Owner's Corner: Taking New Orleans Cuisine to the Next Level at Palm&Pine

Chef Amarys Koenig-Herndon and Chef Jordan Herndon are making a mark on the New Orleans restaurant scene with their vibrant venue, Palm&Pine, on the edge of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter.

The Texas-born duo are business and life partners –– they opened Palm&Pine in the summer of 2019 – and they are an example of the next generation of New Orleans chefs who are taking local food traditions to the next level and making their community a top priority.

While Koenig-Herndon and Herndon are not new to New Orleans’ restaurant scene – they both worked at various New Orleans’ kitchens and both attended Delgado Culinary School in New Orleans, where they met – they’ve worked their way to the forefront of a refreshing shift in independent restaurant experiences in the area. They even landed on the James Beard Foundation Semifinalist list for “Best Chef: South” 2023.

palm&pine new orleans cuisine
Palm&Pine Exterior (Photo: Randy Schmidt)

At Palm&Pine, where Koenig-Herndon and Herndon are co-owners and operators, they serve up bold and bright dishes with exceptional service, leaving guests feeling as if they’ve stepped into a whole new era of New Orleans cuisine.

Their menu mixes soulful, culinary traditions of “the South and south of that,” meaning they’re a New Orleans and Louisiana restaurant that focuses on the southern states, as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.

“We enjoy exploring some of the parallels of all those places,” said Herndon. “It’s an approachable, convivial joint.”

The restaurant also offers beautiful cocktails from the restaurant’s Pine Bar, serving an agave and cane spirit program with classic and original cocktails, New World wines, and regional craft and Latin American beers. They also have their Kitten Club Menu of spirit-free cocktails, which they believe is just as exciting as their boozy offerings.

"New Orleans is a hustle, and we work damn hard, so we fit right in,” shared Koenig-Herndon. “We’re also super passionate around here.”

"The Perception of a Chef as the Face of a Restaurant Is a Misrepresentation"

Koenig-Herndon said Palm&Pine is one of the most personal restaurants she’s ever been in. “Not only is it, of course, mine and Jordan’s whole selves served up on the plates and in the ambience, our guests also feel so personally connected to the restaurant,” she said. “A lot of our guests have followed us since our pop-up days, and some even helped us move in and finish the restaurant. And the team is so personally represented and invested, too.” 

palm&pine new orleans cuisine
Chef Amarys Koenig-Herndon and Chef Jordan Herndon of Palm&Pine. (Photo: Stephen Lomonaco)

Koenig-Herndon said they really wanted to open a restaurant that shows how many people it takes in all the various roles to make a restaurant hum, so the restaurant is an open kitchen concept. “We think the perception of a chef as the face of a restaurant is a misrepresentation of the work that goes into what we all do together, and we like to show what it really takes – a team of people working towards common goals,” she said. “Menu development is collaborative and any and all team members contribute new ideas for menu and operations.”

Herndon explained that after the restaurant was built around the open kitchen concept, everything else fell in place and revolved around that. “The place feels welcoming and personal,” he said. “You can see the working parts and that feels genuine. This helps us connect with our guests and most definitely guides our narrative. It’s bright, loud, and vibrant in both color scheme and sound. Our color palette rides the similarities of New Orleans and Caribbean architecture. I’m a big proponent of making that New Orleans connection. We’re in the French Quarter. As much as we are our own concept, we believe it wouldn’t feel right for our space not to fit the place.”

The Palm&Pine Menu: "It Always Starts with our Local Purveyors"

Koenig-Herndon and Herndon said their menu is always evolving, as they draw inspiration from their city and regional ingredients and play with the cuisines of “the South and south of that.”

Some of the signature Palm&Pine dishes that perfectly explain their concept are their Hot Sausage Carimañolas, Corner Store Crudo, and TX BBQ Shrimp.

Their Carimañolas, which are a traditional South American yucca fritter, have been given “hot sausage po’boy vibes” (to quote Koenig-Herndon) and perfectly meld traditional South American and New Orleans flavors and traditions, making for a beautiful hybrid of two casual street foods.

palm&pine new orleans cuisine
Palm&Pine Interior (Photo: Randy Schmidt)

“We have some signature dishes that we almost can’t take off the menu, like Corner Store Crudo," said Koenig-Herndon. The Corner Store Crudo is a classic that features Yellowfin Tuna, a pineapple big shot Nuoc Cham, daikon, fresh herbs, and shrimp chips, making an incredibly bright and texturally stimulating small plate that has been on the menu since conception.

The TX BBQ Shrimp is not to be missed, per the duo. In this iteration, Koenig-Herndon and Herndon give New Orleans’ classic BBQ shrimp a Texas spin (since they were both born and raised in Texas) with Shiner Bock and shiitakes that lay atop freshly ground Anson Mills jalapeno grits. It’s a dish that offers ultimate southern comfort in an elevated way.

palm&pine new orleans cuisine
Dinner at Palm&Pine (Photo: Stephen Lomonaco)

In addition to their popular dishes, the regular diners truly “get amped,” according to Koenig-Herndon, to try their new creations, especially if they post it on Instagram or offer a special.

