About Us

Our History. Our History. Restaurants, Inc.’s origins date all the way back to 1985 when the original partners, Gayle Carstens and Michael Crowley purchased the franchise rights for the Old Country Buffet. Soon after, buffets started popping up in Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The buffets still continue to be the workhorses for the company today.

Then in 1998, feeling the creative talents of (then-Champps) Chef John Ursick were not reaching their full potential, they brainstormed the idea of Stokes Grill & Bar. Stokes is a unique southwestern concept featuring one of Omaha’s best wine lists with over two hundred selections. After a very successful first decade, Stokes opened a second location in the Old Market of Omaha. In 2012, the original Stokes moved into a larger building near Boys Town on Dodge.

Moving into uncharted territory, their next opening was the HuHot Mongolian Grill at the beginning of 2001. The opening of HuHot in Omaha was the first in a chain of franchises that originates out of Missoula, Montana. With the new booming concept, Gayle brought on two new managing partners, Luke Wilson and Brendan Crowley. After a successful inaugural year, the Omaha World-Herald featured it as one of Omaha’s ten best restaurants. This success spurred a growth process that spread Huhots all over Iowa, South Dakota, Eastern Nebraska and Kansas.

The Twisted Fork, opened in May of 2008 in the heart of the Historic Old Market District in Omaha just down the street from our Stokes location. Gayle teamed up with Stokes partner and chef John Ursick, his HuHot partners Luke Wilson and Brendan Crowley and newest partner and long time associate John Wade to create this restaurant. The Twisted Fork offers comfort food with ‘cowboy twist’. The menu features comfort food dishes that Stokes Executive Chef John Ursick and Gayle grew up enjoying. This cowboy chic restaurant is a blend of Texas bravado and down home hospitality.

In the summer of 2009 Restaurants Inc. brought to Des Moines, Iowa what National Restaurant News toted as one of the hottest new franchise concepts in the country, Smashburger. Smashburger blends the quality of a made from scratch burger with a fast-casual dining concept.

Most recently Restaurants Inc. became the first franchise of the Pepper Jax Grill, bringing their legendary Philly Steak sandwiches to Iowa and South Dakota. This quick casual concept’s secret is their ‘Wow!’ seasoning that they use not only on their famous Philly’s but also on gourmet rice bowls, giant wraps and fresh salads.

Restaurants Inc. absolutely lives up to their slogan, “A place for every taste!”