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Restaurants

Gallery 2

Eklund Brothers Cafe

Brothers Axel A. and Arthur Eklund along with Axel’s wife Hildur who was the cook founded Eklund Brothers Café at 614 – 7th Street in 1922. They were the originators of the Smörgåsbord in Rockford. Later on Axel F. Eklund Jr and his wife Mildred also joined the restaurant. They served such fare as home cooked lutfisk, Swedish pancakes and meatballs which were strong attractions for the large Swedish population living in the Seventh Street – Broadway area. It was investable that they would outgrow their quarters and after serving customers for twenty years at this location they would sell this restaurant and move to a remodeled farm house on East State Street Road on the outskirts of Rockford and open the Sweden House Restaurant. The Eklund Bros. Café continued in business under that name but was now owned by Clyde H. Lissenden.

Sweden House Restaurant

After the move in 1942 to 4615 East State Street the Eklund’s Sweden House Restaurant featured a large parking area, a stuga for private parties and a gift shop specializing in Scandinavian imports. They continued to serve traditional Swedish and American foods and their famous Smörgåsbord every Friday evening from 5 till 9:30.

The Sweden House Restaurant shown here after extensive remodeling to the farmhouse where they still served breakfast, lunch and dinner in an old world atmosphere. The Eklund name was added to the Sweden House name in the 1960's after Sweden House Smörgåsbord Restaurant's opened in Naperville, Illinois and several locations in Florida. These were not affiliated with Eklund's Sweden House Restaurant of Rockford.

A view of the Sweden House Restaurant from East State Street. Notice the rows of bushes lining the frontage and the large trees, and the dancing couple adorning the sign. Due to road and restaurant expansions this view would soon change.

A modern motel was added to the west of the restaurant in 1964 when Axel Eklund Jr. took over operations. More information is available in the motel section of this website. Sadly Axel Jr. was killed in an automobile accident in 1974. Ownership of the property was assumed by the Fridh Corporation, the restaurant later closed and the building was redeveloped in the late 1980's into a banking facility and offices.

The Mayflower Restaurant

The Mayflower Restaurant, 5040 North Second Street, Loves Park. Opened in 1933. A very popular restaurant under long time owner Tony Salamone. Famous for fresh cut steaks,  fresh seafood, chicken and their famous Bookbinder Soup.

The Mayflower under new ownership closed in 1999. After extensive remodeling it opened under a a variety of owners and names including LeMere's Mayflower, Morning Glory at the Mayflower, J. Richards Mayflower and the Firefly, all which failed. Currently occupied by the Hope and Anchor, an English style pub and restaurant.

Click on menu above for the Mayflower menu

The Salad Bowl

Bill and Jessie Beasley would open The Salad Bowl restaurant at 4321 West State Street in 1957 in the former Trudy’s Party House location. The restaurant was in an old farmhouse built in 1899 that was converted to a restaurant around 1950. The Beasley’s would eventually sell the restaurant to Harry and Reba Wardecker who continued to operate the Salad Bowl Restaurant until 1968. They would sell the restaurant to James Divis who remodeled the facilities and reopened as the Open Hearth Restaurant.

Open Hearth Family Restaurant

James Divis would open the Open Hearth Family Restaurant at 4321 West State Street after he purchased the restaurant from the owner of the Salad Bowl in 1970. He continued operating the successful business until a fire struck when a steak on the grill erupted in flames and entered the ventilation system of the converted farmhouse on July 31, 1979. The fire caused extensive fire and water damage and the restaurant was not re-opened.

Bishop's Cafeteria

Click on above graphic to view Bishop's Grand Opening ad from 1930

Bishop's Cafeteria opened on February 21, 1930 at 210 North Main Street. A long time popular downtown cafeteria Bishop's was famous for its buffet style service. After fifty eight years downtown they would move to a new freestanding location in 1967 at Colonial Village Mall.

An interior view of Bishops Cafeteria at 210 North Main Street

Bishop's Buffet

Bishops Buffet, 4230 Newburg Road. This location was one of the 14 famous eating houses of the Iowa based Bishop's Buffet and Cafeteria system. Bishop’s moved to Colonial Village Shopping Center in 1967 after closing the downtown location at 210 North Main Street. The restaurant was closed by Bishop's in 1997 after 30 years at this location.

Maid Rite Restaurants

Muscatine, Iowa was the birthplace of Maid-Rite Sandwich shops in 1926. The first Maid-Rite sandwich shop in Rockford opened in 1928 by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Estes at 812 West State Street and was the twelfth store in the chain. A second Maid-Rite opened a couple years afterwards at 1522 Broadway by Florence and Emily Termondt. The location on West State was soon operated by Charles Termondt. A location was opened at 1116 Auburn Street in 1968 in the former Uptown Diary Ice Cream Shop by John Termondt. The Termondt family ran the stores for many years. By the early 1970's the downtown location was closed and two other locations were open at 2501 West State Street and 5643 North Second Street. The restaurants switched owners several times. There are presently no Maid-Rites in the Rockford area with the last one closing in 2011.