Beyond updating their menu from what inspires them, the duo changes the menu based on what’s available and in season from local farms, purveyors, producers, and fisherman. The two are proud to say they work and support numerous southern vendors and farmers (which they list and promote on their website), including Covey Rise Farms, JV Foods, Home Place Pastures, Compostella Farm, Porch Jam Distillery, and many more.

Herndon explained that supporting local farmers and businesses is a fundamental aspect of who they are. “It always starts with our local purveyors,” he said. “Then we build around that. It’s important to us to spread our dollar around and support as many local businesses in our own micro economy.”

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The Pine Bar at Palm&Pine (Photo: Randy Schmidt)

Supporting the Local Community in New Orleans, Facing Challenges

For Koenig-Herndon and Herndon, supporting their local community is their No. 1 goal. In fact, the two have a shared belief that the better the dining scene is in New Orleans, the more successful everyone is. This reflects the heart of their ethos, and they continue to demonstrate this commitment day in and day out.

For example, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Koenig-Herndon and Herndon put their words into immediate action and offered free service industry meals – dubbed “All Y’all Meals” – which were available for pickup every Monday afternoon from the restaurant’s front door. They also host countless community events at Palm&Pine, including a Late Nite menu, which is offered every Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. – 1 a.m., geared towards their fellow industry peers (who work late) and those who are looking for good food during the late hours.

In 2021, after Hurricane Ida left the city of New Orleans in dire straits, Koenig-Herndon and Herndon hosted a Mexican Independence Day event with proceeds going to a local non-profit, Free ALAS, which at the time was raising funds for undocumented residents of Louisiana who were not eligible for FEMA relief following the hurricane.

As a culinary force, Koenig-Herndon and Herndon have been able to withstand challenges in their community, like the collapse of the nearby Hard Rock Hotel; this happened just a few months after their restaurant’s opening, shutting down most of their neighborhood and halting business overnight.

Less than one year later, the COVID-19 pandemic strained their business even more, but the two never succumbed to the pressure and used the challenges as opportunities to help their neighbors and uplift the community.

Koenig-Herndon said the loss of the Hard Rock Hotel was terrifying and traumatic. “I like to look to the future rather than the past,” she said, “but I am grateful for the resilience we established and also those crises required us to try so many different things, and we’re super comfortable with innovation, evolution, and letting ideas go that don’t work. We weren’t those people pre-Hard Rock and pandemic.”

Koenig-Herndon said that, overall, showing support for their local community is about constant engagement and mutual support from other businesses. “There are so many ways we both get supported and show support,” she said. “Staying connected and aware just creates opportunities for support. Collaborative events, Solidarity Cocktails [for charity], sharing information through social media, or in the restaurant – it’s really intuitive at this point.”

The Palm&Pine kitchen counter
The Palm&Pine kitchen counter (Photo: Randy Schmidt)

"When We’re Successful, It’s Because of Our Team"

In addition to supporting their community, Koenig-Herndon and Herndon also place the spotlight on their team and the efforts that everyone makes at the restaurant.

“I would say that we’re pretty innovative in our stances on how service team members should be treated by guests and our views on tipping,” said Koenig-Herndon. “We include an automatic gratuity on all transactions and, frankly, we take a real hit on our taxes. But it’s a step away from a system that at its root was racist and classist, and it gives some security and extra autonomy to our team.”

Koenig-Herndon and Herndon and also passionate about profit sharing. “When we’re successful, it’s because of our team and we want them to see the rewards as well,” said Koenig-Herndon. “We’re also vocal about issues in our industry, and we’re comfortable being obvious in our stances on human rights and politics. I think this is the direction of the next wave of independent restaurants and not unique to us.”

Their advice for other bar and restaurant operators in 2024? Koenig-Herndon advised: “Dig in. Have a plan for your mental and physical health. Know your relationship with stress. And then take responsibility for your place in our industry and do the work.”

Aaron Kiel is an editor, writer and public relations professional in Raleigh, N.C. He’s worked in the beverage, tea and coffee industries for two decades, as well as hospitality and technology. He’s a journalist at heart, but he also wears a PR and communications hat through his consultancy, ak PR Group. He’s a contributing writer/reporter for Questex’s Bar & Restaurant News, and he recently worked as the editor of World Tea News with Questex’s Bar & Restaurant Group. In 2023, he was a finalist and honorable mention in the “Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards” for Range of Work by a Single Author – B2B.” In 2024, he was named a Northeast Regional Finalist in the Editorial Excellence category for Diversity Equity & Inclusion, for his article on Pride Month and the hospitality industry at Bar & Restaurant News. Connect with him on Instagram: @adventurer_explorer.


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