GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nonla Burger is expanding to Grand Rapids.
The family-owned restaurant plans to open its fourth location at 449 Bridge St. NW, just west of Condado Tacos.
“They just fell in love with Grand Rapids and they wanted to put a place here,” said Grand Rapids Retail, Retention and Attraction Specialist Richard App.
Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved a resolution supporting Nonla Burger getting a liquor license. The Grand Rapids restaurant will be the first Nonla Burger to include a bar, which will offer a rotating cocktail, wine and local beer on tap.
Nonla Burger is owned and operated by two couples: Kyle Monk and his wife Natashia Monk and Johnny Nguyen and his wife Kelly Nguyen. The two men have known each other since Kyle Monk was 13. He says they were roommates in San Francisco when Jonny Nguyen met his wife, who is from Michigan.
About five years ago, the Monks left their jobs as a clothing designer and celebrity portrait photographer in California to move to Michigan and partner with their longtime friends in opening Nonla Burger in Kalamazoo. They opened a second location nearby on S. Drake Road in Oshtemo Township in 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic spurred an indoor restaurant dining ban by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Kyle Monk says they closed the fast-casual restaurant for about a month.
“It’s been a challenge the last couple years but thankfully we have a strong base,” Kyle Monk said, adding that the second restaurant’s drive-thru and partnering with Grubhub was crucial at the time.
Nonla Burger grew to include a third location in February of this year when the owners converted the Nguyens’ original Nonla Vietnamese Street Food restaurant in Mattawan.
Kyle Monk says they signed a lease for the Grand Rapids retail space on March 1, after about 10 months of vetting and negotiations. The newest location is just a short drive from the Monks’ home on Grand Rapids’ West Side, which they bought about three years ago.
“I love Grand Rapids. When we first moved to Kalamazoo we would come up here for my birthday and my wife’s birthday … and a couple visits into it we were like, ‘We’re moving here,’” he said.
Nonla Burger won “best burger” in Kalamazoo by MLive in 2020. Kyle Monk thinks the burger concept will complement the dining options already on Bridge Street.
Kyle Monk says the Grand Rapids restaurant will have the same menu, color palette and aesthetic as the other restaurants.
“It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s inviting,” he said of Nonla Burger.
He expects the new restaurant to have “lots of pops of color” and a different layout with distinct areas to break up the space instead of a uniform dining hall. He hopes to have his sister, who already created a mural, logo and menu artwork for other Nonla Burger locations, visit Grand Rapids to add artwork to the new restaurant’s walls.
Kyle Monk says they’re waiting on a city permit to begin building out Nonla Burger in Grand Rapids. He hopes to start construction later this month.
“We’re really excited to be in Grand Rapids,” he said. “We were waiting to find the right spot and we think this is a good spot.”
If all goes well, Nonla Burger would serve up its first meal in Grand Rapids in October.