At the recently opened Paloma Cafe in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, chefs Danny Alas and Justin Rodriguez are turning out creative, Latin American-inspired fare in a comfortable, laid-back setting. The café is a venture from Revelator Coffee Company, which started in New Orleans and quickly grew throughout the South and New England.
Danny, who is originally from Venezuela, grew up in Miami, while Justin, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, grew up in New Jersey. The two met in culinary school in Miami and worked with Nina Compton there for several years before moving to North Carolina. When Nina decided to open Compère Lapin in New Orleans, she contacted Danny to help with the pastry program, and Danny convinced Nina to hire Justin, too.
“Justin and I are a kind of like a duo, so we work together wherever we go,” Danny says. “So when Nina gave me the offer, I took it upon myself to make it a priority that if we were going to move here, we were going to do it together.”
The two ran a pop-up called Melao, where they turned out empanadas, before Revelator brought them on board. The dishes at Paloma Cafe, many of which are inspired by foods Danny and Justin loved growing up, have a decidedly Latin American influence with a touch of Southern flair.
For instance, the pair adds a twist on the traditional sausage biscuit by using chorizo, a Spanish pork sausage, instead. Justin says that while Latin American food is their main influence, “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to one specific country or cuisine.”
In addition to biscuits, the breakfast menu at Paloma also includes items like breakfast tacos and a shakshuka with sofrito, a red sauce popular in Latin American cuisine. At lunch, you can eat yucca fries with garlic cilantro aioli, fried chicken with beet and potato salad, and a roasted pork sandwich. On the dinner menu, you’ll find Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) and mojo-roasted pork over fried green plantains.
With Danny’s and Justin’s backgrounds working in pastry, the dessert menu is a highlight, featuring churros with spiced chocolate sauce and Justin’s legendary flan. The duo’s famous empanadas and other sweet and savory treats anchor the pastry counter.
Paloma serves Revelator’s coffee in espressos, rotating cold brew drinks, and a selection of pour over beverages. Additionally, the restaurant features a variety of teas and a full bar with beer, wine, and handcrafted cocktails, including the Paloma Slushie (a frozen tequila drink with grapefruit) and Green Tomato Bloody (customizable with vodka, tequila, or gin).
None of the dishes on Paloma’s menu are more than $14, making the café an affordable option where customers can stop in for a cup of coffee and a pastry or hang out with friends over dinner and drinks. Danny and Justin plan to update the menu seasonally while keeping dishes that customers have grown to love.