6 things to know in food: Restaurant openings and people on the move

Editor’s note: Houston’s restaurant scene moves pretty fast. In order to prevent CultureMap readers from missing anything, let’s stop to look around at all the latest news to know.


Osaka Japanese Restaurant has relocated from a strip center at 515 Westheimer Rd. to the former Dolce Vita space at 500 Westheimer Rd. Known for its friendly service and meals that include dessert, the restaurant has been a staple in Montrose for 20 years. 

The Houston area’s second location of Ike’s Love & Sandwiches has opened in Rice Village (2518A Rice Blvd). Like the first location in The Heights that opened in 2019, its owned by franchisee Mark Appel, a Houston native and former Major League Baseball draft prospect. 

Founded in San Francisco in 2007, Ike’s is known for its creative combinations and signature Dutch Crunch bread. Still to be announced is a date for a grand opening that will feature free sandwiches, giveaways, and a meet and greet with Appel and Ike’s founder Ike Shehadeh.

“It has been a blast as part owner in Houston since opening our first Ike’s location in the Heights two years ago,” Appel said in a statement.  “Since first trying Ike’s in college, Ike’s has been the best sandwich I’ve ever had. I knew Ike’s would be a success in my hometown here in Houston.”

Torchy’s Tacos has opened its 21st Houston-area location in Rosenberg’s Brazos Town Center (24401 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100). The restaurant will serve its familiar menu of creative, fusion-style tacos, queso, and more.  

“Following our Richmond opening last summer, it’s been a priority to continue growing across Texas outside of our hometown in Austin,” Torchy’s founder and CEO Mike Rypka said in a statement. “Our new Rosenberg location will allow us to reach even more taco lovers in the area and further solidify our presence in the Houston area.”

People on the move

Uchi Houston has named Stephen Conklin as its new chef de cuisine. Formerly executive chef of La Table, Conklin takes over for Shaun King, who will lead sister concept Uchiko’s Houston location in the Galleria area. Both restaurants are operated by Hai Hospitality, which will also open a Houston location of its Asian smokehouse concept Loro in the coming weeks. 

“We have such stellar culinary talent in place at both Uchi and Uchiko in Houston,” said Hai founder and Executive Chef Tyson Cole.  “I’m really looking forward to seeing what Conklin and King bring to each place.”

Downtown steakhouse Guard and Grace has named Elliot Wood as its new general manager. A veteran of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Wood comes to Guard and Grace from Rice Village restaurant Sixty Vines. 

Back Table Kitchen & Bar, the casual restaurant at The Woodlands Resort, has hired chef de cuisine Jonathan Lestingi. He brings an extensive resume to his role, including time at three-star Michelin restaurant The Inn at Little Washington and New Orleans restaurants including Brennan’s and Willa Jean. 

The chef has expanded the restaurant’s comfort food menu with dishes such as truffle and crab deviled eggs, steak frites, blackened redfish, and Bordeaux-braised short ribs with black eyed peas, pecan gremolata, and fresh horseradish.

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