Every once in a blue moon a restaurant, often a simple and modest place, ascends the role of being a landmark establishment in the community. San Francisco boasted “Tommy’s Joint” for decades, Los Angeles had “The Screaming Sisters.” It is our good fortune to have “Los Perniles” (Juan Jaramillo 3-25 at Thomas Ordonez), an institution serving the most basic of traditional Ecuadorian fare for 28 years.
Dining at Los Perniles is not a complicated affair. Pavo (turkey) sandwiches are $1.50, pork (pernile) cost $2.00. Seating is simple, as well. There are two tables with chairs for those wishing to dine in, and a few stools for the hurried city workers stopping just long enough for quick bite before continuing to tear up the street right outside the door.
On a typical day, Erique Morocho Aguirre, the owner/operator will serve 300 of these tender little morsels topped with pickled onions.
The place is also stacked to the rafters with cookies, sodas, and candies for the neighborhood kids, as well as an assortment of liquor for the adults who are watching after the fidgety, excitable children who crowd into the shop every day anxious for an after school treat. What fun!
Morocho told me he rented his shop over 28 years ago, built all of the furnishings by hand, and began a business that has supported his family, allowing his daughter to develop a career as a computer programmer, and a son who is working in an auto bodywork shop. His cherry outlook belies his 50 years in Cuenca.
When I visited the restaurant, Morocho’s wife, Mirta, and her friend, Mariana, who is also the baker for the restaurant’s, fresh daily rolls, were chatting in a booth seated within earshot of all the activity. Their casual and friendly banter suggested just how much they enjoy spending time gossiping and telling tales from the ‘hood while in the comfort of Los Pernile’s cozy little restaurant and snack store.
To say it reminded me of home would be an understatement. When I closed my eyes, I was transported back to a tiny place on the road to my school – it was 1958, and I too was full of excitement, wonder, and candies from a place that felt just like it had been there forever. A landmark.
Los Perniles, Juan Jaramillo 3-25 y Thomas Ordonez; Phone: 098-913-3699; Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Cash only; Reviewer’s comment: Highly recommended.