CLEVELAND — When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the restaurant world, Bonn Rassavong had just landed his dream job at Lola Bistro and Six Shooter Coffee owner Peter Brown was navigating life as a small business owner.
“It was terrifying,” Rassavong recalls. “We all sat down at the big round table all watching the news on our phones, the government coming out and shutting down all the restaurants.”
But rather than sit around, wait and sulk, these entrepreneurs had an idea.
“I've done a couple burger popups in the neighborhood previously, and I think I just shot the ideas,” adds Rassavong. “Hey man, do you want to just get together – flip my garage into a to-go restaurant and just sling burgers and fries?”
Relying on social media alone, the guys sold out of burgers that first weekend. And the next. And the next.
“We sold out every weekend for months straight,” he says.
Rassavong and Brown continued doing pop-ups for nearly two years before landing on a brick-and-mortar storefront on Waterloo, not far from the garage where it all began. The 1,200-square-foot, 25-seat restaurant features a long bar, some booth seating and a communal table. At the far end of the space is an open kitchen, which has a counter and a few stools for diners.
“We designed the kitchen to be very, very open so people can come up, they can hang out with us, they can sit, talk, and we would definitely rather have people come in and sit and enjoy hanging out with us,” says Rassavong.
Longtime fans of Doinks might experience a whole new vibe, but the burger will look and taste familiar.
“Our burger itself is pretty much the same,” says Rassavong. “We kind of dialed our burger in pretty quickly.”
The original Doinks burger is a double smash cheeseburger with shredded lettuce, pickles, sauteed onions and special sauce on a Stone Oven brioche bun. Other burgers include a kimchi burger and a banh mi burger topped with pickled veggies, jalapenos, fresh herbs and spicy sauce.
Sides include french fries, onion rings, kimchi fries, kimchi mac and cheese, wedge salad and Thai-style spicy pickle salad. For dessert there’s ube cheesecake.
To drink, there are four housemade hard seltzers on tap in flavors like Margarita, Penicillin and Transfusion plus a few beers and basic cocktails.
If things go as well as hoped, Rassavong and Brown might entertain the idea of opening additional locations. But Waterloo, they say, will always be home.
“We love this community and everyone always supports us here, so it really was a no-brainer,” says Brown.
“Collinwood is home,” adds Rassavong. “It was always where we were going to put do, whether it was this building or somewhere else in Collinwood, it was going to go here.”