COTTONWOOD — With a passion for service and family, new owners Candice and Michael Van Loon have taken the helm of The Hangout in Cottonwood. Originally from Oregon, the Van Loon family decided to make a switch to the restaurant business and move to Idaho.
The Hangout will continue to serve the all-American food it is known for: Pizza, burgers, fries, and milkshakes are still some of the top menu items. The bestseller has been the Riener’s Bacon Cheeseburger, and business has been steady.
The restaurant runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. Along with the owners, there are four employees who help keep everything on track.
As they’ve gotten to know the area, they love it more and more.
“We really appreciate the way of life here; the way people think. We really love the rivers and all the outdoor activities, all the hunting and fishing. The people here make sense,” said Michael, “we moved here for our family.”
The Van Loons were inspired to take on the challenge after seeing all Idaho has to offer. Originally, Michael was a teacher and Candice was an event planner for Umpqua Community College and a stay-at-home mom to their three children. Both also worked in bartending. Relatives had been in the restaurant and convenience store businesses, which provided the owners with a background in the food and service industries.
Community is a priority for the owners.
“We try to get everything locally,” said Michael, “our patties and beef are from Sonnen Meats in Greencreek; we get turkey, ham, and bacon across the street; all the produce comes from Cloninger’s in Grangeville.”
All of this helps to support other local businesses, he said. “We try to stay close…and we trust in them.”
The Van Loons are also grateful for their employees, who have helped keep them in-line during the transition.
“I want to give a shout out to some of the great employees I have,” said Michael, “Honestly, we would not be able to do it without some key players that have really picked up the slack.” Currently, Lina Palmero is the kitchen manager. Kristen Sharpe and Reed Chapman are the line cooks, and Aspen Spencer is the server. Both Aspen and Reed are seniors at Prairie High School. “All together, we make a great team,” he said.
Another upside is to work with family.
“During this process I’ve loved working with my wife and spending time with her … that’s my favorite part; I can be with her most of the day,” said Michael.
Now, the task is to find a rhythm and style that suits them.
“I haven’t really cooked professionally before,” said Michael, “so the challenge is to plate what I know as the highest quality food and to bridge the gap between where we are now.”
Plans for the future include renovations and a few menu changes.
“In the next few weeks we will be doing a deep clean and putting on a fresh coat of paint,” said Candice, “and we will add beer and wine to the menu.” Michael added, “The plan is pizza, burgers, and beer.”
Exciting changes will be in store for the establishment. Visit them at 603 Front Street in Cottonwood, or call 208-962-7383.