Dinner on the Dock
Article and photos by Kathleen Walls
What is more
fun than au fresco dining
overlooking a picturesque river.
Dinner on the Dock, held every Thursday during summer at The
Prairie Street Brewhouse in Rockford, Illinois, combines all the right
elements. It offers a perfect venue for dining
on the Rock River, great food catered by The Backyard Grill and
Bar and music by assorted talents. The
event space which is also available for weddings and other events
abuts a 60-slip marina and offers a excellent view of the river.
After dark, the lights of the bridge lend a fairytale atmosphere.
It also allows boaters to dock
|Dinner on the Dock is a fun affair
|Enjoying the musie at Dinner on the
The event has
been going on for three years and becomes more popular each year. Why
not? Where else can you enjoy cool breezes, live entertainment and fun
just for the price of your meal?
The night we were there, the music was provided by three different
bands; Vince Chirilli, Sensations and Three Good Men. Elizabeth Wood,
Marketing Coordinator for the Rockford CVB told me, "
Different local bands perform each week and the performers play a wide
variety of music. I know the times I attended, I heard country,
reggae-inspired music, and dueling pianos (all different weeks)…so they
have quite the selection!"
|Backyard Grill's food truck
Of course, the main attraction is always food. As the catering
the Backyard Grill and Bar's name suggest the food is typical of
a night gathered around the BBQ pit; a burger, with or without cheese,
pulled pork, hot dog or a brat, wrap, a rib eye steak
or grilled chicken sandwich or a salad
with or without chicken. My
personal favorite was the pulled pork. It was tender and juicy and the
bun was nice and soft. You choose two sides between baked beans, cold
slaw, potatoes salad or chips.
The Backyard Grill
is not just a catering company. They are a trio of local
restaurants born from a dream. Rich
Schmidt had worked chain
restaurants for years. He was not satisfied with the food he was
producing. He wanted something fresher like a family barbeque. In 1993,
when he was working at Applebee's, he met Martin Elliott. The two men
became friends and discovered they had a similar goal. When they learned
of a local restaurant that was going out of business in 1996, they took
their chance and opened Backyard Grill and Bar in the Loves Park area..
decades later, the little "Backyard Barbeque" operation has grown into
three restaurants and a sideline business of the sauces and seasonings
that have made them such a popular Rockford tradition. Their success has
a simple secret; they prepare everything even the French fries from
scratch. They hand pat the burgers, The meat is prepared form fresh raw
product. No shortcuts here.
"We have these specially made grills that cook over hickory wood. That's
where there the name Backyard Grill came from, "according to Rick
|In the banquet area of the brewery
tradition! And tradition encases the entire operation
including the location of Dinner on the Dock.
The four-story red brick and stone building with its unique
architecturally has quite a history. It was originally built by Jonathan
Peacock as the Peacock Brewery in the 1850s
Peacock's signature beer was Nikolob and it was marketed as "The beer
that made Milwaukee jealous."
At one time
breweries abounded in
Rockford: there were six of them.
Peacock was the most successful and best remembered because it had all
the pluses needed for
brewing excellent beer; two artesian wells, a river to provide ice in
winter that could be cut and stored to keep the beer cool,
nearby rail access and a multitude of immigrants willing to work for
|View from the deck
After the death of Peacock and later his two sons, John V. Petritz, a
German immigrant bought the brewery. He was quiet successful for a time
but when local prohibition laws drove him afoul of the law, he probably
foresaw the national climate and when his brewery license expired in
1918 shortly before national prohibition, he did not renew it. During
prohibition, the building served as a warehouse.
He sold the brewery
and once again it made beer under the name Rock River Brewing Co. It's
biggest products were Coronet Old Vat and Grand Prize beer.
Age and competition from the "big boys" put
the brewery out of business again in 1945. Today, the building is
undergoing a regeneration. When you step inside the Ice Cellar Bar, one
of three event rooms available,
from the back patio, the feel of age underlys
the modernization. Sure it's all up to date with the 10-line draft
system and LED lights that can change color to match any event's decor
shining through the base of the copper lined bar.
The lighting overhead is all custom made. Yet
the authenticity is still there. The LED lights shine through a surface
that resemble the blocks of ice once cut and stored in this very room.
The overhead lights are made from ancient beer and liquor bottles, many
produced in this very brewery. The bar's copper lining is the same aged
color as the copper vats once used in the brewing process. The beams and
bar supports are raw steel that was such a part of the industrial age.
|The Ice Cellar Bar
You just can't keep a good beer down. (No pun
intended) The building is returning full circle to the purpose for which
it was created.
In Janurary, 2012, it was placed on the National Registryof Historic
Places. It is destined to once again
returnto its roots and will open as
Rockford Brewery in the spring of 2014
. Lofts are being offered for sale January 2014 as part of the
Plan a trip to Rockford's
past in your future and experience Dinner on the Dock.
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