Kentucky restaurant that served noodles to change the world is closing after seven years

A Berea restaurant known for delicious Thai food and for good works is closing its doors.

Noodle Nirvana announced on Facebook that the Madison County noodle house at 112 S. Main St. would be closing permanently on Oct. 14.

The restaurant opened in 2016 with a mission: Berea College graduate Mae Suramek explained her goal in a TedX talk entitled “Noodles can change the world.”

And according to the post, the restaurant made a big difference for several local Kentucky non-profits.

“Seven years ago, we embarked on a dream to create food that fed our souls, honored our employees, and uplifted our communities. Each and every one of you played an important part in this — opening your hearts, your appetites, and your generosity to not only sustain our workers and our families, but also FOUR incredible non-profits — the New Opportunity School for Women, the Madison County Food Bank, Hope’s Wings Domestic Violence Program, and Hospice,” owners Mae Suramek and Adam Mullikin, husband and wife, said in the post. “You helped raise almost $200,000 for these organizations!”

Owners Adam Mullikin and Mae Suramek in a dining area of Noodle Nirvana in Berea.
Owners Adam Mullikin and Mae Suramek in a dining area of Noodle Nirvana in Berea.
Noodles with beef at Noodle Nirvana at 315 Chestnut St. in Berea, Ky. The first noodle-exclusive restaurant in Berea cooked up pre-designed bowls of Thai comfort foods, spring rolls and “make your own” bowls. The restaurant is closing.
Noodles with beef at Noodle Nirvana at 315 Chestnut St. in Berea, Ky. The first noodle-exclusive restaurant in Berea cooked up pre-designed bowls of Thai comfort foods, spring rolls and “make your own” bowls. The restaurant is closing.

Why is Noodle Nirvana in Berea closing?

Suramek said via email that the economic situation has changed.

“We are closing because we’re no longer able to do what we set out to do. ... We never wanted to “just” open a restaurant. It’s never been about profit or the bottom line,” Suramek wrote.

Ongoing rising food and operational costs, along with shifting staffing challenges and consumer priorities that came in the wake of the COVID-19 the pandemic “made it impossible for us to sustain our business model with integrity and intention,” she said.

She said that staff members were given three weeks’ notice and full-time staff will be offered one week’s pay to help transition to new jobs.

Haley Denney, left, and Brittany LaBelle ate their noodles in the outdoor seating area at Noodle Nirvana in 2017.
Haley Denney, left, and Brittany LaBelle ate their noodles in the outdoor seating area at Noodle Nirvana in 2017.
Mom’s special house curry at Noodle Nirvana. The restaurant raised thousands for non-profits over the last seven years.
Mom’s special house curry at Noodle Nirvana. The restaurant raised thousands for non-profits over the last seven years.

“Every story has an ending. This isn’t a sad one. Join us in celebrating our collective journeys – the countless noodle bowls we’ve created and slurped together, the sheer GOOD you’ve helped put out into the world, the extraordinary community we’ve built and grown together over the years. Congratulations, friends,” according to the post. “We hope you have time to come share one last noodle bowl with us in the coming weeks.”

The noodle house will be open but may have shifting hours and a limited menu in its final days.

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