The Student News Site of Gabrielino High School

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Celebrate Black History Month: three family-run, Black-owned eateries that cook from the heart

Perry’s Joint

Perry Bennett stands proudly in front of pictures of his family, portraits of jazz artists, and racks of bread (Sophia Pu)

   Whether the day is rainy and cold or sunny and clear, Perry’s Joint in Pasadena is a bright, comforting slice of joy and soul. Inside, the walls are painted a welcoming shade of yellow and covered in colorful paintings of Black jazz artists. Customers are greeted by soothing trumpets and saxophones and the smell of roast meat, melted cheese, and warm bread.

   “It is a place that you will come to get amazing, one of a kind sandwiches,” stated Perry Bennett, who started the restaurant in 1993. “But also you will get an authentic, genuine energy, and love, and respect every time you walk through these doors. It’s a safe place for anyone […] Perry’s Joint is about the food and the culture, and the people and love.”

 

   Like the best jazz artists, Perry improvises his sandwiches. Each is a unique and insanely filling blend of salty and tangy, creamy and crunchy, chewy and soft. Perry’s Joint also sells salads, hot dogs, nachos, smoothies, and fresh milkshakes.

   Perry opened his business on Fillmore Street in San Francisco when he was 23 years old. He grew up learning the food industry from his father, who owned several small businesses. The jazz theme was inspired by Perry’s own love for the evocative genre and the Fillmore District’s rich history hosting artists like Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday.

   “I needed young Black people at the time to see something different than a drug dealer,” Perry explained. “The second thing is that I wanted a place that the people in the community can feel good about coming. And third, I wanted the [tourists] that came through to experience the business and possibly leave with a different idea of what they thought Black was.”

   After getting married, Perry and his wife, Melanie Bennett, relocated to Southern California. The Bennett family runs two locations and is looking to open a third, bringing their unique dishes and beacon of inspiration to each. Their love for people is most clearly seen as they personally greet and say goodbye to every customer that walks in.

   “I want people to feel welcomed, I want them to feel at home,” Melanie stated with a soft smile. “This is obviously a Black business when you walk into it. But we get everyone from all walks of life, all races and ethnicities, and everyone feels supported and welcomed here. And that’s our mission everyday.”

Caribbean Gourmet

Yonette Alleyne smiles in front of her business (Sophia Pu)

   Amidst the bustling sounds of Blossom Market, Yonette Alleyne, chef, caterer, and owner of Caribbean Gourmet, greets customers with a gentle, jovial smile. Alongside her husband, children, and team members, Alleyne serves Caribbean food that tastes like it is straight out of a grandma’s kitchen.

   When Alleyne started Caribbean Gourmet in 2014, it was the culmination of her experience running a business in her home country of Guyana, decorating cakes at a bakery in America, and her dedication to sharing the joy of her cuisine. After years selling to customers at farmer’s markets and popups, Alleyne established Caribbean Gourmet at Blossom Market in 2021.

   “I make sure to represent the whole [Caribbean] community,” Alleyne said. “I’m happy to bring my food to the SGV, because it’s very rare to find my food here. I have been so excited and so happy how well I’ve been received in this community.”

   Alleyne’s customers come from all over Southern California for a taste of her stews, curries, rolls, and patties. Each dish at Caribbean Gourmet masterfully balances sweet, savory, sour, and spice. One bite of a currant roll will send the eater into a realm of soft, warm flakiness, complemented by bursts of berry tang and thick, buttery pastry. Their meat is always tender and their rice is coated in a rich, salty-coconut flavor. The depth and complexity of flavor in Caribbean Gourmet’s food reflects the patience and intention put into each dish and the mirth and love of the people who made it.

   “I want [my customers] to have an experience like if you’re on vacation,” said Alleyne. “Like they’re on a Caribbean vacation and they’re enjoying this meal.”

Clifton’s BBQ and The Gourmet Cobbler Factory

Clifton Powell greets customers behind a display of fruit cobblers (Sophia Pu)

   Tucked away on Catalina Avenue in Pasadena is Clifton’s BBQ and The Gourmet Cobbler Factory. Sitting right behind the counter as soon as customers walk in is Clifton Powell, a man with a full white beard, square-rimmed glasses, and a voice like weathered wood.

   “A lot of people miss it, it’s not easy to spot for some reason,” Powell said. “But they’re happy when they come. When they find us, they’re really happy, and we see them time and time again.”

   Powell started The Gourmet Cobbler Factory 22 years ago, while he was working for Disney as a machinist. He learned to make cobblers from his sister, with peach cobbler being the most sought after. Six years ago, Powell opened the barbecue side of the business.

   “I’ve always barbecued,” Powell stated. “That’s something that my family from Louisiana and Mississippi, we eat barbecue all the time. We have a barbecue every Sunday weekend.”

   All the meats Powell and his family prepare- ribs, chicken, tri-tip, brisket, pulled pork, and hotlinks- carry a distinct smoky flavor. Their hotlinks are juicy, sweet, savory, fatty, and umami- everything one can ask for in a sausage. The ribs carry a sweet, molasses-tasting marinade that contrasts with the huskiness of the barbecue and the sharpness of the black pepper. Powell’s brisket is simultaneously tender and meaty, with large pieces that satiate the soul. Meanwhile, the collard greens and green beans hold a surprising amount of flavor, lovingly stewed for so long that they become sweet and tender.

   Aside from the display full of cobblers in rectangular aluminum containers, the small establishment is decorated with numerous hand-made dolls. The dolls are dressed in traditional African and African American clothing, made by Powell’s wife and her family. 

  “People wanna buy ‘em, but we won’t sell ‘em,” Powell chuckled.

   Also on the wall is a large, vibrant, custom-made painting modeled after Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It features a parade of joyful people led by Black artists and Powell himself. The warmth the painting exudes proves that though he lives far from his home in Louisiana, Powell and his food never stray far from their roots.

Donate to The Tongva Times

Your donation will support the student journalists of Gabrielino High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Sophia Pu, Editor in Chief
Sophia Pu is the Editor in Chief for the school newspaper, marking her fourth year with the team. Outside of her editorial duties, Sophia is involved in Speech and Debate and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time in nature. Her commitment to the newspaper grew from a passion for interviewing a diverse range of individuals she might not have interacted with otherwise.
Donate to The Tongva Times