La Perla Cafe is more than a restaurant—it's one man's American dream come true. Joe Pompa and his wife, Eva, both grew up in the Jerome-Clarkdale area of Arizona. As a young man, Joe worked in the copper mines before becoming a champion middleweight boxer. Thinking of their future, Eva asked him to leave his boxing career behind and study electronics, so Joe took correspondence courses and eventually earned his degree. He took a job with Goodyear Aerospace to provide for his family, but he couldn’t let go of his lifelong goal to become self-employed. Joe knew that between his business acumen and his wife Eva's cooking—which she first learned in her native town of Santa Rosalia in Chihuahua, Mexico—they could make a go of it.
In 1946, the pair moved to Glendale and opened La Perla Cafe. Close to 70 years later, the restaurant still serves the same subtly spiced food inspired by Mexico's Chihuahua region, making tortillas by hand daily. The walls are decorated with a colorful mosaic, scenic prints, and framed boxing posters from Joe's heyday. Green plants weave in and out of a yellow arch, unlike a certain fast-food chain's yellow arches, which are wrapped with hamburgers. On the weekends, mariachi bands bring the space to life and sing classics such as "México Lindo y Querido."