Nate Brown

Mardi Gras 2024 isn’t until Tuesday, Feb. 13. At PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans in Spring Branch, though, every day is Mardi Gras — albeit a slightly subdued version.

The New Orleans-based coffee chain opened an outpost at 9221 Long Point Rd. this year with, of course, a big blowout party, hosted by local operators Nate Brown, Jared Atabuatsi and Karl Uba. The line was out the door, and the parking lot was packed with the cars of fans of the coffee chain who had been anticipating the opening. A valet service had to be hired for the occasion.

From the moment you walk up to PJ’s in Spring Branch, you get the NOLA vibe. Purple, green and gold beads hang from the front door handle, jazz music emanates from the speakers and the smell of freshly baked beignets is all around you.

The hot and billowy fried French pillows of dough are hard to resist, but you can also choose from muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, bagels and croissants. If you’re looking for something savory, a variety of freshly toasted sandwiches for breakfast and lunch are on the menu.

Regardless of what you buy, take the advice of the friendly person behind the counter on the day I visited and order at least a half dozen beignets. She relayed the story of a couple who came in for lunch and ordered just one beignet to share for dessert.

“I told them they should get six,” she said. And, lo and behold, they were back up at the counter to order more as soon as one of them took a bite. Sharing is hard when something tastes that good.

Not wanting to make the same mistake, we bought three powdered sugar and three churro-flavored (cinnamon and sugar) beignets. My dining companion loved the churro-flavored. I’m old school and gobbled up a powdered sugar one. (Pro tip: Don’t wear black when eating powdered sugar-dusted beignets).


PJ’s was founded with a single shop in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans in 1978 by Phyllis Jordan, thus the name PJ’s.

Brown said the company operates on three pillars — coffee, culture and community.

Sometimes referred to as an alternative to Starbucks, because it has a similar business model,  PJ’s has a following among coffee aficionados in New Orleans and beyond. PJ’s uses hand-selected, premium Arabica beans, which are slow-roasted in small batches at its New Orleans roasting facility. In 2009, it was named the “preferred coffee” of the New Orleans Saints football team.

PJ’s iced coffees are brewed daily using a cold-drip process that protects the flavor and strength of the high-quality beans while producing a coffee that is less acidic. The coffeehouse also serves organic teas and “boosted teas” with added flavoring and extra caffeine. Really need a pick-me-up? There are Red Bull Infusions available. Each 20-ounce infusion, which is a Red Bull energy drink paired with various fruity flavors, contains 80 mg of caffeine.

As for culture, Brown said the partners are working hard to carry over the Southern hospitality that the brand represents. After sitting in the Spring Branch location for a little while, you might feel transported to Decatur Street in the French Quarter, where there is also a PJ’s location.

But, of course, you’re still here on Long Point Road, and that leads to the third pillar — “community.”

Brown said he was drawn to the Spring Branch area because of the strong sense of pride among the residents. He learned about that spirit when his son joined a basketball team in the area a couple of years ago.

“I knew then that this was a great area for what we are trying to accomplish”, Brown said.

Soon after opening, Brown said, the shop formed a partnership with Spring Branch ISD, providing discounts to district employees and supporting PTA and booster groups.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the national chain sustained impressive growth, and now PJ’s Coffee is rapidly expanding in Texas and other parts of the country. There are 177 locations in the U.S., with 21 in Texas.

The response to the first Spring Branch District location has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Brown said.

“The community continues to express they are happy we are here,” he said.

The partners have aspirations to operate several stores in various locations but, Brown said, they want to remain a “business of the community.”

“We see our coffee shop as a hub for people to connect with friends, family and business alike, and we hope to become a gathering place for Spring Branch residents,” he said. “And along the way, we will always serve top-quality food and beverages.”

PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans
9221 Long Point Rd.
Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

— by Dorothy Puch Lillig