Pineapple Cafe: Building a Community Restaurant

Pineapple Café & Mexican Grill is a local restaurant in Oak Creek, which combines everyone’s favorite savory breakfast foods with traditional Mexican cooking. The restaurant’s menu hosts a variety of ethnic, as well as classic, American foods, and is celebrating its one-year anniversary today, June 9th.  Over the past year, the restaurant has developed into a community gathering place in Oak Creek, a place where people come to hang out and celebrate. Stacy sat down with the restaurant’s owner, Sandra Madrigal-Ramirez to hear more about the story behind Pineapple Café and how the restaurant has grown during its first year in business!

Sandra grew up working in the restaurant business; her parents opened Los Mariachi’s in Greenfield in 1994. After Sandra and her husband, Felipe Ramirez, who is a breakfast cook by trade got married, they decided that they wanted to open up a restaurant of their own. They could not agree on whether they wanted to open a breakfast café or a Mexican restaurant, so they decided to combine the two concepts to create Pineapple Café & Mexican Grill! They were able to include what Felipe is passionate about, while also carrying on Sandra’s family tradition in the Mexican food business. Many people ask “’Why pineapple?’ Because it is the symbol of hospitality. It means welcome, and we welcome everyone to come in and try our food” says Sandra.

They took over the lease of the restaurant’s current location on S Howell Ave in February 2015. The space had previously been a Greek-style family restaurant, so there was already built-in clientele when they opened. “A lot of our clientele that had been Prime Table customers, said ‘we would really like it if you had a burger or something non-Mexican on the menu’” says Sandra. They took this feedback from their customers, and opted to diversify their menu and offer burgers, salads, wraps and sandwiches.

Since changing their menu, they have gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially regarding their burgers. They tried at least 25 different buns and patties before settling on a winning combination. Because of the Pineapple Café’s emphasis on quality food and fresh ingredients, they now buy their own chuck meat, grind it, and make their own patties. “Because it was asked for, and because it’s one of my non-specialty items, I did want it to be quite tasty and special, and I wanted the customers to know that even though burgers might not be our main focus, everything that you try on the menu, will be quality work” explains Sandra.

Having quality food and excellent customer service, goes a long way in the Oak Creek community. Just recently, The Pineapple Café donated tacos to Oak Creek High School’s Relay for Life. One of the event organizers enjoyed the food & staff so much, that he brought his family to the restaurant for dinner. His parents were impressed with the atmosphere of the restaurant and loved how Sandra struck up a conversation with them about Relay for Life. Since then, they’ve become regulars at the Pineapple Café. Instances like this highlight the importance of community involvement: “Had I not donated tacos for a greater cause, I never would’ve made that connection” says Sandra.

Sandra stresses the importance of community involvement, “by being a part of something more, your business grows tremendously.” During the past year, The Pineapple Café has gotten involved in many community events & fundraisers throughout the City of Oak Creek, including Relay for Life, the Salvation Army Soup Bowl Contest, and various school fundraisers.

The Pineapple Café is still evolving, and there is no doubt that community involvement is one of the key drivers of Sandra’s ultimate goal: “I definitely want to be the community restaurant. I want to be the place where everyone goes, the go-to place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.” After just one year, it seems that the Pineapple Café is well on their way to reaching this goal. “Oftentimes, customers from different tables get up and say hi to each other, or when customers walk in, they know somebody that’s already here” says Sandra.

The Gateway to Milwaukee would like to congratulate The Pineapple Café on their one-year anniversary, which is today, June 9! We look forward to watching your business continue to grow and develop in the years to come!