Café spreads ‘manna’ to diners


Manna Café in Forest Hills serves natural food “the way God intended it” and operates a market that benefits Manna Ministries. Photo by Mike Nichols

In the Old Testament, Book of Exodus, God sends manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert.

Although Forest Hills isn’t exactly the biblical wilderness, manna nevertheless is looking to return to this area.

Manna Café

Manna Café, a café and diner that serves breakfast and lunch, is set to open its 3,800-square-foot space next Friday in the new Forest Hills Retail Center in Grand Rapids, at 820 Forest Hills Ave., SE.

Recent questionnaires revealed people in the community wanted some kind of breakfast option, and Manna is looking to satisfy that desire, said Mike McKay, Manna Café general manager.

McKay, who has management experience at Uccello’s and Charley’s Crab, described Manna Café as a “soup and sandwich kind of lunch place, with specialized breakfast items,” and he hopes to eventually serve dinner.

McKay added that the café is planning to hire about 45 employees, including servers, cooks, dishwashers and hostesses.

All-natural local

Manna’s menu will feature specialty baked breads from Cisco, smoked meats from Falmouth-based Ebells Farms, as well as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items.

Manna has also partnered with Kalamazoo-based Water Street Coffee Roaster, which is offering them specialty-made coffees from African and Latin American countries.

Manna Café wants its entire menu to be natural foods, “the way God intended it as pure as manna from heaven, said Craig Witcher, who co-owns Manna Café with his wife, Julie.

“We’re going to do everything we can to not put anything in a can,” McKay said. “We don’t have microwave or a can opener in this building right now. I can’t tell you that’s how it’ll always be, but that’s how we’re going to start off. We’re going to try our best to buy local first, fresh as we can get it. We’re going to make everything from scratch.”

Witcher, a former finance executive at Amway, said he expects a lot of Manna’s customers to come from nearby, particularly the businesses along Cascade Road.

For the to-go crowd, the café will offer Manna on the Move, a takeout service.

In the video below, Witcher talks about some of the menu items.

Manna Ministries

Manna Café will also feature The Market, a gift shop offering fair trade, handcrafted items from around the world.

All profits from the market will go to toward servicing the entrepreneurial-based ministries of Manna Ministries.

Witcher, a man whose business card reads “Servant and President," said the café’s features all reflect a heart’s desire to bless the community in God’s love.

“The café is about serving others joyfully in God’s name,” Witcher said. “It’s about putting the needs and interests of others first. Yes, we offer premium-quality food, but we’re also committed to offering our guests an inviting and welcoming place to relax and connect in a comfortable, God-honoring environment. It is about reflecting our Creator’s love and goodness. That’s how we’re different.” 

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