El Fenix Cafe—currently (according to El Fenix) the oldest Mexican restaurant chain in the United States. Today, El Fenix has something like twenty-two locations in Texas and Oklahoma, but it began as a one-man operation, the Martinez Cafe, started by Miguel Martinez in 1916, five years after Martinez left Mexico at the start of the Mexican Revolution. At the beginning, "Mike" Martinez—who, as a seven year-old child, worked for two cents a day as a silver-mine mule-train driver, and who would marry fellow immigrant Faustina Porras in 1915 and with her go on to raise eight children—only offered Anglo dishes, but he slowly began integrating Mexican food and, in 1918, opened El Fenix which focused entirely on Mexican cuisine.
In the 1930s—not looking back on the business deal that might have been (when he sold a tortilla machine to Herman Lay, eventual founder of Frito-Lay, for two hundred dollars)—Miguel annexed the neighboring building and opened El Fenix Ballroom where Glenn Miller, among others, would come to jam with the house band after hours. Miguel retired in 1946, became a U.S. citizen in 1947, handed off the business to his family, and retired to his boyhood home of Hacienda Del Potrero, Mexico, where he subsidized efforts to bring water and electricity to that town. He died in El Potrero in 1956, before he could see his wife Faustina elected chairman of the board of El Fenix Restaurants (1961) and before his daughter Anita became the first Hispanic woman ever elected to a major city's city council (1969).
James J. Metcalfe who authored "El Fenix Cafe," the rhyming prose poem (a poetic form that Sinclair Lewis would call the "poemulation" that P&PC discussed over three years ago here) printed on the matchbook's inside cover.
family's online biography tells us that he took part in cases against "Baby Face" Nelson, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and the Lindbergh kidnapping, and that he was among the team of agents who ambushed John Dillinger outside The Biograph theater in 1934.
We don't know how the Martinez family from Texas crossed paths with Metcalfe from Chicago. But we're not going to worry about it too much. Rather, we've got our sights on finding someone who can order us up a plate of enchiladas with a side of poetry—or maybe a plate of poetry with a side of enchiladas?—today.