Not just a little red truck, Petite Rouge is also a little red cafe

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Petite Rouge Café, 3146 Calhoun St.

Petite Rouge got its start as a little red coffee truck that’s now familiar at events and festivals. But it’s not just a nomad in a vintage Citroen van. Since 2018, Petite Rouge Café has also been serving the Uptown and college crowd at 3146 Calhoun St.

Owner Julie Anne Pieri started the business with her partner Kurt Schmiederer. She was an art major at the University of New Orleans and has taught children art, taught English in Japan, and worked in the service industry.

She was bartending when she first became interested in the coffee business.

“I was bartending in New York and when I turned 35. I figured I had to decide what I wanted to do with myself,” she said. “I thought it might be time to move on from bartending, so I thought that I could make coffee.”

Pieri got a job at Haven’s Kitchen, the famed farm-to-fork café and cooking school in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. La Colombe Coffee was served there, and she learned different coffee-making techniques. 

From there, Pieri took classes and began studying everything she could about coffee. A coffee truck wasn’t always in her plans, but it came with the encouragement of her partner.

“I learned everything I could about coffee on the job and mentioned a coffee truck to my partner on a whim,” she said. “I had totally forgotten about it until he reminded me and told me what a good idea it was.”

Pieri’s partner has a skillset in vehicles — and paired with Pieri’s knowledge of coffee and the service industry, Petite Rouge, a mobile coffee truck, was born. The truck began in 2015 serving on-site at events, movie sets and anywhere else that might need a caffeine fix.

The space for Petite Rouge Café, the company’s brick-and-mortar shop, was presented to the pair by the owners of French Truck Coffee, Petite Rouge’s coffee roaster. The spot, once home to jittery coffee joint First Cup Café, was renovated to accommodate Petite Rouge. The couple knocked out a wall, painted the interior and added a counter.

Marielle Songy, Uptown Messenger

Petite Rouge Café can offer a larger selection of drinks and treats.

While First Cup occupied only the front room of the building, Petite Rouge takes advantage of a back room as well, with plenty of extra seating and space for a meeting or a quiet study break. 

“We didn’t have a plan to open a shop, but it was a good opportunity,” Pieri said. “We live in the neighborhood and it’s close to our base of operations and where we store our coffee trucks.”

Petite Rouge Café’s menu is packed with items from local vendors, including bagels from Humble Bagel and donuts courtesy of Blue Dot Donuts. Banana bread, oat bars and chocolate chip cookies are made in-house, as are all of the syrups.

The shop’s sandwich selection includes roasted turkey, chicken salad, ham, and veggie sandwiches served on Dave’s Killer Bread. And in addition to coffee, the café offers a selection of teas from Bellocq Tea Atelier.

The atmosphere at Petite Rouge Café is laid back and welcoming, and the team here has cultivated a fun space complete with a “celebrity wall of fame” which includes photos of stars such as Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese and local car salesman and crooner Ronnie Lamarque.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”:jigsaw puzzle

In addition, there’s a “community jigsaw puzzle” where patrons are encouraged to add a few pieces upon their visits. A completed puzzle of The Golden Girls hangs with pride on the wall, while the current puzzle of Elizabeth Taylor’s classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof sits almost completed on a table in the back of the café.

Not only a friendly place for coffee or lunch, the shop has hosted popup events, including a Patrick Swayze festival and live music performances. Events were put on hold during the pandemic, and while none are planned for the immediate future, Pieri said she would be happy to host some small events if the opportunity presented itself. 

“Our famous regular Patrick Cooper and the Cast Iron Cactus has played here four times,” Pieri said with a smile. “We look forward to hosting him again soon.”

If you can’t make it to the café, the Petite Rouge coffee truck still regularly hits the streets of New Orleans and can be found periodically at Marsalis Harmony Park on South Claiborne and Carrollton and at various events and festivals throughout the city. The truck, as well as the café space, is also available to rent for business events and parties. 

Petite Rouge Café is open Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Petite Rouge Café
3146 Calhoun St.
504-520-9688
petiterougecoffeetruck.com
Facebook: @petiterougecoffeetruck
Twitter: @petiterougenola
Instagram: @petiterougecoffeetruck

Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at mlsongy@gmail.com.

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