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 entr?e 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.
Grill Marx's menu is composed of dishes made with fresh ingredients, such as meats culled from Tischler's Market in Plainfield, and using filtered reverse-osmosis water. Appetizers include the hand-pattied Louisiana-style crab cakes, which are sweetly kissed with a cajun remoulade mayo ($9), and the BLT baked clams, which play peek-a-boo under a blanket of tomatoes, bacon, and herb cracker crumbs ($9). Noontime noshers can wrap mitts around a bevy of juicy burgers and sandwiches, such as the black eye, a double-layered rib eye topped with mozzarella on an egg bun ($9), or stab forks into Strawberry Fields Forever ($9), a baby spinach salad decorated with fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, candied pecans, and lemon poppyseed dressing. Evening entrees include lemon chicken parmesan sidekicked with artichoke hearts and fresh spinach ($15), and an 8-ounce hand-cut filet mignon plated with sliced portabella mushrooms ($24). Grill Marx augments its atmosphere with seasonal beers on tap and the invisible rays of WiFi.
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.
Created in 1981 on the back of a few family recipes, Buona’s serves up appetite-satiating italian-beef-based sandwiches and comfort-fare classics. The menu is packed with palate-pleasing favorites such as hot dogs, sandwiches, grilled paninis, and thin-crust pizzas. Try an original Buona beef sandwich ($4.95 for a 7" size) made from a family recipe and served on freshly baked italian bread with natural gravy and beef that arrives tender, lean, and sheepish following an in-house roasting. Larger feasts such as the barbecue baby-back ribs ($9.95 for a half slab) or the grilled salmon cibatta ($7.25) quell the quagmires of even the most sovereign starvations. To keep meals as light as a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try one of eight crisp, hand-tossed salads, such as the pesto balsamico, tossed with whole-wheat pasta, pesto, and toasted pine nuts, and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette ($7.25).