La Perla might be West Queen West's newest nightspot but don't call it a bar. Owner Arturo Anhalt is adamant that La Perla is a cantina in the traditional Mexican style. For those of us whose exposure to Mexican culture has so far been limited to late night Beef Gordita Supremes at Taco Bell or cheap street eats at El Trompo , Anhalt explains the difference. In his native Mexico City, a cantina is a regular hang-out where locals go to drink, talk, and soak in the atmosphere. "A bar is trendy," he says. "A cantina will be around forever."
Anhalt may not be courting a trendy crowd, but he's going to have a hard time repelling the city's hipper patrons. Queen Street isn't exactly a dusty Oaxacan side street, and Milagro , the restaurant Arturo owns with his brother Andrés, has been a huge success at its three locations in the city. Considering that La Perla shares management and a late-night menu (at half the price) with Milagro, fans of the Anhalt's three other establishments might want to check it out.
La Perla takes up the second and third floors above Milagro's Queen Street location but has a separate entrance and noticeably different feel than the downstairs restaurant. Its open space with a soaring ceiling, fireplace, and comfortable but arty furniture almost give you the feeling of hanging out at a friend's apartment. That is, if your friend had a bar stocked with ten different types of tequila.
With a menu of great food (roasted lamb sandwiches, pork tacos served with pineapple and cilantro, garlic shrimp appetizers, all at about $11 each), a kitchen that's open til close, and $3.95 Red Stripes (wouldn't Pacifico be more appropriate?) every Friday, it's clear that La Perla has aspirations to be a late-night haunt for locals. Show up most nights and expect latin music on the jukebox and quiet conversation.
But with such a great space at their disposal, management is already deviating from the homey atmosphere Anhalt speaks so fondly of, and has some events planned that are guaranteed to be anything but low-key. With its official grand opening bash still a few weeks away the cantina already has some wild parties under its belt, including a monthly night called Caught Slippin' hosted by Patrick Macguire and Scott Pilgrim, a pair making a run for rookie djs of the year on the back of two successful monthly jams at 751.
There's also a regular gay night in the works engineered by Sheldon McIntosh, an up-and-coming entertainer and events planner whose drag shows on Church Street have already made him hugely popular.
La Perla is is open Thursday to Saturday 9 pm til close.