Downtown Wilmette is not exactly Restaurant Row, yet.
But the arrival of a new dining establishment like Dowize Bistro, a Thai-sushi outlet located at 1107-A Central Ave., is welcomed by foodies and fellow restaurant owners alike.
“It’s a nice addition to give a variety of eateries to choose from,” said Wilmette resident Sunny Feely, one of the many passers-by who took a menu from Dowize’s front entrance.
The Thai fusion restaurant is expected to open at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Two doors west, Alberto Martinez, owner of the Big Tomato Pizzeria for the past 17 months, said the new dining kid on the block helps all others.
“I always feel the more restaurants open in this area, (the more) people will think of this area as a place they’re going to dine after a movie or going shopping,” Martinez said. “If you notice, anytime you go buy a car, there’s always car dealers around. You always have a choice."
Martinez said potential customers to Dowize could notice his pizzeria, too.
“As they come over here and park in front of my restaurant, they’re going to notice me, too." he said. "We have a couple of parking lots around here. I think this area is good for restaurants, especially if they can find parking easily.”
With a Japanese restaurant, a hot-dog emporium and an ice-cream shop also on the same block, Central has a variety of culinary cultures. But the owners of Dowize Bistro know full well they’re the first Thai restaurant in Village Center. And they have a decade of experience running the Pan-Asian Dozika restaurant two miles away in downtown Evanston.
Kamolporn Weeraprajuk, more affectionally known as Pon, has been busy telling Wilmette residents when she’ll open while giving more information to those curious passers-by.
From Akai Hana to Dowize
Born in Thailand, Pon went to Northwestern Business College in Chicago. Her first dip in the restaurant business was in Wilmette as a server at Akai Hana, the longtime Japanese eatery across from Edens Plaza at 3223 Lake Ave. Pon later joined her husband in opening a Panda Express-style fast-food outlet in New Orleans. Despite growing up in tropical Southeast Asia, Pon did not like the sultry Gulf Coast climate and eventually moved back to Chicago.
After running Dozika in Evanston, Pon and Suwit scouted out Wilmette.
“We asked the neighbors how about if we have Thai food here?” she said.
Pon says the response was positive and people told her they wanted healthy foods like Thai cuisines.
“I looked at Kenilworth – they don’t have many restaurants there. But this is downtown. Evanston has many restaurants in its downtown, but it’s not the same in Wilmette,” Pon said.
Pon and her husband, Suwit Suwanrattanabus, will operate the eight-table, four-booth restaurant. Tanyarat Amekhum, known as Tanya, is the chef who will turn up, or down, the staple Thai spice to order. Ekarin Weeraprajuk (“Andy,”), Pon’s brother, will be a jack of all trades in running the daily operation. A separate chef will handle sushi.
So why the interesting Thai-Japanese mix?
“I love sushi, that’s why,” Pon said.
Unlike other restaurants, which take either Monday or Tuesday off, Dowize Bistro will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.