing food carts around Compton. He finally saved up enough money to open his brick and mortar on Alondra Blvd. in 1990, not far from another iconic joint, Mom’s Burgers. While Cliff’s offers up classic Mexican dishes like asada burritos and fish tacos, the signature dish is the Soul Man Burrito, which comes in four sizes. The biggest is the Papa, measuring in at 36” or three full feet long. The burrito is stuffed full with your choice of three different types of meat, 2 cheeses, rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, onion and cilantro. And if that wasn’t enough, you can always order it “Wet,” and Williams will smother it in salsa, sour cream and melted cheese. 408 W. Alondra Blvd., (310) 609-2755
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