Opening ‘gorgeous’ restaurant, new Boise chain expands quickly. Goal? Six stores by 2024

·4 min read

Unique Boise sandwich shop Lemon Tree Co. is on a roll.

Well, on bread, actually — from Gaston’s Bakery.

Launched as a modest downtown operation at 224 N. 10th in 2018, the local brand suddenly is becoming a flourishing Idaho chain. And it soon will sell plenty more than sandwiches.

After expanding to Harris Ranch earlier this year, Lemon Tree will unveil a third restaurant this month with a more varied menu. It will open at 404 E. Parkcenter Blvd. between July 18 and 20, co-owner Jasson Parra says — depending on last-minute red tape.

Lemon Tree has a growth plan that includes two additional locations in 2023 — in Meridian and Garden City — and the possibility of a sixth restaurant, in Caldwell, in 2024.

“We had always planned — we had hoped — that we would be able to have multiple locations,” Parra says. “Did we know that we were going to be able to go there? No. It just kind of worked out.”

Lemon Tree Co. opened in 2018 in downtown Boise.
Lemon Tree Co. opened in 2018 in downtown Boise.

Larger menu

At just over 1,700 square feet, Lemon Tree on Parkcenter will be the largest of the three restaurants. It’s in the former Mazzah Mediterranean Grill spot. Nestled between The Griddle and The Refuge in a strip mall, the space was gutted and revamped. “It’s just absolutely gorgeous,” Parra says.

Taking advantage of a full kitchen with a hood, Parkcenter’s Lemon Tree will have the fledgling chain’s largest menu.

“We’re going to mix things up a little bit,” Parra explains. “This is going to be more cafe-style.”

“We are going to also offer meat items, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and now keto ... We like to say, we bring everyone to the table.”

Gourmet sandwich aficionados need not fret. The Parkcenter menu will be powered by creative sammies. A dozen selections include the delicious Sausage & Pear ($15.50): crumbled Italian sausage, pear, whipped goat cheese, fennel jam, toasted pecans, greens and pear vinaigrette — on hot, toasty ciabatta. (Trust me, that one is killer.)

Lemon Tree also will serve a couple of breakfast sandwiches, various tacos ($12.50-$15.50), four vegetarian Impossible Burgers ($16-$17), bowls ($15-$16), flatbreads ($15.50), soups, salads, specialty lemonades, beer, wine — and a weekend brunch.

‘Signature’ tortillas

Sticking to its “with a twist” theme, Lemon Tree’s entrees are enticing and fun. Take, for example, Habanero Mango Pulled BBQ Jackfruit or Pulled BBQ Pork Tacos: sauteed jackfruit or slow-braised pork tossed in habanero barbecue sauce on housemade corn tortillas, topped with apple-lime slaw, mango salsa, lime crema, watermelon radish and micro cilantro. The tortillas will be created from a mix of blue and yellow corn, creating a visual swirl.

“That’ll be kind of a signature that we do,” Parra says. “That should be pretty cool.”

And while the Harris Ranch location introduced breakfast sandwiches to customers, Parkcenter also will serve full-on brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. “We’re going to do Short Rib Hash,” Parra says, “play with some French toast. We’re going to do a Bunny Toast, we’re going to do a Monkey Toast.”

That Short Rib Hash? For $17, it’s boneless short ribs, brown gravy, sweet potato, onion, sriracha and a medium egg or marbled egg.

What are Bunny and Monkey toasts ($13)? Think either housemade banana or carrot bread, dipped in cinnamon and cardamon vegan egg wash, grilled and topped with powdered sugar, coconut whipped cream and fresh berries.

In a hurry? Lemon Tree on Parkcenter will sell grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. Three cash registers will streamline transactions in the restaurant. Customers can order takeout at the counter. But if you eat in the dining room, you’ll receive full service, including ordering from your table.

Future locations

Once the new store is up and running, Parra and his wife, co-owner Mayra Ruiz, will focus on a busy future. They’ve signed letters of intent for a new Lemon Tree food hall location in the Orchard Park development on Linder Road and Chinden Boulevard in Meridian, Parra says. The same goes for a potentially shared space on 34th Street next to the Boise River in Garden City. They’re also considering a letter of intent for a spot in Caldwell. “It’s gonna happen, yeah,” Parra predicts.

The Lemon Tree couple isn’t interested in franchising, Parra says. But growth might happen eventually in other states in the West — Utah, Oregon, Washington?

“You never know,” Parra says. “That’s kind of a dream. But don’t count us out from that. It seems to be happening pretty quickly here.”

The new Lemon Tree on Parkcenter will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.