Before convertibles, or highways, or paved streets in Chicago's suburbs, a little field house fronted by two gas pumps sat on a two-lane dirt road that some people called North Avenue. The house's residents pumped gas for thirsty cars and whipped up meals for hungry travelers, and their little business became an oasis for those on their way in or out of the city. Times changed, and as the town grew the little business kept pace, transforming over 75 years from a gas station and tavern into Ki's Steak and Seafood.
Today, Executive Chef Daniel has a few more tools at his disposal than the original proprietor's stove top and frying pan. He works in a professionally outfitted kitchen, churning out hand-cut black angus steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and roast duck. Meanwhile, his saucier whips up endless batches of bernaise and bourdelaise sauce to drizzle over steaks or play a gourmet version of bobbing for apples.
The little dirt road that ran past the house became a busy, concrete vein of commerce, pumping car-fulls of customers into the establishment's parking lot. However, despite this urban sprawl, the owners have done their best to ensure that the view from the windows remains nostalgically delightful. Their restaurant sits on six acres of farmland, and its grand picture windows overlook a rustic barn occupied by peacocks, sheep, and rabbits, and framed by flower beds and ponds.
The dishes served at Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi are almost too beautiful to eat?although their fresh ingredients will likely persuade diners to dig in anyway. Colorful maki, for instance, arrive filled with seafood such as soft shell crab, scallops, and spicy salmon and sided with swirls of sauce, while slices of sushi and sashimi are arranged to resemble artful, edible gardens. And hibachi entrees of both surf and turf varieties are even cooked with dramatic flair, sizzled on a fire-spitting tabletop grill by a skilled, heat-resistant chef.
If patrons turn their attention away from the fire and flavors emanating off of simmering hibachis, they'll notice a full service bar complete with an extensive Sake menu. Imported Sake, Saketini, and Sake cocktail are served along with Japanese, Imported and Domestic beer. A large flat-screen TV accompanies the bartender who creates daily drink specials from a wide variety of quality beverages. Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi rounds out the dining experience in with an outdoor patio in warmer months for an added element of peace and comfort.
When Rowena and Joe Salas bought the Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles nine years ago, they knew they were taking on the pressure of not only being business owners but caretakers as well. The landmark hotel’s founder, Colonel Edward J. Baker, built it in 1928 as an economic and communal anchor for his hometown.
“We have a responsibility to the city,” Ms. Salas says. “People here know the hotel’s story and we want to be true to the original vision.”
The Salases have protected the hotel’s legacy, carefully preserving its Spanish romantic revival architectural style while updating its amenities and polishing its décor. But they’ve also made their own mark by reconfiguring much of the ground-level space and making room for Rox City Grill. The Main Street eatery has itself become a fixture in downtown St. Charles’s revival as a destination for nightlife and entertainment.
Like the hotel under the Salases’ stewardship, Rox puts a modern spin on a classic setting. The business-casual grillroom makes a comfortable venue for dining on the prime steaks and fresh fish prepared with creative flair by Executive Chef David Hassan. Dinner crowds clamor for the 20-ounce bone-in angus rib eye and the pan-seared tilapia, served with crushed yukon gold potatoes and lemon butter. The starters menu changes with the seasons and is printed upside-down during a lunar eclipse, but it usually includes popular stalwarts such as tenderloin sliders and the jumbo-shrimp cocktail.
On weekend nights, Rox gets especially lively with live piano sing-alongs in the lounge and a bustling mix of locals and hotel guests mingling over martinis and wine chosen from the extensive cellar. The restaurant is closed Monday and Sunday, but the lounge remains open to serve drinks and the starters menu seven nights a week. Weekend patrons at Rox are also likely to spot Joe Salas himself, dining with friends or clients and keeping an eye on the new legacy he’s creating in the heart of St. Charles.
At St. Charles Place Steak House, plates of USDA Choice steaks and upscale seafood complement white tablecloths, leopard-print chairs, and hardwood walls covered in vintage posters. Chefs round up clams, lobster, and crab for seaside starters, such as the signature oysters rockefeller, and toss fresh salads with both seafood and slices of grilled chicken breast or filet mignon. For entrees, half-pound tenderloin steak burgers and char-grilled racks of lamb offer savory alternatives to pasta plates such as Cajun fettuccini alfredo. Outside the dining room?s throwback decor, St. Charles Place Steak House also feeds crowds with banquets served amid a fresh, floral centerpiece that, through the magic of photosynthesis, converts the elegant crystal chandelier?s light into buttery dinner rolls.
In 1977, Eddy Ho came to America with the dream of opening his own restaurant. In the 35 years since, he has lived that dream three times over, founding a trio of establishments that spotlight the showiest styles of Japanese cooking while commemorating the year of his transpacific crossing. Whether it's filet mignon, chicken, and seafood chopped by a flurry of clicking blades on hibachi grills or a sleek roll of sushi assembled by deft hands, each entrée arrives in a dining room decked with hints of traditional Japanese architecture, including subtle geometric patterns, crimson accents, and painstakingly manicured flora. Glasses of imported Japanese beer and sake stand ready to accompany each meal, helping diners toast to good fortune or play a glass harp rendition of their college fight song.
Jonathan’s Char House blends the experience of upscale dining with a casual ambiance. In the kitchen, the chefs pay the same attention to detail when making their homemade soups and potatoes as they do when char-grilling new york strips, rib eyes, and salmon filets. They can prepare all meats blackened or Greek–style, and the menu also features diverse options such as baby back ribs slathered in caramelized barbecue sauce and vegetarian pasta dishes. Friday night, locals pile in for an all-you-can-eat fish fry.
An extensive wine list and selection of craft beers compliments the steak and seafood, which are served in a handsome dining room boasting dark wood furnishings and a built-in fireplace to keep the kittens warm. Headshots of notable dinner guests line the wall above the bar, where crowds gather to watch the game and sip old-fashioneds. Live music wafts through the air on select nights, infusing the formal dining room with an animated spirit.