Click on the menu above for an expanded view

The Red Garter

Phil and Bob Salamone's Red Garter located at 308 East State Street was styled after the 1890's era and served daily luncheons and dinners, cocktails and nightly entertainment. The short lived 1958 - 64 lounge would later become home to the Flamingo Lounge.

Mr Steak

Mr. Steak was an American steak house restaurant chain started in 1962 by James A. Mather in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The first franchised location which was third in the chain was opened by Jack Ross, in Rockford at 3415 East State Street on February 9th, 1964. This location was of a free standing design and was built by Joe Triola who suggested a back wall constructed of Loma Stone. Joe Triola would later become a manager for Mr. Steak.

When the executives of Mr. Steak approved of the design of the Rockford location, they liked the design so much that the Loma Stone wall was incorporated in all future Mr. Steak locations. The State Street location was owned by Jack Ross and his wife Bonnie. This location was very successful. Soon to follow was a second and third location in Beloit and at 6023 North Second Street in suburban Loves Park in 1965.

Click on the Mr. Steak placemat above for a larger view of their former locations

A Dekalb location was soon added and a fifth and final  area location at Cherry Vale Mall in the 1970's. The  chain operated 278 restaurants  throughout the United States at its peak. The corporation went bankrupt in 1987 and all of the  local Mr. Steak Restaurants would close shortly thereafter. Imperial Palace of Rockford now occupies the East  State location. The former Loves Park location was demolished and an Advance Auto Parts  store now occupies that location. The Cherry Vale location was replaced by York Steakhouse, also since closed. Many Thanks to Jack & Kevin Ross for their contribution to this article.

Lums Restaurant

A Lums Restaurant was built at 4578 Harrison Avenue in the Alpine Village Shopping Center by franchise holder William Kloepfer in the fast growing Alpine Road–Harrison Avenue area in 1968. The popular family restaurant offered a wide variety of food items including burgers, steaks, seafood and poultry; they were famous for their hot dog steamed in beer along with different toppings. With Ballentine and Heineken draft beer on tap they also offered domestic bottled beer and over 25 different imported beers.

An early Lums menu

The restaurant was destroyed by a fire in the early morning hours of September 25, 1975. Kloepfer sadly passed away from a heart attack in October 1975. The restaurant rose from the ashes and re-opened in 1976 under different owners. It changed hands several times becoming Dirk & Bunnies Lums with Reruns Lounge, eventually changing the name to just Reruns. The former Lums changed names several times and is currently known as My Place Bar & Grill.

North Towne Restaurant & Lounge

North Towne Restaurant and Lounge, 3325 North Main Street. Founded by Fred and Amelia Corirossi and Gene Cuppini. Sold to Russ & Donna Pirello in 1962, North Towne Manor was in business from 1939 until 1995.

Edge O' Town Restaurant

The Edge O' Town Restaurant was added just to the east of the Edge O' Town Motel in 1956 at 4416 East State on the northwest corner of Alpine Road.  It remained in operation as the Edge O' Town Restaurant until 1968 after which the Albert Pick Corporation leased the restaurant out to new operators.

Click on menu above for an expanded four page menu

Sabre & Saddle Restaurant

Cass Opyt manager of the Sabre & Saddle enjoying lunch with Mike Kalegian who was the owner of the Rockford Rams Football team.

The Sabre & Saddle Restaurant at 4416 East State Street would lease the former  Edge O' Town restaurant space in 1968 closing in 1972.

The Kai-Tiki Restaurant at 4416 East State Street would move into the space vacated by The Sabre & Saddle in 1972. Owned by Ray Clark the restaurant was the successor to the Mandarin Gardens which was located on Wyman Street until it was demolished by the city of Rockford as part of its urban renewal program in 1975. Clark purchased the Mandarin Gardens in 1966 from its previous owners. The Kai-Tiki would close in October 1980 after Clark decided to retire.

The former Kai-Tiki space was next leased to the Godfather’s Pizza chain in 1980, the final tenant of the building. The pizza restaurant would remain here until 1999 when the building was sold and was later demolished to make room for expansion of a car dealership on the corner of East State Street and Alpine Road.

Frisk Cafe

Frisk’s Service Station on South Main and Prairie Road was operated by Justus Frisk in Rockford during the 1940’s and had a small restaurant in connection to the service station.

Johnson's Restaurant

In 1947 Robert and Kathryn Johnson would open Johnson’s Restaurant across from the Talcott Building at 320 West State Street. The restaurant offered a full menu with table and counter service. In 1957 they would buy the 47 year old Hickey’s Restaurant at 116 West State Street and the Hickey’s Candy Store at North Towne Shopping Center from the Hickey Brothers. They kept the Hickey’s name and way of doing business and continued to operate Hickey’s until 1969 and the Johnson’s Restaurant until 1973.

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