In Compton, Tam’s regulars are proud of Super Bowl moment: ‘It felt like we were being seen’

Antoinette Moore pays for a meal, as the sun sets on Tam's Burgers No. 21 on Rosecrans Avenue in Compton.
Antoinette Moore pays for a meal as the sun sets on Tam’s Burgers No. 21 on Rosecrans Avenue in Compton. The restaurant received worldwide attention during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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It was business as usual for Tam’s Burgers No. 21 the Monday after the Super Bowl, except for the TV station doing interviews next door and the handful of tourists who came to snap photos in front of the restaurant.

For Compton locals, the beloved burger chain’s West Rosecrans Avenue location and other city landmarks were the stars of Sunday’s halftime show, which featured Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar.

Kelly Flores jumped to her feet and cheered when she saw the Tam’s Burgers sign reproduced as part of the stage design, which also included a map of Compton projected onto the ground and recognizable spots such as Dale’s Donuts, the Martin Luther King memorial and the legendary Compton dance club Eve After Dark, where Dr. Dre got his start.

The order window, inside Tam's Burgers #21 on Rosecrans Avenue in Compton.
The order window inside Tam’s Burgers. The Super Bowl halftime show featured Compton venues familiar to Dr. Dre and fellow rapper Snoop Dogg.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The 14-minute medley was a shining tribute to Black L.A. culture and hip-hop, with the iconic Rosecrans Avenue long known for being the cradle of it all.

“It felt like we were being seen,” Flores, 24, said. “It’s not just about Hollywood, which is what everyone else knows L.A. for.”

Flores, who grew up in nearby Watts, said she and her family always chose Tam’s over McDonalds because the food cost less and the portions were bigger.

Started in 1971 by Kostas Vovos, the burger chain has more than a dozen locations throughout Los Angeles County.

Grandson Spiro Vovos now owns the Compton location. Dr. Dre’s agent reached out before the show to let him know the restaurant would be featured in the halftime show, he said.


“The best word that keeps coming to mind is it’s a blessing,” Vovos said. “It’s a very blessed restaurant and people love coming here.”

A constant flow of cars made its way through the restaurant’s drive-through Monday afternoon, which was about the same amount of business as usual, Vovos said, though he met some customers in town from as far as Florida and Nevada who came by.

The sun sets on Tam's Burgers #21 on Rosecrans Avenue in Compton
Started in 1971 by Kostas Vovos, Tam’s Burgers has more than a dozen locations throughout Los Angeles County.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Tam’s Burgers was the “ditching spot” for many of the kids at Compton High School, said Jessica Palomo, 40, who was born and raised in the city.

“I got in trouble for being here a lot,” Palomo said, laughing.

She and her husband, Jose Palomo, said they immediately recognized everything on stage. The couple now live in Long Beach but decided to drop by the restaurant Monday to take a picture of the sign to show their friends.

The burger spot was a central meeting location for Jessica and her friends during a more dangerous time for the city, when it was best to wear neutral colors while walking down the street to not affiliate yourself with any gangs, she said.


“One of my brothers, he got shot across the street,” she said, pointing at the McDonalds on the other corner of Rosecrans and Central avenues.

She was shocked — but proud — when she saw Tam’s featured on national television.

“Now everybody’s part of something positive,” Jose Palomo said. “Before, [people] were scared to come here.”

Compton has long been associated with a violent past engrained in pop culture through movies, rap lyrics and more. But the city of roughly 100,000 is remaking itself, with officials leveraging its relationship with homegrown celebrities to boost development and change its image.

“It’s about time Compton’s back on the map,” said Faye Rogers, 55, who was selling Valentine’s Day gift baskets in front of Tam’s on Monday. Rogers, who has lived in Compton for 50 years, doesn’t usually watch the Super Bowl but said her husband called her into the living room when the halftime show began.

“This set is at home, don’t you recognize it?” her husband asked her.

Some Super Bowl staff from out of town decided to go on their own tour of Compton after the game, visiting all the spots featured on Sunday’s stage.

Maxine Torres, from Salinas, was part of the audio setup team and watched the show live from the sidelines. She ate breakfast at Tam’s and stopped by the former location of the Eve After Dark nightclub as well, though it has since been replaced by a few small businesses. The crew was abuzz with excitement after hearing about the stage’s local connection, she said.


“Everyone wanted to try Tam’s,” she said.

A customer inside a Tam's Burgers location
The flow of business was about the same as usual Monday, though Tam’s served customers visiting from as far as Florida and Nevada.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)