Vansana Nolintha is one of the owners behind Raleigh, N.C. restaurants Bida Manda and Brewery Bavana. He immigrated from Laos when he was 12, joined by his sister a year later, and during his teenage years, began cooking family recipes to keep the culture and family close. That practice led to this current life in food, and he’s also been featured on This is Love, one of my now favorite podcasts, but I didn’t know any of that when I walked into Brewery Bavana on a Friday afternoon last year. I was having one of those days, you know the type, dealing with heavy self-doubt and feeling burned out and more than a little lost, and I took that headspace into the innovative space that is this restaurant, bookshop, brewery, and flower shop. Such is life, right? But I left in a different state, more than just the result of the excellent food and some delicious beer. The design, the conversation with Van, and well, the vibe all worked together to build an experience that was a space of comfort and calm joy, setting me on a better path out the door. Van and I sat down in his oasis of a house to chat more about his journey and that space, and despite our place of calm, that buzzing sound you hear every so often is a neighbor’s weed trimmer. Such is life, right?