Perry’s Joint, the Black-owned sandwich shop at 2051 N. Lincoln Ave in Pasadena, will host its 10th annual Scholarship Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The casual eatery known for its huge deli sandwiches will donate the gross revenues from that day’s sales to deserving graduating seniors at nearby John Muir High School.
Chef-owner Perry Bennett, 50, opened the café in 2004, after moving his young family and the original Perry’s Joint here from Oakland, where he spent his teen years. Inspired by his father, Thomas Bennett, who at 83 still runs a small café in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, Perry first launched Perry’s Joint when he was only 22. His mission included setting an example for his peers at the time, many of whom were involved in gang-related drug activity. Indeed, Bennett has always been motivated by community engagement.
“It’s always about the kids, but this year it’s really all about the kids!” says Bennett, noting the sacrifices graduating high school seniors have had to make due to the pandemic. No prom, no graduation and no predictable or traditional transition to college.
Nearby John Muir High School has provided Perry with a reliable stream of loyal customers over the years. It was an encounter Bennett had with one of his regulars at Smart & Final in 2010 that inspired him to create the scholarship. The student was a graduating senior, who’d been accepted to UC Berkeley, shopping for candy to resell at school to raise money for tuition. That student – aptly named Destiny — became the first recipient of a Perry’s Joint Scholarship, and the tradition continues today. The two remain in contact and now Destiny Iwuoma works for a nonprofit in the Bay Area. “He’s proud to tell me about the community work he’s doing up there,” Bennett says. “If you truly want to change the future, you’ve got to get these kids. They are the future … it’s a chain reaction!”
Here are the this year’s recipients of Perry Joint’s College Scholarship, who will be at Perry’s Joint on Saturday:
Haley Cogshell, class valedictorian attending U.C.L.A. for biology/pre-med
Hasan Spencer, attending Bucknell University for political science;
Summer Aaron, attending Clark Atlanta University.
Perry’s Joint has stayed open throughout the pandemic, managing a bustling lunch Monday through Saturday, despite being limited to take-out or delivery ordering. The dining room is closed and the weekly live jazz sessions are no more, but the crafty jazz-inspired menu does not skip a beat.
Come here for a sandwich and, like any jazz lover, you will naturally choose from two categories: Straight-Ahead and Fusion. The first includes The Hip Bird (turkey), The Egg from Ipanema (egg salad) and The Chicken Mingus, a riff on chicken salad. The Fusion list is a bit more exotic with such compositions as: The Tuna Simone, a sophisticated tuna melt; The Big Band, a colorful ensemble of turkey, pastrami and roast beef; and a popular favorite, The Guru, an orchestrated arrangement of turkey, pastrami and pepperoncini. The sandwiches range in price from $8.25 to $9.75 with the Straight-Aheads also available as half-portions at $5.50 each. In addition to the sandwiches, Perry has devised seven hot dog options, named for Chicago, New York and Detroit cuisine, along with chili-dog re-mixes. All are priced between $5 and $5.50 a dog.
If you have already sampled the playlist at Perry’s Joint, you can dig how this cat can skat with a sandwich and we will see you in line on Saturday. If not, now is the time! 10 a.m. is the downbeat for Scholarship Day on Saturday. If you just can’t make the scene, you can go to perrysjoint.com and donate via their GoFundMe page.
Enjoy a sandwich, support your community and help worthy local students all at the same time. Whatever your taste in jazz or sandwiches might be, you will find your groove – and your community — at Perry’s Joint.
Perry’s Joint is located at 2051 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 798-4700 or visit perrysjoint.com.