Hana Bistro, the Pan-Asian restaurant that permanently closed at 50th & France this summer, is making a return – but this time, it will do business on the go.

For its next chapter, the eatery it will operate a food truck in and around Edina and Minneapolis in addition to providing private dinner parties. The choice to shift to the new model came after the restaurant experienced over a year of difficulty with the pandemic, said Stephanie Lan, who runs the restaurant with her husband, Ben Lan.

“It’s fun and exciting,” she said. “It will be enjoyable for the customers as well as for us while we make (the food.)”

Serving Japanese, Chinese and other Asian dishes, Hana Bistro has been in business since the fall of 2017, when it first opened at 50th & France. Since the Lans sold the space in July, it has been taken over by new operators and converted to a Japanese-Tibetan restaurant called AMA Sushi.

Hana Bistro’s Chinese-trained chef, Ben, decided to open his own restaurant after working as a chef for more than 20 years. Stepanie Lan said her husband is “really passionate about food,” and the couple wanted to share his talents with the community.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, the Edina restaurant had to shut down its dining space for a while. The restaurant offered delivery and curbside pickup services, which was an easy transition because its offerings of Chinese foods and sushi packaged well, Lan said.

But in-person dining was “so important” for revenue, she added, “that without our tables full, there definitely was an impact.”

Customers did step up to the plate though, by ordering from the restaurant more frequently and giving bigger tips, Lan said. “There’s a lot of kindness that came out,” she reflected.

Due to the negative impacts of COVID-19 and the long hours of running a restaurant while caring for a family, the Lans decided to close the restaurant and take a break. But soon, a customer approached the couple asking if Ben Lan would come by and prepare their sister’s favorite foods as a surprise because she missed the restaurant.

This inquiry prompted the idea for Hana Bistro’s next phase: offering private dinner parties for customers. The Lans have already seen quite a few requests for dinner parties, and some several times from the same family, Lan said.

She said this new model allows her husband to make more personal dishes for customers, too.

On the food truck side of the business, the mobile kitchen made its first appearance at the Fulton Winter Farmers Market in Minneapolis. And near the beginning of next year, Hana Bistro will look to get its permit to operate in the Edina area, too, Lan said.

The food truck is “definitely more COVID-friendly for our customers and for us,” she said. There’s also the opportunity for menu flexibility, such as changing items with the seasons, she added.

Representative menu items for Hana Bistro are pad Thai, pan-fried scallops, sesame chicken, sashimi and cream cheese wontons.

Over the years, Hana Bistro has had “a lot of great, loyal, supportive customers,” Lan said.

But the new model of business for Hana Bistro “takes some of the pressure off of us” in terms of staffing or upkeep of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, she said.

“We were happy to transition,” Lan said.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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