William Ho’s is a staple of Shorewood dining. It’s held down the south end of the suburb for two decades and continues to draw diners from all over the city.
Ho’s specializes in Chinese and Hong Kong seafood entrees, has an affordable lunch buffet and features a massive menu, but mixed written and word-of-mouth reviews generated a spotty reputation. It had been about 10 years since we dined at William Ho’s, so we decided to check it out and update our opinions about this classic near-North Shore eatery.
Upon entering the restaurant, two large tanks -- one with a few lazy lobsters and one empty -- greet diners. Unfortunately, the tanks don’t make a great first impression since they need a good scrubbing, however, my kids enjoyed looking at the clawed crustaceans.
The décor was similar to the tanks: in need of some TLC, but still a hit with the kids. The large dragon sculpture, tasseled chandeliers and cove-like booths made the dining experience fun and cultural. However, a closer look reveals the need for a facelift, or at the very least, a good dusting.
On a quiet Wednesday, we were one of two parties at the restaurant, so service, as it should have been, was very good. We ordered a silver pot of tea and glasses of water, along with an appetizer of crab Rangoon. The Rangoon was the high point of our meal. It came with four freshly deep-fried pieces bulging with a warm cream cheese middle.
Our group of four each ate one of the pieces of fried wanton and were left wanting more, which was the ideal way to welcome our entrees. After such a pleasing appetizer, our expectations were high, but unfortunately, only some of them were met.
All of the entrees came with egg drop soup and an egg roll. The egg drop soup was good, although it could have been warmer. We appreciated the large, thin egg pieces and that it wasn’t made with fish sauce.
The egg rolls, however, were disappointing. They were very large, almost the size of a burrito, but weren’t hot enough, rather flavorless and had tiny pieces of shrimp that might have come from a can. My dining mate was particularly disappointed, since he ordered a vegetarian egg roll and doesn’t like shrimp.
The entrees ranged in their appeal. My garlic shrimp was good, with fat pieces of fresh shrimp in a thick brown garlic sauce. I would have liked it spicier, and it was very salty, but overall I found it tasty enough to eat two servings. My dinner date ordered the curry chicken, and this meal was a bomb. The chicken pieces were fatty and so overcooked they practically dissolved in your mouth. The vegetables were over sautéed and limp, and the tomato chunks were mealy.
Our kids split a third entrée, the sweet and sour chicken, which was better than the curry. The medium-sized, deep fried chicken pieces were tender -- but not too tender -- but the dish came with a ridiculously large bowl of sweet dipping sauce.
We were slightly annoyed by the small bowl used to serve the communal white rice because we had to ask twice to have it refilled. The fortune cookies at the end were a huge hit with the kids.
Overall, Ho’s food is rather greasy, and for some, this is a deal breaker. However, others will appreciate the salty greasiness and embrace it as Chinese comfort food.
William Ho’s is definitely affordable. Entrees cost about $10 and the lunch buffet is a mere $6. However, the experience is inconsistent, so it’s best to keep expectations low. More so, if diners find a dish they like, they should probably stick with it because other menu items have the potential to disappoint.
We probably won’t return to William Ho’s because the East Side has Chinese restaurants we like more, such as the Emperor of China on Brady Street. However, we'll consider having Ho's food delivered, just so the classic lobster-topped delivery vehicle rolls up in front of our house. The kids would love that.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.