An Austin restaurant group with experience in multi-unit operations has expanded its portfolio and broadened its culinary reach. The Murphy Adams Restaurant Group, which owns Mama Fu’s Asian House and purchased Austin’s Pizza in 2018, has bought the licensing rights to open locations of fast-casual restaurant East Side King, which specializes in Japanese street food, in Central Texas.
The restaurant group was Austin’s original Mama Fu’s franchisee and bought the Asian chain in 2008. Its new East Side King licensing rights cover an area from Waco to San Antonio, and the group will begin its roll-out with four Austin-area locations. The first two, in Cedar Park and North Austin’s Arboretum, are slated to open in January. The new locations will feature menus almost identical to the current East Side King locations, along with an expanded kids menu selection.
Managing partner Moto Utsunomiya opened the original East Side King food truck with chef and fellow Uchi alumnus Paul Qui in 2009, behind the Liberty bar in East Austin. Based on the strength of pork buns, fried Brussels sprouts salads, beet fries and Japanese fried chicken, the food truck helped push culinary innovation in Austin by introducing flavors and techniques not often found in the city’s food truck scene. When asked if Qui was still a partner in the operation, Utsunomiya only offered that Qui — who was charged with assault in 2016, charges that were later dropped — was a "co-founder."
"Moto has done a fantastic job of developing the East Side King brand into a cultural and food icon, and his team has brought expertise, capital and solid operations to get East Side King ready to scale," Murphy Adams Restaurant Group CEO Randy Murphy said.
Utsunomiya will continue to operate the original truck at the Liberty and the location on South Lamar Boulevard, which opened in 2013. The Japanese-born chef, who also is a partner in two locations of Japanese cafe and coffee shop Sa-Tén, said he had always wanted to expand in some way, but he wanted to keep the business local and had no interest in selling licensing rights to a large corporate franchisee.
"I think East Side King fits really well in Austin," Utsunomiya said.
Update: This post has been updated to reflect Paul Qui’s relationship to East Side King.