The third largest city in Illinois, Rockford is a famous industrial area with great historical and architectural significance. Also known as the ‘Forest City,’ Rockford is home to a number of cultural and historical parks and buildings, such as the Anderson Japanese Gardens, the Burpee Museum of Natural History. Rockford is also a must-visit for restaurants. From Italian cuisine to Scandinavian eats, here is a list of the top ten gastronomic experiences in Rockford.
Social Urban Bar and Restaurant
Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
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An innovative and contemporary restaurant in Rockford is the Social Urban Bar and Restaurant. The menu is seasonal so there is always something new to try every time you visit. Taking their inspiration from local produce and meats, the Social Urban Bar and Restaurants aims to maintain a farm-to-table work ethic, and has created a number of familiar dishes but with a modern twist. Highlights from the menu include the small plates of crisp pork belly tacos with onion, cilantro, lime, guacamole, butterkase cheese and red cabbage slaw. Large plates can include hot chicken sorghum demi with hoecake, collard greens and garlic. These sumptuous dishes are finished off with a sweet treat of Chef’s choice ice cream or cinnamon roll bread pudding with peanut butter frosting and marshmallow.
Bringing the flavours of Italy to Rockford is the aim for family-run and traditional Lino’s Restaurant. Serving the community of Rockford for more than 40 years, Lino’s is a firm favorite among visitors. A warm and welcoming establishment, Lino’s offers the comforting feeling of home-cooked food. Popular choices include their pizza specialities, but also their starters of toasted ravioli, main courses of parmigiana, gnocchi, tortellini, as well as their range of steaks, seafood plates and po’ boy sandwiches. There is also a Festa Dinner menu available which is ordered by the table. Wines are chosen to seamlessly accompany and enhance their dishes. With interesting décor, and live jazz music, a visit to Lino’s Restaurant is one that diners won’t forget.
A hidden gem in Rockford, Marc’s Fusion Café is popular choice within the city’s growing list of restaurants. A small, unassuming but charming venue, Marc’s Fusion Café serves a number of international dishes and cuisines with an Asian twist. Popular dishes include the Jim’s fusion entrée; the cherry tomato and cilantro salad; the fajita sushi; pork chops; Mai Tai; and scallops with wasabi pepper sauce. The menu is divided between land and sea dishes, and there is something for every appetite and taste. Marc’s Fusion Café has a welcoming and inviting atmosphere, and this coupled with delicious food, has diners returning again and again.
A popular destination for food lovers in Rockford is the Five Forks Market. During the day, this innovative venue serves some of the best lunch dishes in Rockford, from grilled paninis to salads, soups and flatbread pizzas. As the sun sets, Five Forks Market turns into a buzzing tapas restaurant, serving dishes such as beef tenderloin trio, pepper garlic crusted tuna and some of the best crab cakes around. There is also an extensive wine list with a wine to suit every dish, and regular wine tasting on the third Thursday of every month. With friendly and attentive service, Five Forks Market strives to make every diner feel at home and have an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Serving up their life-long family recipes, Vito’s Ristorante brings the best quality Italian cuisine to Rockford. With a simple but inviting interior, Vito’s Ristorante offers a menu full of flavor. Highlights are the chef’s antipasti tray as a starter, the house special Italian salad, panini of filet mignon, orange glazed salmon, and a wide variety of pasta dishes. Executive Chef Vito is also a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award in 2003, and strives to make every diner feel welcome with his personal service. Those with a sweet tooth will also enjoy the dessert selection, and can tuck into crème brulee made with Vito’s choice of flavor, tiramisu and their flourless chocolate torte.
Headed by Chef Paul Sletten, and together with his team, Abreo Restaurant aims to push the boundaries of gourmet cuisine in Rockford. Menus available at this innovative venue are both original and seasonal, using ingredients sourced from local farmers and producers. Visitors to Abreo can enjoy their meals in four distinctive dining areas, from the newly remodelled bar, the private dining area, the outdoor garden patio and the wine cellar. Abreo is the perfect venue for an intimate dinner with friends or a large celebratory occasion with family. The drinks menu also receives the same attention as their food with more than 90 wines available, and more than 20 by the glass. If wine is not to your taste, there is also a wide variety of beers and cocktails. With a great selection of food, beverages, and an exciting atmosphere, it is no wonder that Abreo features regularly on critics and food lovers lists of places to eat in Rockford.
A little piece of Sweden in Rockford, Stockholm Inn has been an ambassador for Scandinavian fare since 1968. Over the years, the Stockholm Inn has become a popular destination for breakfasts in the city, with the restaurant boasting over 2,500 servings every weekend. Using homemade recipes, the menu at the Stockholm Inn offers diners a wide variety of food choices, from their famous Swedish pancakes, their split pea soup, kroppkakor, meatballs and Icelandic fried cod. When diners are not sampling the delights of Scandinavian cuisine, the Stockholm Inn also has a range of unique gifts and imports from Northern Europe. The Stockholm Inn transports visitors to Scandinavia, with their delicious food and engaging atmosphere.
Situated in the heart of Rockford’s River District, Octane Interlounge burst onto the Rockford restaurant circuit in 1997, and has been at the forefront of innovative cuisine ever since. Coining the term ‘Interlounge,’ Octane were one of the first internet cafes in Rockford, and was awarded the honour of ‘Best New Business’ in 1998 as a result. More recent accolades include the 2014 ‘Most Unique Menu in Rockford’ and the café was also shortlisted as having one of the top three best burgers in the city, as well as the best coffee in the region. With charming and eccentric names for their dishes, favorites from their menu include their ‘modern tv dinner’ of Eickman’s flank steak with seasoned potatoes, sweet corn, creamy garlic and herb sauce; and their Octane burger which is pan-seared with choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, grain mustard and garlic mayo. The Octane Interlounge uses local produce and sourced ingredients and do their best to support regional businesses.
Run by the Salamone family and passed through the generations, Franchesco’s Ristorante still maintains its traditions and personality. The restaurant was established in 1986, which marked twenty years since the Salamone family arrived to America from the little village of Aragona in Sicily. Following a brief closure, Franchesco’s Ristorante relocated to Rockford in 2009. The menu features tantalising pasta dishes, strip steaks, the freshest seafood and delectable wines to suit every plate and palette. With exceptional service and live music, an evening at Franchesco’s Ristorante will not be a disappointment.
Since 1995, DiTullio’s Italian Market and Café has specialized in serving the very best of Italian and European fare in Rockford. Popular dishes include their prosciutto di Parma, authentic Parmigiano reggiano, sandwiches, fresh salads, grilled panini, and delectable desserts and sweet treats. DiTullio’s also has a range of artisanal breads cooked in a brick fire oven and the highest quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars available to purchase too, together with great and friendly service. Food is flavorful and comes in generous portions.