Asian fusion street food restaurant and food truck mini-chain East Side King (ESK) is expanding with four new locations in the Austin area, following the sale of its licensing rights to Austin-based company Murphy Adams Restaurant Group, as reported by Austin 360.
While ESK was founded by Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya in 2009, a rep for Murphy Adams says that Qui is “completely uninvolved financially, operationally or in any other way with the licensing partnership.” Qui — who was arrested for allegedly physically assaulting his girlfriend in front of her son in — is still on the website for his original locations: both the food truck at East Austin bar The Liberty and the South Lamar restaurant. His assault charges were dismissed in April 2018.
However, Utsunomiya is involved with these new locations opening under Murphy Adams as a co-manager.
These four new ESK locations will be in Central Texas: The first is slated for Cedar Park at 4701 183A Toll Road, Suite C starting on Wednesday, January 15; the second will be found within the Arboretum at 10710 Research Boulevard on Wednesday, January 29. The third one will be found somewhere in the city of Bulverde (found north of San Antonio) in February and somewhere in San Marcos off North Guadalupe Street near the Texas State University campus in March. The exact addresses of these latter two locations weren’t disclosed.
“East Side King is a strong brand and a great complement to the brands we already have,” said Randy Murphy, CEO of Murphy Adams, explaining why the company bought ESK’s licensing rights. Murphy Adams, The Austin-based hospitality group oversees eleven Mama Fu’s Asian House locations across Texas and Austin’s Pizza, the latter of which the company bought in 2018. “Both groups benefit from the partnered expansion.”
Qui and Utsunomiya opened that first East Side King truck at Liberty in 2009. It had expanded with several locations across the city, including South Lamar in 2013. ESK is popular for its Asian-fusion street foods like beet home fries, Brussels sprout salad, bao, and more.
There had been a plan to expand ESK into Denver earlier this year, but that agreement was quickly nixed because of Qui’s involvement. However, Thai Kun, co-founded by Qui and Thai Changthong, is currently operating a temporary restaurant through May 2020 in the Tributary Food Hall & Drinkery in Golden, Colorado. Incidentally, Thai Kun recently closed its food truck at East Austin bar Whisler’s in November, but the restaurant is still open in Rock Rose.
Qui has also opened and shuttered multiple restaurants over the past several years, including his Austin flagship Qui, its replacement Kuneho, Houston restaurant Aqui, and Dallas taqueria Tacqui. He is apparently opening something within Houston food hall Post HTX and he still runs upscale hotel restaurant Pao in Miami.
Monday, January 13, 2020: This article has been updated to include the opening dates and addresses of East Side King’s Cedar Park and Arboretum locations, as well as the general locations of two other forthcoming Central Texas locations.