by Anitra D. Brown
When the Munch Factory first opened in 2011, owners Jordan and Alexis Pearson Ruiz said it was with residents in Gentilly in mind.
Alexis Ruiz said she wanted to provide Gentilly-area residents with a truly local, casual dining option that the community had been lacking, adding that she believes The Munch Factory has played a role in the revitalization of the area since Hurricane Katrina.
“A lot of people are here and they need some really good, fresh food,” she told The Tribune in a 2013 interview. “Being a neighborhood restaurant, we don’t get the tourist traffic; but we have been very supported by the Gentilly neighborhood.”
The eatery first opened on Franklin Avenue and later moved to more spacious digs on Elysian Fields.
Then in January 2017, the couple moved their popular eatery uptown to Sophie B. Wright Place in the lower Garden District. Though it left many Gentilly-area residents without their favorite neighborhood restaurant, it was a business decision the Ruizes needed to make. Still, they never forgot about the loyal Gentilly customer base that helped grow their business.
And now, the husband and wife duo were able to return to their favorite neighborhood when the City of New Orleans awarded the contract to operate a restaurant at Joe Bartholomew Golf Course to The Munch Factory. The Munch Factory had a soft opening in September at the Gentilly location and celebrated its grand opening on Dec. 4, with city officials, friends, family and customers marking the occasion.
The new Gentilly location is housed inside the clubhouse of the Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-72 course owned and operated by the City of New Orleans’ Department of Parks and Parkways.
“When we moved from Gentilly, we promised our customers who became our family, that if the opportunity presented itself, we would want nothing more than to return to our beloved area,” Alexis Ruiz said. “We were beyond thrilled when the City of New Orleans accepted our bid to have a restaurant at (Pontchartrain Park). We are looking forward to seeing returning customers (and gaining new ones) as well as the many golfers that enjoy the wonderful golf course. Having grown up in Gentilly, we are both committed to bringing positivity, jobs and of course delicious food to our wonderful neighbors.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other elected officials, including State Sen. J.P. Morrell, District D City Councilman Jared Brossett and District E City Councilwoman Cindy Nguyen were on hand for the celebration.
“It is great to see a neighborhood favorite return to Gentilly. By expanding The Munch Factory’s operations to (the golf course) in the heart of Pontchartrain Park, they are demonstrating the success we’d like to see for all of our small businesses. This is a win-win-win, a win for the golf course, a win for the patrons and a win for the neighborhood,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and we are remaining intentional about creating an equitable procurement process and ensuring that our small businesses have access to their fair share of opportunities.”
Not only have the Ruizes been busy opening their new location, but the restaurant is also a part of the dining options at the new Louis Armstrong International Airport. Now with three locations of The Munch Factory operating in the greater New Orleans area, it might seem as if the Ruizes were destined to walk a path to restaurant ownership, the couple sort of happened into the business.
Alexis and Jordan met in college. Alexis earned a degree in international studies. Jordan studied computer science. And while they were working on their degrees, they both worked in restaurants just to make extra money—Alexis mostly as a hostess, Jordan as a cook. He liked it so much so that he decided to attend culinary school, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
“We decided that after he got out, we would open a restaurant,” Alexis says.