“Welcome to Pineapple Land,” proclaims a neon sign on the walls at Louisiana’s first Playa Bowls. The message is right at home among the tropical hand-painted murals and beachy surfboards hanging on the walls.
Opening this Saturday, Sept. 28, in Arlington Creek Center, the Playa Bowls team hopes to be a beacon of healthy eating in the somewhat junk-food-ridden Baton Rouge culinary scene.
The national chain has locations in more than 10 states. Jordan VanGeffen and his brother, Beau, decided to bring the franchise to Baton Rouge more than a year ago.
“There’s a trend toward healthier options, which is great. And that’s what we want to be a part of. We didn’t want to bring another sub shop or pizza restaurant to Baton Rouge,” VanGeffen says. “We wanted to bring something different. Something unique.”
That “something unique” turned out to be more than 30 different bowl options, with bases like coconut, acai, banana and oatmeal; toppings that include peanut butter and nutella; and smoothies and juices. VanGeffen’s personal favorite is the Pura Vida acai bowl: a photogenic dish of blended acai with granola, blueberry, strawberry and honey drizzled over the top. The menu also includes poke.
VanGeffen hopes Playa Bowls will attract all crowds, from parents bringing their children, to gym-goers coming in for a protein-packed bowl after a workout, to people just looking for a tasty snack.
“You don’t want to eat a salad every day. So we’re right on that crossroad where healthy meets delicious,” VanGeffen says. ”Our product is a healthier product, but it’s actually very delicious.”
VanGeffen says they’ve been working on the shop now for around three or four months. One of the things he’s most proud of is the decor. Every inch of the store has been used as a canvas for art—from the tropical designs in the main dining area to the bathroom floor’s mural of waves crashing on a shoreline.
“We’ve got surfboards hanging. We’ve got all wood throughout the store that is actually reclaimed wood from barns across America. And then we’ve got murals painted all along the wall,” VanGeffen says. “They were hand painted by an in-house artist who is part of the Playa Bowls team. It gives it that unique detail. … You’re not going to see this stuff anywhere else.”
Playa Bowls was first inspired by the various pitaya and acai bowls offered in surf towns. The word “playa” is Spanish for “beach,” pronounced ply-ya. VanGeffen expects some confusion about pronunciation.
“This is a northeast company, and I told them, ‘We’re opening in south Louisiana, so everyone’s calling us Play-ya Bowls,’” VanGeffen says.
At the grand opening this weekend, though, there will be plenty of time for unfamiliar customers to learn the name. The team will be giving out free bowls to the first 50 people in line, free Playa T-shirts to the first 30, and they will have a raffle.
Playa Bowls is at 660B Arlington Creek Center Court. Its hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Find more info on Facebook.
Editor’s note: Jordan VanGeffen and Beau VanGeffen are nephews of Rolfe McCollister, the chairman of Louisiana Business Inc., which publishes 225.