Popular Inglewood restaurants find ways to stay open

By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Nearly a year after stay-at-home orders crippled the Southern California economy, two of Inglewood’s most popular Black-owned restaurants are still taking orders and satisfying appetites.

Thanks to a supportive community and tasty items on their menus, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen and the Serving Spoon are surviving the COVID-19 crisis, despite being forced to make significant adjustments with their service.

“Like everyone else, we lost business for awhile,” said Terry Dulan, president and CEO of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen. “But we adapted. When you have a good product, folks will still come.”

Dulan’s and the Serving Spoon are among many restaurants in L.A. County that had to abandon indoor dining and shift their operations to take-out or delivery. Though both restaurants have suffered revenue losses, their reputation for good food and service was established long before the pandemic.

Both restaurants did not change or scale down their menus, a signal to customers that they can still get the usual side dishes and other treats with their main course.

“Our longevity … has been a huge plus for us,” Serving Spoon owner J.C. Johnson said of the restaurant’s 38-year history in Inglewood. “The community has stepped up in a big way. Hopefully, we’re getting to the tail end of this virus and we can return to normalcy.”

Customers must order meals outside both restaurants and wait for a staff person to bring them to a pickup window. All three of Dulan’s locations are operating with the same system.

Outdoor takeout service has been particularly noticeable at Dulan’s Manchester and LaBrea location. The location, which did not have indoor seating before the pandemic, was often busy with take-out lines stretching outside the door. Now that customers are not allowed inside the location, lines are stretching around the corner into Dulan’s parking lot.

Dulan said his staff at the Manchester and LaBrea location have had few complaints, a testament to the restaurant’s popular menu. When restaurants were allowed to reopen under certain guidelines, Dulan came up with the idea of sidewalk windows for ordering and pickup.

“It took about a month before we realized it could work,” Dulan said. “We ended up having some big lines on Easter and Mother’s Day. People wanted to get out. They want the comfort of a good meal. We noticed some people ordering two or three meals to last for awhile.”

Dulan and Johnson said they are prepared to maintain their adapted operations for the long term. While Dulan’s has actually thrived during the pandemic, Johnson and his wife, Angela, came close in 2020 to making the painful decision of shutting down the Serving Spoon permanently.

A bank loan and GoFundMe page on Facebook helped keep the restaurant open. The couple then got a major boost in December when Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth made a $50,000 donation.

“We’ve been blessed, but we still have challenges and we have fixed expenses every month,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to be as prudent as possible.”

Financial considerations led to Johnson’s decision to scrap plans for outdoor seating in the parking lot off Centinela Avenue. Costs for the tent and other logistics became too high, prompting Johnson to focus on the takeout system until he can reopen his dining area.

Dulan was planning to expand his Manchester location to create a dining area when the pandemic hit. The area was expected to accommodate 25 to 30 people. That move is on hold until the county feels it’s safe to lift in-dining restrictions.

“We’ll be ready when that happens,” Dulan said.

In the meantime, the kitchen is open at Dulan’s and the Serving Spoon.

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave Newspapers. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com