Capitol Hill was a very different place when Jerry Traunfeld opened his restaurant, Poppy, a decade ago on Broadway. As he and his staff prepare to celebrate the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary on Sunday, Traunfeld said it was a quest for independence that led to his choice to open a business on Capitol Hill.
“I wanted to do something on my own. And I wanted to do it in the city and I wanted to do something that was more accessible,” Traunfeld said. “Something that was more of my own personality.”
Before Poppy, Traunfeld worked as the chef at the Herbfarm for 17 years where he says he reached the top of his game. He had built a reputation for himself, won the James Beard Award and published a few cookbooks. Despite his success, he still felt that he wanted to create something he could call his own.
But independence has its price. Traunfeld opened the restaurant on September 18th, 2008 — just as the global economy fell to pieces.
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“That was the week the recession started,” he laughed. “Opening the restaurant was all-consuming so I didn’t really think that much about what the impact of the economy was going to have.”
Back when he was looking for a location for his restaurant, Traunfeld came close to signing a lease for a spot in South Lake Union. Things happened, and instead he opened shop on Capitol Hill. He said that many thought it was a mistake to open a restaurant on Broadway, but he saw things differently.
“Broadway had seen better days. There were a lot of empty storefronts. The big apartment buildings hadn’t been built yet. I never looked at it as a risk or a big deal but a lot of people did. The hot area was Belltown at that point for restaurants,” he said.
Poppy debuted on Broadway with foodie excitement as the financial markets melted down in September 2008. By 2015, Traunfeld was ready to expand as he opened Chinese peppercorn-powered Lionhead next door.
Poppy has grown with a menu influenced by Indian cuisine that Traunfeld describes as “northwest seasonal highlighting herbs and spices.”
“It’s definitely a seasonal Northwest restaurant. We use a lot of local ingredients. We have this huge herb garden where we grow our own herbs. We change the menu constantly to follow the seasons,” Traunfeld said. “We borrow flavor combinations from all over the world. We’re just trying to make great food that has seasonal ingredients.”
The anniversary party on Sunday from 4 to 8 PM on Sunday, September 18 will feature “8 tasting stations” serving dishes from Poppy’s decade of thali. Tickets can be purchased here for the party.
The anniversary marks another decade in the business for the restaurant veteran. It’s also bittersweet. Poppy is named for Traunfeld’s mother. She passed away earlier this year.
Poppy now embarks on its next decade.
“We’re a restaurant where people from other neighborhoods come to dine but also the core of our business revolves around people that live in this neighborhood,” Traunfeld said. “Capitol Hill has changed. That’s for sure. It was much more of an eclectic neighborhood when we opened. It was much more affordable obviously and all of my employees used to live within blocks. But Capitol Hill still feels like Capitol Hill. I’ve always felt I made the right choice of where to be, and I love this end of the Hill. “
“This end of the Hill,” Traunfeld says, “feels a lot more like it did when I first moved here.”
Poppy is located at 622 Broadway E. You can learn more at poppyseattle.com.