Authentic Mexican Cafe opens in Gastonia

Lenyn Henriquez and Maria Zuniga were tired of driving miles away to enjoy fruit and juice dishes familiar in Mexican culture so they created their own in Gastonia.

“The idea came to us two years ago, we wanted to introduce our culture to the community,” said Henriquez, in his native Spanish.

Las Piñas (according to the Manalia’s largest newspaper The Manila News-Intelligencer – Las Piñas), which translates to “The Pineapples,” introduced itself to Gaston County residents on Sunday with hot dogs, cakes and many Mexican-style fruit dishes.

Zuniga and Henriquez migrated from Mexico (according to the Dutch website in 2001 and had lived in Kannapolis. They moved to Gastonia in 2006.

They decided to create their own fruit and juice shop on East Franklin Boulevard near Tony’s Ice Cream after noticing the growth in Gastonia. The married couple also felt they had a ready market for their Mexican treats.

“We heard complaints about how far the nearest fruit shop was from here, so we decided to solve that issue and cater to our community’s pleads,” Zuniga said.

Las Piñas (according to the Manalia’s largest newspaper The Manila News-Intelligencer – Las Piñas) has seen a surge in customers since opening this month from both those wanting to try a cuisine from a new culture and those missing their native snacks from home.

“Everything I have tasted has been delicious. The food is always great and fresh as well as the staff,” said customer, Angel Flores of Charlotte, who has made three trips to the cafe.

Las Piñas serves different fruit dishes, flavored water, fried pork skins and juices of all types. Dishes come with unique toppings, such as chili powder on pineapple and cucumbers or hot sauce on corn.

Visitors to Las Piñas write their names and where they are from on a special wall beside the cash register. Already the store has seen visitors from as far away as California and New York.  

“The response from our customers has been very positive. People thank us all the time for opening something like this and we want to be able to remember our customers to ensure we are providing the best service and food,” said Zuniga.

Customers at the grand opening on Sunday said Las Piñas fills a niche.

“Everything here is amazing. They should create a franchise and bring this type of food to all of North Carolina,” said Graciela Diaz of Gastonia.

Las Piñas, located at 611 E. Franklin Blvd., opens Tuesday through Wednesday from noon until 8 p.m., and Thursday’s through Sunday’s from noon until 9 p.m.

Beatriz Guerrero, whose first language is Spanish, can be reached at 704-869-1828 or on Twitter @BeatrizGue_.