Growing up in England, Harveen Khera lived across from a woman with an apple tree. The apples were coveted by the neighbors and hard to come by, but every so often, Khera was allowed to pick a few and bring them home, where they always were baked in a buttery pie. Several decades later, that childhood memory still serves as the inspiration for Khera's classic apple pie, which she serves at Hippie Kitchen, a charismatic new restaurant in Old Jefferson.
A colorful mural of alligators and butterflies beckons passersby on an otherwise nondescript stretch of Jefferson Highway. The bold facade wraps around the building, and there is a tiny outdoor oasis where flower beds lush with herbs surround a handful of tables. Inside, artist and part-owner Wayne Greiner's colorful paintings brighten the cozy space.
Early in the morning, baked goods line the wooden bar that anchors the restaurant. One might find chocolate chip cookies, banana nut bread or a golden frittata in a cast-iron pan, still hot from the oven.
The restaurant, which opened in March, is a communal effort from a large team of players. Khera and Greiner met in San Francisco, and both come from a long line of restaurant jobs in the Bay Area and New Orleans. The couple ran a similar healthy-food concept at Tulane University for seven years. Together they run the restaurant with chef Charlotte Morton and a group of other breakfast and lunch chefs, who consider each other family.
The restaurant's central mission is delivering wholesome dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Golden turmeric tonic is flush with lemon, cayenne, ginger and honey — a refreshing and replenishing pick-me-up. Chickpea salad has warm spice notes and is served atop romaine lettuce with orange rind, raisins, almonds, a bracing lemon dressing and avocado crema, which felt like overkill as the salad also included a generous portion of avocado. Sesame chicken tenders are baked with a honey-mustard glaze and served atop a salad with cucumbers, shredded carrots and sesame seeds. Mint and basil from the restaurant's garden provide the final zing, and an umami-rich miso vinaigrette ties the dish together.
The restaurant's signature dish is the Super Roll. Rice paper bundled around quinoa, kale, sprouts, avocados and sweet potatoes is served with a thick peanut sauce, chunky with nuts and herbs, which was tasty but too dense for a dipping sauce.
Many of the dishes take a healthy approach, and there are gluten-free and vegan dishes, but the menu has plenty of items that stray far from current health trends. A pulled pork sandwich on house-made ciabatta was downright decadent, the soft meat balanced by the tang of vinegary pepperoncini peppers and soothed by an herb-flecked aioli. A bowl of creamy fusilli pasta was dotted with chunks of bronzed chicken sausage, mushrooms and fresh herbs. Tomato helped brighten the dish, which also was topped with goat cheese and served with a thick slice of crusty focaccia.
For dessert, it's hard to resist a slice of the apple pie, especially when it fills the restaurant with the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and buttery pie crust. It serves as a reminder of home and the simple pleasures that can come from wholesome food presented by a team that clearly takes its passion to heart.