List of New Restaurants, Businesses in the Rockford Area in 2023

The holiday season often means traveling to see family. Students return home and those who have been away from Rockford come back to spend time with their loved ones.

If you’re returning to the Rockford area this year, you might want to check out some new spots around town. Here are a few dozen to choose from.

Ambiance Cuisine Catering and cocktails

Ambiance is a Southern soul food restaurant born out of T & C’s Cooking Creations food truck. The restaurant, located at 307 S. Main St. and owned by restaurateur Tisha Hanna, opened in April.

Win Pickleball

Tim Ancona opened Victory Pickleball, 7003 N. Alpine Road, in Loves Park in September. The 54,000-square-foot facility is a dedicated pickleball venue with 15 courts, but also offers space for other games, ping pong, racquetball, darts and darts. It has a restaurant and a beer tap wall and is one of the largest in the country.

More ▼: The Rockford area is now home to one of the largest pickle facilities in the US

Big John

Jonathan and Cooper Tobin, owners and operators of seasonal food truck Big Jon’s Dogs N’ More, have expanded to their first physical store called Big Jon’s More Than Dogs at 105 Buchanan St. in Belvidere. The restaurant opened in March and currently offers pre-prepared food to go along with catering services.

Cafe Amore

Cafe Amore, located in The Bricks of Cherry Valley at 125 E. State St., is Cherry Valley’s newest coffee shop and walk-in spot, offering a variety of coffees and teas. The cafe opened in May.

Carpentry corner

Carpenter’s Corner, a thrift store operated by Carpenter’s Place, opened in March at 1715 Rural St. in Rockford. Grocery chain Hilander built the 29,000-square-foot store in 1970. It was purchased by Schnuck Markets in 2011. Schnuck Markets closed the store in 2014, and the building sat vacant for nine years.

Cafe “Kana”.

Canna Cafe, located at The Hemp Center at 6830 Spring Creek Road, is a stylish, upscale soup and sandwich shop offering a variety of cannabis-infused beverages. The cafe duly opened its doors on April 20.

Capybara Cafe

Capybara Cafe offers Colombian coffee and cuisine, including cheese and empanadas. This is the only Colombian style cafe or restaurant in the Freeport area. The business opened in August.

Chavez Mexican Restaurant

Jose Chavez operated Fuego Nuevo Grill for five years at 6876 Spring Creek Road before moving the restaurant to 5494 E. State St. in Rockford, where he invested $1 million in renovations and renamed it Chavez Mexican Restaurant.

Dirty dough

The fast-growing cookie franchise offers a variety of cookies, including filled chocolate chip cookies to new weekly flavors like orange creme, crispy cinnamon toast, cookies and cream (loaded with Oreo pieces), and even a new protein cookie, among many others. The business opened its Rockford location in August.

El Vallarta Sports Bar & Grill

The upscale bar is a spacious Mexican-style sushi, seafood, steak and cocktail eatery that opened in July in a converted space formerly occupied by Granite City Food & Brewery at 7144 Harrison Ave. in the CherryVale Mall area.

Asian Gold Cup

Located in the space formerly occupied by Imperial Palace at 3415 E. State St. in Rockford, Golden Bowl Asian offers a variety of Southeast Asian foods including Crab Rangoon, Egg Rolls, Noodle Pho Soup, Fried Rice, Fried Noodles, Orange Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Bao and more. The restaurant opened in May.

Cheezy’s Grilled Cheeses

Cheezy’s is a unique twist on classic grilled cheeses and melts. The food truck rolled into the Rockford area in June with signature sandwiches topped with epic chunks of cheese. It announced earlier this month that it will take up residence for the winter at Bj’s Place, 2842 11th St., Rockford.

Our Journeys Cafe and Boba Shop

The cafe at Freeport’s Lincoln Mall opened in May and offers snacks, smoothies and, of course, boba tea. This is Freeport’s first and only bean shop.

Board Room/Mini Freaks Studio

Board Room and Mini Freaks Studios opened in September at 16 S. Chicago Ave. in downtown Freeport. The two-in-one store is for gaming enthusiasts — a place to buy games and play games, as well as merchandise, trading cards and more.

Tom & Jerry’s Loves Park

Tom & Jerry’s, the longtime Rockford favorite for gyros, burgers, ribs, hot dogs, Italian beef and more, has opened a restaurant at 7170 E. Riverside Blvd. in the park of love. The restaurant, which opened in March, is their fourth location in the Rockford area.

Tortilla Express

Owned by Chavez Mexican restaurant owner Jose Chavez, Tortilla Express is located at State and Main streets in downtown Rockford and offers an express menu of tacos, burritos, tortas, chimichangas and nachos. The restaurant opened in July.

