Joe first spotted Anita on the dance floor. It was salsa night, and Joe thought to himself that he must meet the Asian lady with the moves. Nine years later, Joe and Anita are now engaged, though many think they are already married.
Joe Torres and Anita Chu (Ani) also own Ani Joe's Karaoke Kafe
, which opened in February in the cute section of Bartlett. Both are pretty big karaoke-ers. Anita likes the classics. We're talking Patsy Cline's "Crazy" or something by Journey. While Joe likes rock, gospel, and hits from the ’50s.
They say they've been thinking about opening a place for several years now. They loved to do karaoke, but it wasn't always easy to find the ideal spot. Most good places only offered it toward the end of the week. They envisioned a family-friendly, non-smokey space that offered karaoke seven days a week, with no tipping, so you wouldn't be waiting until midnight to belt out "My Funny Valentine" after all the owner's friends got a turn at the mike.
Through their karaoking, they had come to meet different groups of like-minded folks, who've since made their way to Ani Joe's.
"It's kind of funny because normally when you go to a restaurant, everybody's sitting at their own table," Torres says. "But when they do karaoke here, everybody's all over the place. It's like a family reunion."
Anita is originally from Hong Kong. Her family moved here in the ’80s. Torres hails from New Jersey and moved here for work. Torres has a background in pharmaceuticals and start-ups.
"I thought it was going to be easier because of the start-ups I did, but this is a completely different monster," he says.
The first order of business was to decide on the menu. They knew that Mexican, Chinese, and Italian are always popular. The spot they took over was once a Mexican place, so they decided to go with that.
They have nachos and fajitas and burritos — all the standards. They decided to cover all the bases by offering American dishes, such as burgers, and breakfast all day.
Ani Joe's also has a full bar, with all the cocktails you could want such as margaritas, an apple martini, Sex on the Beach, and Cuba Libres. There are drink specials on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. With every bucket of beer, you get the seventh free and there are discounts on shots.
Torres says that the difference you get at Ani's is the human touch. "We talk to people," he says. "We get to know them. They get to know us. We make them feel at home."
5808 Stage Road in Bartlett