By Aaron Moser
Six and a half years ago, Anita Chu and Joe Torres had a dream and a plan to open a karaoke bar. That plan became a reality for the couple when they opened Ani Joe’s Karaoke Kafe at 5808 Stage Road in Bartlett.
The restaurant and bar sits behind the storefronts of the Bartlett Towne Square shopping center and displays the combination of their first names.
They decided on this name well before they bought the property in February. Torres said that a little bit of luck allowed them to pick this location in Bartlett.
“We were searching for different places, but we actually liked Bartlett a lot better,” Torres said. “We were lucky that the gentleman that was here before us was selling it.”
The menu consists of Mexican-american cuisine, including hamburgers, hot dogs, seafood, enchiladas, burritos and tacos among other items. Ani Joe’s also serves breakfast all day.
Chu and Torres says that most of the recipes come from the chefs who worked for the former restaurant, Los Comales #2, and who now work for them. Chu and Torres said they added their own seasonings to the recipes along with adding carribean beans and some Columbian dishes to the menu.
They also created and added a few menu items from their own ideas. Torres said he created the “hot dog loco” a hot dog that is topped with fries, cheese and peppers. He brought his New Jersey background to the menu when he added the Jersey cheesesteak and the Jersey dog.
Torres also created the double joe burger, which is two beef patties, bacon and an egg on top of cheddar cheese.
Opening a restaurant is a new undertaking for the couple, as Chu was an accountant and chief financial officer in her past job, while Torres worked with third-party logistics along with opening three startups.
“We found out it’s a completely different monster,” Torres said, laughing. “It’s fun because that’s what we wanted, but it’s a completely different monster.”
The couple said that they enjoyed karaoke and would travel to Mississippi, Memphis and Millington to go to karaoke restaurants. However, the environment and the fact that karaoke would only be provided one late night a week made them want to try something different.
They wanted to create a family-friendly environment, and so the inside of their restaurant is smoke-free and drunkenness is not welcome. They also wanted karaoke every night and so they provide that after 5 p.m. every day.
Their vision is to have grandparents, parents and their children enjoy a night together.
“It’s a true family atmosphere that they can spend time together,” Chu said.
“We like to promote to the families also to get their kids singing too,” Torres said. “When we get the kids up there it’s awesome.”
“It’s really cute,” Chu added.
The couple felt that Bartlett provided both a central location and safe community.
“We liked it so much that we’re planning on selling our home and buying a house here in Bartlett,” Torres said.
They said Bartlett was a place where the city and surrounding communities could meet and enjoy karaoke together.
“We try to make friends with everybody that comes in,” Torres said. “When you go to a restaurant you never get to meet the owners. Here I like to make it feel like a family, so people come in and before they leave we make sure they know us.”
Their goal is to have everybody in the restaurant talking among each other and singing the lyrics that appear on the big screen.
“When people come in they may not know anybody, but when they leave they feel like they know the whole restaurant,” Chu said. “They have made friends and they feel like this is a home.”
Sundays between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. groups of eight or more can show their church bulletin to receive a 10% discount on their entrees. They also offer drink discounts throughout the week. Lunch offers are available weekdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ani Joe’s is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. For more information or to place a to-go order, call 901-618-2884. Ani Joe’s is on Facebook as @Ani Joe’s Karaoke Kafe.