For as long as Lina Wang can remember, she said she has wanted to open a restaurant. Wang, the owner of Cast Iron Southern Grill in Spring, is a self-taught chef whose culinary passion drove her to enroll in her first cooking class at the age of 8.
For many years, Wang worked in an office job with the Canadian government, pursuing her cooking aspirations in her spare time. An avid traveler, Wang said she took cooking classes in France, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and Beijing, learning different cooking techniques and studying flavor profiles during vacations.
“[When I worked for the Canadian government], I’d come home from work and I’d cook, and that would be my relief,” Wang said. “I don’t feel that way here—I go home now and I still think of new recipes.”
When Wang and her husband moved from Canada to Spring, in 2008, she said they were disappointed in the lack of quality wholesome food options in her neighborhood.
“This area really only has fast-food restaurants, and living here, you really feel the impact of really not having any good places to go,” Wang said. “I wanted something that could not only serve the community but be a dining option for the lack of options we have here.”
In September 2015, Wang opened The Runaway Plate, a drive-thru restaurant that allowed patrons to order healthy, hot food on the go. But as the grab-and-go business flourished, Wang said she still wanted to create a dine-in restaurant serving American-style comfort food with a twist.
“We wanted to create something local—a place where you can meet your neighbor … order something high-quality that is not fast food in a nice, comfortable ambiance,” Wang said.
In August, Wang opened Cast Iron Southern Grill in the same shopping center as The Runaway Plate. She said the restaurant is a rustic, modern concept where neighbors can enjoy a comforting dish and a signature cocktail or glass of wine from the full-service bar.
The eatery serves American-style cuisine with Asian and Creole influences, and it features high-quality ingredients and gluten-free options, Wang said.
The made-from-scratch menu includes everything from Southern-inspired dishes, like an 8-ounce handbreaded chicken-fried chicken, to Asian-inspired appetizers like Bang Bang Shrimp, lightly breaded shrimp tossed in creamy Sriracha sauce and topped with green onions.
Wang also included dishes and drinks that pay homage to her Canadian roots, like the Poutine-style french fries topped with brown gravy and mozzarella cheese, which is one of eight gourmet fries dishes on the menu.
However, Wang said three weeks after Cast Iron Southern Grill opened, Hurricane Harvey hit the Greater Houston area, bringing 2 feet of floodwaters into both the Cast Iron Southern Grill and The Runaway Plate, closing both locations for several weeks.
As water receded, Wang said the same neighbors and community members she set out to serve when she opened the restaurants came to her side, helping to excavate damaged materials and rebuild both of the restaurants. With the community’s help, Cast Iron Southern Grill and The Runaway Plate were able to reopen full time for lunch and dinner in December.
Wang said the community’s help inspired her to pick up the pieces and keep going.
“I wasn’t sure if we were going to reopen again,” Wang said. “From an energy perspective, I’d given everything just to open Cast Iron Grill, and I felt so defeated. But [the community’s support] literally got me out of bed. They got me motivated.”
28533 Spring Trails Ridge, Ste. 108, Spring
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat .11 a.m.-10 p.m., closed Mondays