By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Located in the Southern California Flower Market district, this casual cafe—named after two varieties of flower—serves breakfast and lunch, caters, and is known for its chicken and waffles.
We last met Chef Michael Reed at Vivanne’s, where he had transformed a poolside restaurant at a Beverly Hills boutique hotel into an outstandingly creative enterprise. Poppy + Rose, though, is Chef Reed’s baby, along with his partner and wife, Kwini Reed, and you can feel the passion for creating their “nostalgic country kitchen” in every corner of this 800-square-foot space.
In truth, catching breakfast or brunch at Poppy + Rose is like eating at a very cool diner, where Southern food and comfort food combine for some delicious Southern comfort.
I’ll be honest: I’m kind of long-done ordering or eating fried chicken—the super-spicy hot chicken trend has left me cold—but this spot totally won me over because the quality of the fried chicken is that good: light, tasty and, most importantly, not at all greasy.
But beware: fried chicken comes with everything here. And I do mean everything.
Take the beverages, for example—our bloody Mary, here called the Fried Chicken Mary for obvious reasons, comes with a pterodactyl-sized wing of fried chicken perched on its rim as if it were a line of salt around a glass of the Spicy Cucumber Margarita, another fine signature cocktail here. So yeah, the Fried Chicken Mary is basically a meal in itself, which happens to come with a drink.
I also cherished the refreshing Rose Mojito here—a Korean twist on the Cuban genre with its soju base, alive with blackberries and raspberries, muddled mint and housemade limeade—but the highlight for me was the Irish Coffee, an alcoholic iced coffee made special with soft-serve ice cream-shaped dollop of whipped cream on top.
Breakfast items here range from Steel-Cut Oats to Biscuits and Gravy to a Lox Bagel Sandwich to what we ordered, the signature Fried Chicken & Waffles—two hulking pieces of poultry topping nice, fluffy waffle bricks that melt in your mouth once you melt some hot butter on it and douse it with some maple syrup.
Fried Chicken & Waffles here are made with free-range Mary’s chicken and a Belgian-style waffle. So if chicken and waffles is what you’re craving, this version will definitely hit the spot a thousand-fold.
We started out with a Beets + Avocado Salad, a pleasant, if innocuous, starter doused in sherry vinaigrette that delivers what you would want out of such an appetizer. We moved on to the Pulled Pork Hash, with its tasty 18-hour shredded meat arriving under blankets of colorful fried sunny-side-up eggs (you can order your eggs any style), arugula and crème fraiche. The results are savory and addictive, not to mention Instagram-ready.
Let’s also talk about the Poppy Burger. Two quarter-pound patties with house-made cole slaw, caramelized onions and goopy melted cheddar topped with very fresh, tender and moist strands of bacon and built to stand tall in-between halves of a brioche bun.
The accompanying fries, hand cut from fresh Kennebec potatoes, taste like a first cousin to McDonald’s French fries—and that’s not at all a diss when you consider that almost everyone can agree that the French fries at the fast-food chain are its most legendary menu item.
Despite all of the excellent poultry accompanying nearly everything here, I absolutely adored the Shrimp Po’ Boy, a very satisfying and scrumptious take on the famed New Orleans sandwich that comes with a robust bowl of house-made red potato salad covered in an aioli sauce mixed with a honey mustard and minced scallions. Not at all knocking the Fried Chicken & Waffles, but if you’re looking for a non-poultry option, this is a solid way to go.
Poppy + Rose is like the perfect greasy spoon restaurant—minus the greasy part.
Atmosphere is simple, countrified, retro and upbeat, from the mural of smoking fried chicken wings outside to the cartoon chanticleer logo on the front door and the cheerfully bright yellow counter chairs and fun portraits of the cocktails on a neighboring shelf.
Laid-back Chef Reed has set the tone here, as staff is friendly and low key. Big bonus points for the constant looping of ’70s soul and R&B music that sets a soundtrack to complete the overall restaurant concept and puts everyone in a good mood.
Ultimately, in a very busy sector of downtown Los Angeles, Poppy + Rose is an oasis of fun; a cool neighborhood hang and the perfect place for both Palisadians and locals alike to nurse a coffee in the morning before getting on with your day’s business.