‘Consistent, but growing’ Lemon Poppy Kitchen celebrates 10 years

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Lemon Poppy Kitchen celebrates its 10-year anniversary in Glassell Park in Los Angeles, CA. March 17, 2022. Kate Bown/TheOccidental.

This March marks 10 years of Lemon Poppy Kitchen‘s signature yellow accents and specialty brunches, jams, breads and bakery items served from its Glassell Park location. The restaurant’s owners and customers celebrated March 13 with a special family-friendly event featuring a face painter, magician and a balloon artist, according to Anca Caliman, one of the restaurant’s owners.

“[The event] is as much for us as it is for customers, because they have been coming here for 10 years,” Caliman said. “There are children that are 10 years old that have been coming here since they were babies, or we met their moms when they were pregnant.”

In a poetic LA beginning, the idea for Lemon Poppy Kitchen was born at a farmers market, when co-owners Caliman, Jack Wilson and Katie Kildow met and decided to combine their culinary strengths. At the time, Kildow was at work producing jams, while Caliman and Jack Wilson were partners in a business making placinta, a traditional Romanian cheese pie.

The three owners’ vision for Lemon Poppy Kitchen was to make homemade products, so Caliman said that when she and the other co-owners found the empty space that now holds Lemon Poppy Kitchen, it seemed like the perfect location for a production kitchen and brunch restaurant. Since opening, their homemade jams, brunches and Eastern European goods have remained a mainstay of their restaurant.

“We started our partnership with these more artisanal homemade products and that is what became the vision. To this day, we still make everything in house,” Caliman said. “We make our own ketchup, mustard and grind the meat for our chicken sausage. We want to serve food that is loved, that is made from scratch and nourishing to the community.”

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Anca Caliman co-founded and co-owns Lemon Poppy Kitchen in Glassell Park in Los Angeles, CA. March 17, 2022. Kate Bown/TheOccidental.

Customer Erika Montoya said she has been going to the restaurant ever since she started working as a hairstylist a couple of doors down from Lemon Poppy Kitchen a year ago. She said she visits the restaurant every day for a latte and a turkey avocado sandwich.

“I have seen them be consistent, but growing,” Montoya said. “Their consistency is why I like this place so much. I think that is why everyone likes it.”

Montoya said she continues to go to the restaurant not just because it is delicious, but also because she has been able to build friendships with the employees.

“They are all so friendly. I know them all by name and they know me,” Montoya said. “It is the little things like when someone knows your latte order and it is sweet because it is very community-driven.”

Caliman said the close-knit relationships she and her staff have developed with customers only strengthened throughout the pandemic, which makes this anniversary celebration all the more significant.

“We get to know a lot of people and we try to learn their names,” Caliman said. “We definitely got closer during the pandemic and I think people looked forward to at least coming here and saying hello to someone while having a cup of coffee.”

Jack Shepard, general manager, said his favorite part about working at Lemon Poppy Kitchen is the community he has built with his coworkers and customers.

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Erika Montoya is a regular at Lemon Poppy Kitchen in Glassell Park in Los Angeles, CA. March 17, 2022. Kate Bown/TheOccidental.

“It is a really creative and friendly environment,” Shepard said. “I have worked with good people who have a lot of similar passions and I have gotten to meet a lot of great customers here. It is a really good environment and like a little family.”

Shepard said that he enjoys the tight-knit team culture created by the owners of Lemon Poppy Kitchen, something that he was even more grateful for during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I think the owners are another really great part of it. They do a really great job supporting us as best they can,” Shepard said. “At times throughout the pandemic, they let us come in and get meals every day when we were shut down. They really make sure that we are taken care of during uncertain times.”

Caliman said while she knows the pandemic was difficult, the restaurant staff strove to make both customers and staff feel welcomed and appreciated during that time.

“One thing that changed for us during the pandemic is that we know we are essential workers but we also need to prioritize our needs,” Caliman said. “I do not think of the customers and our employees as different communities — we are all the same community to be taken care of.”