Wood and brick tavern

The building at 315 S. Main St. has been occupied by a bar or establishment for at least 97 years, if not longer. Building owner Jeff Lindquist opened Wood & Brick Tavern in March and is proud to continue the tradition.

Marquense Mexican Bar & Grill

Longtime Alvarez Mexican Restaurant, 1600 S. Bell School Road in Cherry Valley, may have closed earlier this year, but there’s still plenty of food being served at the popular spot. The building is now home to Marquense’s Mexican Bar & Grill.

Taco Libre

First up was Vintage @ 501, Matt Idzikowski’s establishment at 501 E. State St. in downtown Rockford, which he ran for 12 years. Idzikowski rebranded the restaurant this year, reopening in August as Taco Libre, a street taco and tequila spot.

Jalisco and tequila

A downtown Rockford tradition for Mexican cuisine for nearly 20 years, Los Portales closed July 2. However, a new dining tradition was born in August when another restaurant, Jalisco and Tequila, took over the Los Portales space at 805 E. State St.


Locally owned SALT opened in October at 6860 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, in the space previously occupied by Josef’s Steakhouse & Oyster Bar. The fine dining establishment is operated by an ownership team that includes David and Kelly Stern, third-generation restaurateur ZiZi Altamore, Michael Turley and Greg Callahan.

Crumbl cookies

The first Rockford Crumbl Cookies store opened in November at 6150 E. State St. Suite 120 between Skechers and Pearl Vision in Mulford Village Shopping Centre. The store offers more than 300 flavors on a rotating basis.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Tropical Smoothie Cafe opened June 30 in Machesney Park, at 10083 N. Second St. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is considered a healthier fast food option, offering smoothies, wraps, flatbreads, quesadillas and salads. There is another location in Rockford.

Elora Home Interiors

Amy McDonald opened Elora Home Interiors in February at 214 E. State St. The store in the heart of downtown Rockford sells everything for the home from pillows and throws to candles, hand soaps, lotions and accessories.

Farrell’s Grill

Farel’s Grill opened Oct. 11 near the corner of Union Avenue and Illinois Route 20 in Belvidere. The restaurant is a go-to spot for prime rib, mac and cheese, and burgers. The menu offers a wide selection of starters, desserts and children’s meals.

Juju Rey’s Art Club

Judith Goody and Reynaldo Bernard opened Juju Rey’s Art Clubhouse last summer in downtown Rockford. The store at 324 E. State St. is designed to be half art center and half gaming center. The 3,000-square-foot space was previously occupied by Bath Body and Fusion.

Minnie’s Ice Cream Parlor

Downtown Rockford now has an ice cream shop. The owners of Minnihan’s Pub, Tom and Michael Minihan, opened the ice cream parlor in October. The parlor offers 28 flavors of hand-scraped ice cream, soft chocolate and vanilla, pizza by the slice, soup and hotdogs.

RBK bakery

If you’re back in town and looking for a sweet treat, you might want to check out RBK Bakery in Belvidere. The family-owned bakery, which opened next to Chuck E. Cheese in Rockford, opened a second location in Belvidere and then a third location in Cherry Valley Mall.

Flowers in a river park

After Crimson Ridge closed up shop, floral designer Chad Aumann decided to open a new store in Loves Park. Located at 430 River Park Road, Flowers on River Park opened in the former home of Nelson’s Flowers and Greenhouse, a longtime flower shop. Flowers on River Park covers everything from events to special occasion flowers to everyday flowers.

Ceramics Three ravens

After working on the Norwegian on North Main Street, Tom Harrison opened a pottery shop in Rockford’s Midtown neighborhood over the summer. The store sells handmade mugs, plates, bowls, pitchers, vases and more, and offers clay throwing classes.

City air

The former Gordman’s on East State Street in Rockford is now occupied by Urban Air Adventure Park, an indoor adventure park with more than 30,000 square feet of space offering trampolines, dodgeball courts and obstacle courses.

Bop Bop

A popular Rockford food truck now has a location at the Rockford Indoor City Market, 116 N. Madison St., Rockford. Bop Bop Korean BBQ offers rice bowls, boba teas, Korean corn dogs and more.

How Meta

A metaphysical store selling items for practicing magic as well as secular books, candles and art from other small businesses has opened in Freeport after a months-long battle with the city.

Pet Supplies Plus

Freeport pet lovers have a new place to shop for their furry friends. Pet Supplies Plus has opened at 1866 S. West Ave., part of the Meadows Shopping Center redevelopment. The business offers toys, pet food, kennels and more.

Jim Haggerty covers business, growth and development and other general news for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at [email protected].

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