Words: Louis O’Neill/Pictures: Andrew Peters
Professional skateboarder Don ‘Nuge’ Nguyen has just joined the ranks of skaters-that-own-restaurants—alongside the likes of Tyshawn Jones and Brad Staba—with his latest venture: Burger She Wrote.
We phoned Nuge up to hear about his entrance to the burger game and his plans for global domination.
Hey Nuge, how’s it going?
How is the COVID situation where you’re at? Have you guys opened up now?
For the most part, yeah. Most restaurants have opened up with limited seating. Some places aren’t even open at all, and others are only doing take out services. And then there’s a lot of places that close the lane off in front of their business, and they make a little zone where you can eat outside. Our place is open. You gotta wear a mask to get in though.
Tell me about ‘Burger She Wrote’; what was the inspiration behind starting it?
It happened really quick because I’m doing a show for Thrasher right now called ‘Skate or Dine,’ and we’re filming we’re in the middle of filming. On one of the episodes, we made smash burgers and I just posted a photo of the burger. Then a friend of mine who owns a bunch of restaurants and has been in the restaurant business forever was like, ‘Yo, I have a place that we can do those burgers if you wanted to.’ I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant myself, you know, I’ve had like a lot of talks about doing it. And so I just met with him and finally, it was the one that made sense to me. He already had the restaurant space going. It was a restaurant before it was a burger spot. Everything was running, everything was good. So it kind of just made sense for me to just to do this one, you know?
Nice, dude. And how’d you come up with the name?
I was driving to Vegas with my friend, Erik Bragg. And I was like, ‘I need a name for this place.’ We drove to Vegas for four hours and just named off a bunch of names. And that’s the one that stuck to me.
I like it, it’s a good name.
It’s funny. And it’s not so masculine, you know? I want it to be fun and funny and I’m not a serious chef or restaurant-owner guy. I just want to have fun and do something.
Burgers are a fun food. Did you have other restaurant or food ideas before you arrived at burgers? Or did you always have burgers in mind?
Like I said, I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, and I come from Vietnamese food and know a lot of the recipes my mom uses. That’s what I really wanted to do, but burgers seem like a good starting point, you know? Like, maybe do this, get my feet wet and see how it goes and learn a little bit about how restaurants are run and stuff like that.
So what was the time period between your friend saying ‘I got this place, we can do this,’ and then actually opening the restaurant?
We dove straight in and it was, like, four months. Like not that long. The place was already there and had had a recent inspection, and everything was working already. It was like turnkey, we just went straight in with the burger thing. And we just wanted to keep it basic. We didn’t want to add a lot. We didn’t want to have even lettuce or tomatoes to start with; we just wanted to keep it basic: this is all it comes with. If you don’t want that on it, then take it off. But that’s it, you know?
Wow, that’s quick. And then how long has it been open? About two weeks now?
Two weeks on Friday.
And how’s business?
Dude, it’s been psychotic. The grand opening was like a huge party, and then I thought maybe we gotta keep doing these things to hype it up to keep it going. But it’s been just as busy every single day. It’s crazy. I didn’t do anything special. We just made good stuff and I posted on my Instagram a couple of times and then all of a sudden, like, the fourth day we’re open the LA Times put our shop on their burger list.
I saw that, that’s great free marketing for you.
Yeah. It’s crazy A lot of my friends just kind of organically posted about it too and that hyped it up. And then people started trying it and then finally they’re like, ah, it’s actually good. The area needed a burger spot that was just normal and not too bougie. It was pretty basic and simple, you know?
Yeah, every area needs a good burger place. So tell me about the burgers, you said they’re pretty simple?
Yeah, but with the best meat you can have. it’s American Wagyu, smashed thin. It’s a double but it’s still pretty thin. We just kept it real simple and basic. And you know, I think that the zone needed it.
As you get older, do you feel you need a side hustle outside of skating to keep you sane?
For sure. As skateboarders, you’re always hustling, it’s how we came up. But you know, you can’t skate forever. Some people can. I mean, I still skate all the time, I work at Supreme and I just like doing creative stuff. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be here for and I only have one life to live. I say do everything you can do, you know what I mean?
Totally. And you’re in a great position to launch projects from. I saw you had that Workaholics guy at Burger She Wrote, what’s his name again?
Yeah! That’s Blake [Anderson], he’s a good friend. His daughter wanted a burger and so they just came through. It’s crazy man, if you build it, they will come. I mean, my friends have always said I should start a restaurant because I cook all of the time at home, having dinner parties all the time with like 20 friends over and we just eat and drink. And they’re always like, ‘Oh, you should open something and do something.’ And I’m like, ‘Sounds great, but it’s not that easy.’ But now I’m doing it.
What are your plans down the line?
I want to open another one. We’re talking about doing it in New York now.
Damn, expanding already.
I mean, we were talking about doing two restaurants, to begin with. The plan has always been to open another one somewhere.
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Maybe in a few years, you’ll have a burger shop empire.
Yeah, that would be awesome.
Alright, well, thanks for chatting Nuge I hope it all goes well.
Thanks, man, I can’t wait to get back to Australia, man. I miss it.
Burger She Wrote is open every day between 11:30 am—9:30 pm at 7454 Beverly Blvd, LA.