Feelin’ a bit Hangry – There’s a solution for that

By Kristy Tallman

The story of Hangry Solution, which some would consider a culinary gem in the heart of Lebanon, is not just about its dishes; it’s a narrative woven with passion, perseverance and a profound sense of community.

The dynamic duo behind Hangry Solution, Marcie Lindley and Ronda Vinson, sat down for an interview, offering a glimpse into their journey from dreamers to community champions.

Lindley, an executive chef with a lifelong love for culinary arts, began her journey in the restaurant business in the ‘90s after graduating from culinary school in 2008. The dream of Hangry Solution took root during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and personal loss, creating a perfect storm that propelled Lindley and Vinson into action.

“COVID happened, my husband died,” Lindley reflected. “A whole bunch of things came together. And it was like, let’s do this. Let’s just start it. You don’t know if you’re gonna fail unless you start slowly. We’re not failing. Right? You don’t know if you’re gonna fail unless you start.”

Hangry Solution initially took the form of a food truck, hitting the streets of Lebanon in September 2020. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the truck turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“It was a dream and passion for us to open a food truck, and we started that venture,” Vinson said. “It turned out to be a blessing for us.”

However, the desire for a more personal connection with customers led Lindley and Vinson to transition to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, taking over the space where Lindley once managed the former Bigfoot Bites kitchen.

The journey of opening the food truck in the beginning of COVID-19 was not without its challenges. Lindley and Vinson vividly described the hardships faced during their time in the food truck, a space that brought unique obstacles.

“Wearing masks, operating carefully like a ballet, and it’s a whole different experience,” Lindley shared.

The constraints of the food truck, exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions, created a challenging environment, with temperatures soaring 25 to 35 degrees hotter inside the truck. Despite the difficulties, their resilience and determination shone through, propelling them to consider new horizons and eventually establish Hangry Solution’s current location. Vinson described the transition.

Staff at Hangry Solution prep for an evening dinner rush.

“We kind of weighed our options. Did we want to sweat to death in the summer and freeze in the winter? And most important for Marcie and me,” Vinson said, looking at Lindley, “correct me if I’m wrong, we wanted to have that connection with our customers.”

Gaining a nod of approval from Lindley she continued.

“We want them to feel like they are our family. The interaction that we got to have with them before was just through the window. Now that they can come in and sit down, we learn more about them and their families, and they learn about us. But yeah, we figured it was time to try something different. And here we are today, we’ve been here, open since the 13th of March, almost a year, a year!”

Lindley agreed, stating they want their customers to feel like they are their family.

Hangry Solution stands out not just for its diverse menu with specialty hamburgers and sandwiches, as well as an array of homestyle cooked dishes, but the restaurant is also known for its affordability and the owners’ heartwarming commitment to the town. Lindley’s dedication to ensuring that the locals can enjoy a meal without breaking the bank goes beyond the price tags on the menu.

“I did not get into this business to get rich,” Lindley said. “What I want is for my local community to be able to go out to eat at least once a week, not break the bank, feed the whole family.”

This commitment to accessibility is reflected in the restaurant’s portion sizes, which are notably generous. Lindley and Vinson, during the interview, shared that they specifically design larger portions with the intention of promoting shared meals, making it easier for single mothers with large families and the elderly on fixed incomes to enjoy a satisfying meal without worrying about the cost.

“We like to do it for single moms who have a lot of kids. That’s why I’m here,” Lindley added.

Vinson echoed the sentiment, emphasizing their desire to extend this affordability to the elderly, who can come in, buy one meal, and share it.

The portions at Hangry Solution are not just about satisfying appetites, but about fostering a sense of community around the dining table. By providing substantial servings, the ladies  ensure that everyone at the table can enjoy a hearty meal, making it a natural gathering place for families and individuals alike.

The restaurant’s generosity extends beyond the menu, especially during the holiday season. Lindley and Vinson shared how they donated meals, sometimes funded by the community, to those in need. Whether it’s a single mother with a large family or an elderly individual on a fixed income, the ladies aim to make a positive impact on the community, one meal at a time.

The day to day grind, though, is a tough one for these ladies as they both open and close the restaurant every day. One of these such challenges came with January’s ice storm. The restaurant lost power for five days, but made it through with help from an anonymous community member who donated $1,000 to help with the loss of food. Vinson noted it was a blessing and a humbling experience.

“We have had other people that have donated to us along the way,” she said. “We had family help, bonuses, and someone donated our kegerator. And then we have a customer that every once in a while leaves a card with $100. So we feel like we’re doing the right things.”

Lindley agreed, adding, “I think the one that’s gonna stick with me is that large donation for no reason other than they didn’t want us to suffer, right? And that huge sense of community and welcoming that we’ve received coming into this town. It means a lot to me.”

Owning and running a restaurant is no easy feat, and they’ve faced their share of challenges. However, Lindley and Vinson approach these hurdles with a determination to make a positive impact.

“We believe in making a difference, not just through our food but also through our actions,” Vinson said.

This belief is vividly displayed in their extensive involvement during Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. Lindley and Vinson actively support Dala’s Blue Angels, an organization committed to promoting the well-being of children and preventing child abuse and neglect through education and advocacy.

Marcie Lindley takes an order over the phone.

Each year, Hangry Solution participates in the annual “Walk a Mile for a Child” event, a Dala’s Blue Angels initiative. The event, held on the first Saturday of April, serves as a fundraiser to support child abuse awareness and education.

In addition to their active participation, Hangry Solution helps sponsor and undertakes the responsibility of “painting the town blue” in the last week of March. Volunteers, in collaboration with the restaurant, embark on a mission to adorn Main Street with blue ribbons, visually symbolizing the town’s stance against child abuse. Further exemplifying their commitment, throughout the entire month of April, Hangry Solution donates one dollar for every hamburger sold, an effort that garnered 1,107 donations last year. The Duo also helps decorate the town during Christmas.

Lindley and Vinson also shared how they donate meals, sometimes funded by the community, to those in need. Whether it’s a single mother with a large family or an elderly individual on a fixed income, they aim to make a positive impact on the community, one meal at a time, reinforcing the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal, regardless of their financial situation.

“We have one lady that comes in and says, ‘Can I put $10 towards so and so?’ So we’ll say okay, and then we’ll let that person know that they have soup coming,” Lindley explained. “Or they’ll say they want to pay, we say don’t worry about it. We got it. We just want to feed them when we can.”

Vinson echoed Lindley’s thoughts.

“And as long as they’re respectful of our property and us when they’re here and our other customers, we don’t mind.”

Looking ahead, Lindley and Vinson are focused on maintaining the quality and quantity of their offerings rather than expanding to additional locations. They aim to ensure that every customer experiences the same level of excellence.

Lindley said that’s why they are at the restaurant all the time.

“Yeah, I think because we cook everything, we want everything to be the same for every person, even though we give off that homestyle feel and that comfort feel. We still want our plates to be uniform. We still want everything to look the same,” she said.

Vinson said they will continue to do catering events.

“We love doing that. That’s the one time that she (Lindley) goes completely into heaven is working catering events.”

As Hangry Solution marks nearly a year since their March 13 opening at the new location, the owners remain deeply grateful for the overwhelming support from the community.

“There’s so many things we’re thankful for,” Vinson said.

“And we don’t take any of it for granted,” Lindley added.