HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A new café celebrating its grand opening near Holland Friday offers Asian fusion cuisine.

Up Leaf Café, located at 12371 James St. off of US-31, had its soft opening about a month ago. On Friday, it will officially open with a celebration from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

MaryLou Lam, who owns the café with her husband Sonny Lam and sister-in-law, Truc Lam, said they are excited to celebrate with raffle tickets, samples and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Up Leaf Cafe owners MaryLou, Sonny and Truc Lam. (Oct. 26, 2023)
Up Leaf Cafe owners MaryLou, Sonny and Truc Lam. (Oct. 26, 2023)

MaryLou Lam started catering out of her house during the pandemic when people couldn’t dine out. She said she built a large following and heard lots of feedback. The customers inspired her to open the café.

“I would have to say it started with my COVID customers,” she said. “After COVID was kind of over, they still messaged me daily: ‘Are you going to be cooking? We love your food, we want you to cook, we need another place here.'”

The catering business reminded her of her passion for cooking.

“I talked to my husband and my sister and said, ‘Hey guys, I really think we should open a restaurant to serve our community.’ We ourselves are busy daily and we always want another good place to eat,” Lam said.

Inside the café, customers will find décor from Vietnam. The tables and chairs are solid wood and custom-made in Vietnam.

Up Leaf Cafe in Holland Township. (Oct. 26, 2023)
Up Leaf Cafe in Holland Township. (Oct. 26, 2023)

A display showcases traditional Vietnamese hats depicting things like tulips and windmills. Lam said she found a Vietnamese artist to design the hats and showcase Holland’s Dutch heritage.

“My husband is from Vietnam, I’m from the U.S., and coming together as one, we wanted to put a little bit of … us in it,” she said. “I feel the tulips here, the whole Dutch heritage, I grew up (here) and it’s part of me and the Vietnamese part is my husband. … I wanted to mesh everything together.”

Up Leaf Cafe in Holland Township. (Oct. 26, 2023)
Up Leaf Cafe in Holland Township. (Oct. 26, 2023)

On the menu is variety of flavor profiles from Southeast Asia with a fresh American twist, with ingredients like homemade wasabi mayo and Asian chipotle sauces, Lam said.

The restaurant offers items like a Vietnamese BBQ pork bowl, an Asian Sante Fe rice wrapper roll and plant-based energy drinks. It also has gluten-free, vegan and low-calorie options, Lam said.

She also created options for kids who are picky eaters: Her son loves a simple dish of a rice bowl with chicken and cheese.

She said they wanted to serve the community and bring a new, healthy option to the Holland area. They also wanted to create an environment where students can study and people can hold meetings.

Since their soft opening, Lam said they’ve gotten good reviews and people have been “raving” about the food.

“I’ve heard they’ve been saying the ingredients here are very fresh. The customers had referred to this place as a healthier option for them to go to,” she said.