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Over the years Jack’s or Better was known for its fine foods and entertainment in an upscale atmosphere. Before it became Jack’s or Better, it was Parr’s Restaurant. In 1941 Clifford and Katherine Parr would move from Chicago and would open a restaurant called Parr’s Colonial House about a mile north of Rockford on North Main Road just north of Halsted Road. Clifford worked for eleven years at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago while Katherine was employed by Henrici’s Restaurant of Chicago for four years. They would serve a variety of tempting dishes with such headliners as lobsters, lobster tails, steaks, chicken, turkey, garden fresh salads, appetizers, and many varieties of sandwiches. The restaurant also offered private dining and banquet rooms.
By January 22, 1943 the Parr’s would close the North Main location and open a new restaurant at 327 West Jefferson Street. Outside of the main dining room there were three private dining rooms, two were on the mezzanine with the third being on the main floor. Ripple glass separated the horseshoe and oyster bar from the dining room which served a wide variety of steaks, chops, chicken, seafood and other foods. Clifford and Katherine Parr would sell their Parr’s Restaurant to Jack Shafton in 1945. Shafton would change the name to Jack’s or Better. Shafton would sell the restaurant to the Logli Brothers in 1949. John H. and Angelo Logli were well known for their years of experience in the food business when they purchased the restaurant and would continue to operate the business until 1960.
In 1960 the Logli’s would sell the restaurant to John R. Baudhuin. Baudhuin undertook a complete remodeling of the restaurant and it continued to be a popular draw for customers. Baudhuin would sell his interest in the business to his nephew Paul in 1971 who sold the business in 1980 to Corky Sartino. Sartino would close the business in 1982 due to a changing downtown business climate and lack of customers.
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Bob Grindle and Stewart Johnson opened the Rab Island Drive In around 1947 at 2408 Charles Street (Charles and 20th Streets). The drive in was named after nearby East High School’s colors red and black (RAB). The root beer was claimed to have been made from root beer concentrate in a horse trough behind the drive in. Water was added with a garden hose and the sugar and mixing was done with canoe paddles. The root beer was supposedly known as the best in town. The drive in would close around 1955.
The Boat Drive In was opened by Buster and Irene Ties at 4057 West State Street in 1932. This nautically themed drive in was built as to catch the eye and curiosity of the motoring public on old U. S. 20. It was a short lived venture closing in 1933. It changed owners several times and served as a milk depot during 1934-1935 and grocery stores under the Boat Grocery and Fair-Way Foods name closing in 1959. The building was subsequently demolished.
Parkmore Drive In, 1212 Charles Street opened around 1936 as the Parkman Drive In. It was renamed to Parkmore in 1939. Remained in business at this location until 1956 when it moved to 1615 Eighteenth Avenue in June 1956. The restaurant was closed and sold in 1986.
The Green Shutters, 2430 Auburn Street. In 1940 Ulysses G. Turner would open a drive-in named Green Shutters, where it remained until 1960. In 1961 a Skeets Drive In would take its place until 1965 when they moved to a larger drive-in location at 3811 Auburn Street.
H. John Carbaugh opened Beaky’s Barrel Drive In 1955 in Mt. Morris serving typical drive in fare such as Hamburgers, fries and shakes but specialized in fried chicken. In 1965 a drive in location became available in Rockford and Carbaugh seized the opportunity to open a second drive in location.
Carbaugh would open Beaky's Drive In at 2430 Auburn Street in 1965 after the former tenant - Skeet Drive In relocated. Beaky’s remained in this location until May 1980 when the lease expired and Carbaugh returned to Mt. Morris to open Beaky’s Barrel restaurant and lounge. Soon after the Rockford location was razed and replaced with an Arby's Roast Beef Restaurant. Arby's has since closed at that location and it is now occupied by another restaurant - El Burrito Loco.
Joseph Engbarth was born in 1918 in Flint, Michigan and would move to Rockford in 1943. Engbarth would open a drive in restaurant at 2004 Eleventh Street in 1949. The Flying Saucer was Rockford's most modern drive-in at that time in the city, and offered curb service deluxe. They specialized in chicken served in the basket, also spaghetti, cheeseburgers and tomato burgers. Everything sold was wrapped to take out, or eat in your car. The Flying Saucer was open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday and holiday 3:30 p.m. to midnight. In 1951 he would expand the restaurant to allow for a small indoor dining area that was air conditioned. Around 1954 he would add a motel onto the restaurant also named the Flying Saucer.
After the success of the 11th Street drive in, Engbarth decided to open another Flying Saucer at 506 East State Street in 1951 which was a walk in, sit down restaurant. He had a sign erected by the C. A. Pierce Sign Company that covered the entire front of the restaurant, said to be one of the greatest animated electric signs to have ever graced Rockford. The location closed in the late 1950's. A parking lot now is on the site of the former restaurant.
Reginald and Thelma Lance would open the Lance Drive In at 4414 Charles Street on May 5, 1957. Reginald was a machinist for the Ekstrom-Carlson Company for 47 years and opened the drive in when he retired. With the continuing eastward expansion of the city and with the brand new Colonial Village Mall looming in the background they would close the drive in in 1968 and put it up for sale. It did not take long to find a buyer when Vito and Dominic Grisanzio purchased the land and built the Villa Capri Restaurant, on off shoot of their downtown Capri Restaurant.
