At Alexander’s Hub Burritos in East Compton, the sandwiches are huge and the music is loud.
The rock ’n’ roll-themed Mexican restaurant serves Baja-inspired burritos, tacos and tortas alongside a short menu of American fast food. It’s a casual neighborhood place to get a filling and affordable meal most of the time, but twice a month it hosts live music nights, with an eclectic mix of local punk, ska and indie rock bands.
Alexander’s was opened six years ago by 29-year-old Omar Flores and his father, Raul, who grew up in Tijuana before moving to San Diego to raise the family he would later bring to Compton.
Omar spent his youth at backyard punk shows and is the bass player for Los Boulevards, a surf-rock garage band that performs in lucha libre masks.
He knows what life is like for small bands trying to break through in L.A.’s tough music club circuit.
Last summer, he carved out space for a stage in his narrow red-and-white diner for groups to get together and perform.
“In L.A. when you play, sometimes the host isn’t even there, there’s no love at all,” Flores said. “We give the bands tacos. Our photographer takes pictures of them. We try to give them a lot of love, and they appreciate it.”
On a recent Tuesday night, five bands took turns hitting the stage to knock out a few rapid-fire songs for a supportive clutch of friends, fans and strangers dropping in to pick up their takeout.
No Refunds, a four-piece from the Inland Empire, started the night, followed by the Dirt Babies, a long-haired Compton duo playing fast-paced covers of Pink Floyd, Oasis and 311.
As the crowd swelled at the free all-ages show, dishes continued to hit the tables. The tables, like the walls around them, are decorated with art depicting rock heroes like the Beatles, Kiss and El Tri.
The impossibly large “La Famosa” torta cubana — stuffed with chorizo, steak milanesa, ham, pulled pork, hot dogs, headcheese, mozzarella and egg — lurched over the sides of one plate; a Surf n’ Turf burrito stuffed with butter-grilled shrimp and steak on another.
The stage was turned over to No Application Fee, Compton residents who transitioned furiously from bass-slapping funk and breakneck thrash to rap and trombone-assisted ska in Dodgers gear.
Thing of Twins, actual twin brothers from Mid-City, followed with a set of melodic hard rock before the whole restaurant burst into a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for the duo. Compton’s own Lazy Dream ended the night with a rock-and-ska-inflected set.
Performances were enthusiastic and adroit. Guitarists soloed around booths and at least one power slide was witnessed.
Having a place to play clearly meant a lot to groups that struggle to get industry attention.
“We’re just starting out and can’t tell places we’ll bring a bunch of people,” said Jacob Cohen, guitarist for No Refunds. “Small businesses like Alexander’s that just want good music and good people are awesome.”
Looking to the future, Flores hopes to own a bar where bands can gig. For now, he’s enjoying the scene he has created — when he can step away from the griddle.
Even if it means occasional moments when his anti-authoritarian ethos clashes with the responsibilities of a business owner.
“The bands would get on top of the booths and start screaming,” he said of the early shows. “Sometimes it’s weird trying to be punk rock and run a restaurant.”
937 E. Rosecrans Ave., Compton, (310) 669-8920, instagram.com/alexandershubburritos