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.
Today, Waterman Winery and Vineyards, Inc. is a 12-acre vineyard, lush with 40 varieties of primarily French-American grapes. However, in 1998, the winery began as something else entirely—a fanciful idea in the minds of three middle school teachers nearing retirement. After spending years specializing in agriculture, chemistry, and social sciences, they banded together to found the winery, outfitting it with eco-friendly production techniques that have earned them various sustainability awards. Nowadays, the team produces a wide variety of wines, from cherry wine and spiced reds to crisp whites. Visitors can sample the eco-friendly wines during on-site tastings, or purchase bottles to take home and sip on their own time.
Abraham's Bar & Grille hosts casual gatherings fueled by burgers and steaks. Whether dunking chips into spinach-artichoke dip, sipping beers, or tucking into a plate of shrimp scampi, guests at Abraham's have a slew of weekly events to choose from. Those who work late can conclude a long shift at 7 a.m. when Abraham’s opens just for third shifters, welcoming nighttime employees and billiards-loving lions with a full bar, hot food, darts, and karaoke. A DJ spins tunes on Fri-Tini Nights, when the bar becomes a dance club facilitated by discounted martinis and free appetizers. The restaurant is connected to the Hickory Grove Banquet & Convention Center, which houses five rentable halls.
Open since 1945, Elmer's Doghouse has been a haven for generations of diners looking for cold brews, hot meals, and a set of familiar faces to enjoy them with. At this casual neighborhood spot, the kitchen staff still dishes out burgers, pizzas, and steak dinners lit by the neon glow of beer signs. On Monday nights, these meals emerge amid the tuneful clatter of the bar’s acoustic open mic, refueling audiences and musicians alike. Other musical entertainments include karaoke nights and live bands, who often coax diners into dancing or just giving them a bite of their food.
Glossy floors and shiny wood walls line the room, setting the stage for UKAI Sushi & Chinese's centerpiece—a burbling fountain, home to a towering plant and cascading waters flowing down a rock formation. Though the scene is captivating, the main attraction is the menu, covering both Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Drawing on Japanese traditions, the chefs craft specialty rolls, some with surprising ingredients. For instance, the Angel roll pairs sliced apples with shrimp and crab meat, and the Snow White roll wraps up coconut sauce and tuna without attracting evil queens. Conversely, they specialize in Chinese-American staples, as well as a lineup of chef's specials, including coconut shrimp drizzled in coconut sauce and honey-walnut shrimp.
For the past 30 years, Nardi has never stopped honing his skills as a cook, and he now feeds the masses at his restaurant, Nardi's on Chicago. Nardi's celebrates Joliet's local history as well as casual Italian and American food. In a dining room decked out with a series of vintage photographs that depict former Joliet businesses and bridges, classic pasta, steak entrees and craft cocktails top tables. Nardi uses only organic produce and free-range meats in these dishes. He crafts his signature offering, a simple platter of spaghetti and meatballs, from his grandmother's own recipe.