For several years, Michelle Kruse, her husband Brian Milam and their two kids grilled burgers in Los Angeles, cooking at farmer’s markets, festivals and street fairs. There was no shortage of customers, and the melting pot gave them experience cooking “everything.”
“We wanted to bring that to Longview,” Kruse, 39, said. “Not the attitude, but the flavor, the food, the culture.”
So last year, they moved to the Longview-Kelso area to find a slower pace of life, put down roots and live near family in Portland.
In July, they started Lemon Drop, a popup catering company and mobile kitchen. Kruse said they can cook just about any kind of food for events like weddings, banquets and parties, from burgers to tacos to poke bowls. For now, Lemon Drop is serving up burgers, salads, wings and more Fridays and Saturdays at Ashtown Brewing in Longview at 1175 Hudson St.
Every time they’ve cooked there so far, Kruse said, at least one person tells them “that’s the best burger I’ve ever had.”
Prices vary based on what the customer wants, and how fancy they want it. As general examples, a burger will usually range from $8 to $15, and a taco might cost about $3.50.
Kruse, who graduated culinary school in 2000 and owns Lemon Drop, called her personal style “rustic, simple, seasonal.” She said she doesn’t necessarily see cooking as an art, but a way to spread joy.
“I really cook because I love to make people happy,” Kruse said. “All I’ve ever done is food. So it’s natural to me.”
Milam, 51, is the salesman and business face of the company, while Kruse said she prefers keeping her hands busy in the kitchen.
“We make a good team,” Kruse said. “He makes everything happen. I just show up and cook.”
Kruse said they’re looking to expand into a location with a commercial kitchen. That might mean someday opening a restaurant, but she said they’ll go wherever business takes them.
And she’s also excited about joining the region’s culinary community. She said she’d love to bring together local chefs to brainstorm events such as a “Taste of Longview.”
Kruse said they’ll be at Squirrel Fest and the Chehalis Flying Saucer Party, and they plan to do as many festivals, street fairs or community events as they can.
The family moved to Kelso in early August after living in Longview for the past eight months. Uprooting the family and re-establishing themselves in a whole new community has been hard, the couple admitted, but it’s been worth the effort.
“We’re newbies,” Kruse said. “We’ve met enough awesome people that we’re excited to stay here, but Longview is an interesting town. It has a very old-school community. But we’re excited about the direction things are going. ... Every time we serve people food, that’s when we say, ‘We’re doing the right thing.’ That’s when we know we’re going to be okay.”