By Nate Johnson
Industry lore has it that ninety percent of all restaurants fail within their first year of business (probably not true, but let’s go with it for the sake of the story), so for Vintage@501 to hit the two-and-a-half year mark as an anchor to Rockford’s most packed culinary block is no mean feat.
Since opening in October 2012, Vintage has carved out a solid niche in the downtown restaurant sector with their ramped-up twists on traditional American bar and comfort food.
A rotation of weekly specials ranges from classics like meatloaf to gold record-sized pork tenderloin sandwiches that wouldn’t be out of place at the Iowa State Fair, and there is always a new house-made soup available.
A full bar features a constantly rotating lineup of 12 taps, a selection of wines (half-price on Wednesday) and their popular house martini list.
More than just the food, however, owner Matt Idzikowski credits their success to other factors.
“My biggest challenge is the same as most people in the industry, it’s finding that consistency.
“Making sure that a customer is getting the same quality of food time after time, served to them with a smile on their face.
“I’m lucky to have a pretty amazing staff that allows us to reach that consistency. I think you can taste the difference in our food.”
Some of that difference also comes from local ingredients, which Idzikowski and his team go out of their way to track down.
Meats, cheeses and produce are all locally procured.
That food has allowed them to branch out further into the downtown goings-on. They’re coming up on their third year at Rockford City Market, serving their hand-cut fries, and they have earned the best dish award at Bacon Fest for two straight years.
Vintage is also attached to local charity, as they have hosted guest bartender nights with the IceHogs for the team’s charity and they also support the city’s firefighters with a portion of the proceeds from their signature Firehouse burger.
Besides being an unofficial clubhouse for IceHogs and Blackhawks fans, the restaurant offers a weekly retro game night every Tuesday with classic board games and throwback video game favorites, and Chicagoland Trivia hosts their live pub quiz game every Thursday to a regular crowd of double-digit teams.
As Vintage continues to satisfy the local palates, they strive to continue to grow and improve, not just with the restaurant, but with the downtown scene.
“It’s really satisfying to be part of such a cool thing going on in our neighborhood,” says Idzikowski.
“Whether people are coming down for our restaurant, for Abreo, for Bamboo, if you get enough people pushing in the right direction, good things are going to happen.”
For more information visit vintage501.com or call 815-516-0544.