Two restaurants put on new faces

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115443028988.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘The Adriatic, 327 W. Jefferson St., hosts ping-pong tournaments every Tuesday night.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115446624367.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Habaneros Mexican Grill, 3929 Broadway, sits in the old Café Patou and offers upscale Mexican dining with one of the region’s most prolific tequila assortments.‘);

The Times Lounge and Café Patou have recovered from loss and put forward a new face. May I introduce, The Adriatic Café & Bar and Habaneros Mexican Grill.

Sam Salamone vowed to be the first person in the door when The Adriatic opened in the space his Times Lounge used to occupy. Unfortunately, he passed away late last year, just months shy of the occasion. The new owners have done the space justice, opening some new rooms in the cavernous restaurant. One serves as a living room-style lounge with a big-screen TV. Another holds a ping-pong table, where they hold tournaments Tuesday nights. If games keep your interest, they also have a pool table, dart board, pinball machine and a boxing game.

The staff at The Adriatic serves up soup and light sandwiches for lunch. During my visit, the fare arrived before my guest and I could return from tag-team bathroom visits! They’ve only been open a few weeks, so check them out before word spreads. It’s a great place to get a quiet lunch or have drinks with friends. It reminds me of the northwoods bars from my Wisconsin roots, comfortable and lovingly tacky.

Habaneros Mexican Grill sits in the old Café Patou on Broadway near Alpine. Some time ago, the café suffered a roof collapse in conjunction with flooding, forcing them to close. The space recovered from disaster, and changed ethnicities. Bathed in color, the interior invites diners into its many intimate spaces.

Beyond the bar lies a small sitting room with couches, a fireplace and two plasma televisions. One small room would accommodate a party of 10-15, and the room farthest west has curtains that can close for an intimate gathering of dozens. Thursday evening, Habaneros held their first Don Julio Tequila Dinner.

Service featured a seven-course dinner, each course prepared with a different flavor of Don Julio Tequila. Samples of the tequilas accompanied each dish, along with a presentation from representatives from Don Julio’s Primavera Distillery. Habaneros gave away bottles of Don Julio to a few lucky visitors—the luckiest received a bottle of Don Julio Real, valued at more than $400.

If you fancy yourself a tequila enthusiast and have not visited Habaneros, you have missed the best place in Rockford for your passion. The bar manager informed me of his quest for the region’s most prolific tequila assortment. To date, they offer 210 different varieties of the liquor (out of 1,000-plus registered tequilas worldwide). The manager said he hopes to eventually hit the 600 mark, putting him near the top of the list in the region.

Habaneros offers higher-priced fares; a dinner for two will run around $50 (depending on drinks). The Adriatic only offers lunch, but remains open for drinks, dancing and games until bar hours. Support locally-owned businesses and try out these two new faces!

Habaneros is at 3929 Broadway, Rockford. Info: (815) 397-8896.

The Adriatic is at 327 W. Jefferson St., Rockford. Info: (815) 967-9939.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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