By WVUA 23 Reporter Emily Collins

When the April 27, 2011, tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, many employees were on the job.

That’s certainly the case for several employees of Hokkaido — a Japanese sushi and hibachi restaurant. Until that day, Hokkaido was located at the corner of 15th Street and Dr. Edward Hillard Drive in the spot where Little Caesars now sits. Now the restaurant is across the street next to Taco Casa on 15th Street in a brand-new building with expanded seating and parking.

But on April 27, 2011, Hokkaido’s chefs were there preparing for the evening shift when disaster rained down around them.

The business’ owners visited the site as soon as they could, unsure of exactly what they’d find.

“The first time I got to see the restaurant after it got hit was about three or four days later,” said co-owner Charlie Lao. “When I came out, it was leveled.”

Everything was gone, except the walk-in cooler.

“That’s actually where the workers hid when the tornado came through,” said past employee Kevin Liew.

With everything gone, all they could do was rebuild, and 18 months later Hokkaido had a new location and a larger lease on life.

“We are so grateful that we lived through all that, and thank god for that,” Lao said. “And to see this town rebuild, with everything new again, it makes us very happy.”

Categories: Community, Local News