Originally serving as the building for Putney’s Drive In on the west side of North Second just north of Spring Creek Road in Rockford, the orange colored barrel would be moved to a location on North Main Street and later purchased by Fred Machesney who moved it and placed it in front of his airport at 8614 North Second Street around 1966. Machesney named it Huskies Drive In in honor of the Harlem Huskies school athletic teams. Huskies would close for good in 1973.
The Sugar Bush Drive In, East State Street. We have just opened Rockford's newest Drive in, The Sugar Bush. Why don't you and the family drive out for a snack ? We are just east of the EAST STATE GOLF RANGE pictured on the other side. You might like to shoot a few golf balls, too. We will have a brand new minature golf course open soon. Sincerely, Welliver & Sons. If anyone has more information on the Sugar Bush we would love to hear from you.
A short lived Burger Chef opened in 1958 at 4815 North Second Street and closed in 1960. It was reopened as Ricky Jo's Drive In and that restaurant lasted around a year before it was also closed and the equipment auctioned off. The building still exists at the southeast corner of North Second and Lillian and was added on to and now serves as a used car dealership.
Roger Knutsson, Jr. who owned the Rockford Illustrating Company would open a franchised location of the Cobbs Country Restaurant & Gift Shoppe chain at 6001 East State Street on the southeast corner of East State Street and Mulford Road in 1966. At the time it was surrounded by cornfields and was one of the first businesses to locate in this area. Cobbs offered a one stop service to motorists such as gas, restaurant, gift shop and candies.
This aerial photograph shows Cobbs Country Restaurant & Gift Shoppe on the southeast corner of the intersection of East State Street and Mulford Road. Notice that there is one entrance to the complex off of South Mulford Road. In 1972 due to business growth in the area a road widening project upgrading Mulford Road to a modern four lane roadway complete with a concrete median was undertaken. This project in turn choked off the business to the restaurant and it was soon forced to close. A few other short lived restaurants would take its place, but eventually a long time Chinese restaurant, the Royal Dragon would occupy this location. They too would close after a long run in this location and the building was razed in 2014 by the First Rockford Group.
Frank & Lena D’Agostin were the owners of the Stadium Inn at 503 – 15th Avenue with its famous Grotto Room. The D’Agostin’s would rename the Stadium Lounge to D’Agostino’s in the late 1950’s. In 1968 they would move the restaurant to 4239 Charles Street. They sold the former 15th Avenue location to Vince Verace, Jr., who renamed the restaurant The Grotto. The D’Agostin’s also at one time or another owned Blackhawk Lounge, Twin Oaks, Cherry Valley Inn and the Lighthouse Inn.
The George Webb Hamburger Parlor chain was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1948. When a Milwaukee city ordinance prohibited establishments from being open 24 hours a day, George came up with the perfect workaround and announced that “George Webb Restaurants are open 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, seven days a week and on Sundays!”. They ventured into Rockford in the 1960's with two locations, one at 517-C West State Street and the other at 419 East State Street. In Rockford, they continued the closing time tradition. They lasted into the 1970’s here in Rockford, and they still have multiple locations in Wisconsin.
The Saddle & Cycle Restaurant, 1307 Auburn Street was opened by brothers Joseph "Joe" and Jasper "Jay" Rotello on September 11, 1935 at the corner of Auburn and Latham Streets just west of North Main Street. Famous for its horseshoe shaped bar and exquisite dining room where one could dine on steaks, seafood and barbecue ribs. In 1955 they expanded the dining room and this was a popular North End restaurant for 42 years.
Picture courtesy of Crystal Ball
Saddle & Cycle closed in 1977 and the building was sold, it would later house the Bianarro's Supper Club, Trattoria Fantini and Table 13. Walgreen's purchased the property for a new store. The store was never built, and the new Main-Auburn Street roundabout now occupies a portion of this lot.
The Oak Leaf Restaurant was opened by Howard and Rosetta Brown in 1961 located at 1711 Rural Street in the newly built Rural Oaks Shopping Center at the corner of North Prospect, Guilford and Rural Streets. By the looks of the signs they claimed to be a restaurant, a snack shop and a cafe. Hamburgers were offered for One Free with Five to Go. The Oak Leaf Restaurant would close in June 1973 to allow for the expansion of the Hilander Grocery Store.
Connie's Pizza located originally opened at 3012 West State around 1957 but would move to 3118 Auburn Street in the early 1960’s. There was a second location that also opened in Loves Park at 5506 North Second Street. The Auburn Street location remained in operation until the early 1990’s. There was also a location later on Broadway around the Five Points area.
The Henrici's Restaurant was opened in conjunction with the Henrici’s Motor Inn at 7801 East State Street in 1968. Featuring one of Henrici's famous dining rooms, a Chicago favorite since 1868 along with a coffee shop and cocktail lounge. See the motel gallery for more information on Henrici's and the Clock Tower Resort.
Another chain that wanted to hop on the roast beef craze was Heap Big Beef Roast Beef that would open a Rockford location at 3315 North Main Street in 1968. The short lived location closed in 1970. The building later housed the A Frame Restaurant, then a BBQ Restaurant and today is home to Molly’s Deli.
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