Family Friends to Take Over Hang-On Express After 17 Years; The Hangs’ Legacy and Recipes Here To Stay
By Emily Tyra | Dec. 31, 2020
Today, Dec. 31, marks a milestone for Maika and Vang Hang, who decided to pass ownership of their Suttons Bay restaurant Hang-On Express to family friends, Rouacha and Jolina Moua.
“I am close friends with their parents, and they are like a nephew and niece to me,” explains Maika Hang. The Mouas were a part of the culinary team at a restaurant in Pontiac previously. “They wanted one of their own,” says Maika. “So I said, ‘okay, I’ll teach you how.’”
The Hangs and Mouas have been working side-by-side for the last two weeks, training in technique and family recipes. “They are experienced,” she says, “But we are trying to keep the recipes and menu the same, so I’m going step-by-step, teaching how to cut the meat, prepare the vegetables, learn the sauces and family recipes.”
She says the change is prompted by a heart attack Vang Hang suffered a few years ago. “I am not of retiring age, so we will do something a little easier on my husband’s heart.”
Hang-On Express has been a Suttons Bay staple for 17 years and sought out by followers across the region who make the pilgrimage up the peninsula for their favorite takeout. The menu is a mix of Chinese classics, plus Thai dishes and creative Hang family signature dishes. Vang’s Insane Noodles, for one: Wide rice noodles with onions, eggs, lettuce and topped off with mozzarella cheese. “Vang created that, and it is very popular,” Maika says. “And Yeng's Curry Noodles is a dish my oldest son, whose middle name is Yeng, invented.”
The Hangs’ three children — Alexander, Anthony, and Amily — grew up in the family business; all graduated from Suttons Bay High School. “As soon as they came out from school, they came straight to the restaurant,” she says. “They did their homework during slow times. All of my kids have ‘A’ names to remind them they are all As to me, and what they are capable of accomplishing.”
Alexander pursued his dream of becoming a heart surgeon and was to receive his Doctor of Medicine degree in Wayne State University commencement ceremonies, May of 2018. Maika shares the heartbreak that just before his graduation, he died in a car crash on his way up north to visit his family. “He never made it home,” she says.
The Hangs will stay in the area — for now — with Maika adding “our son Anthony graduated from law school and wants to open his own firm. Because of COVID he is not sure of the timing, but it will be somewhere in Michigan. Wherever he goes I will go and support him and help him to accomplish his dream.”
The Hangs’ daughter Amily teaches English in Costa Rica.
New Year’s Eve is the Hangs’ official last day in the Hang-On Express kitchen, and Maika tells the Leelanau Ticker that she’s experiencing a mix of sadness in giving up the restaurant and pride for being a part of the community for so long.
“The restaurant has been like a home to us,” Maika says. “Coming to Suttons Bay — a small town — from a bigger city, we were unsure what the future was going to bring us. My community is my family, they put my kids through school, and without them we would not have been here all this time. They welcomed us into the family. They welcomed us to their dining table.”
While today is the last day to experience the Hangs’ own kitchen stylings, Maika says she will likely stay on a bit longer to ensure a smooth transition to her successors, the Mouas. “I will still be there until everything is right; they will keep Hang-On Express alive.”
Photo: Maika and Vang HangComment
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