Restaurant Profile: Meet an exciting new upscale pub that picks up where this building’s former occupant left off.
Owners Abbie Shepp and Scott Fraser opened Perry Rock Pub, 6957 Olde Creek Road, Rockford, in March 2011, in the space formerly occupied by Table 13. “We’ve both done a lot of work in the restaurant industry, and we worked to create a space where we’d want to hang out ourselves – not a sports bar, but something that reflects our personality,” says Shepp. “We wanted a pub-style atmosphere but with high-quality food.”
Rockford natives, Shepp and Fraser met when both worked as managers at Table 13. “Scott and I just kind of clicked as co-workers, and we were in the process of planning and starting a restaurant together,” says Shepp. “The owners of the building knew this and contacted me when Table 13 closed. We loved Table 13 and were sorry to see it close. Scott and I were familiar with the space, so we knew what worked and what we needed to change. We’d been looking for awhile but hadn’t found quite what we wanted, and this worked out really well for us. It was kind of like coming home.”
Perry Rock is not your typical pub. The rich appointments, dark woods, warm burgundy walls and drop pendant lights exude an elegant, trendy, upscale ambiance.
Beyond the physical renovations Shepp and Fraser have made, Perry Rock has changed out its entire kitchen staff in order to solve problems experienced when it first opened, and has debuted a new menu.
Unique appetizers, like a goat cheese bruschetta, buffalo calamari and fried pickles are offered along with the familiar nachos, chicken tenders and onion rings.
Some of Perry Rock’s best sellers are its “handhelds” – sandwiches, wraps and tacos – which range from $7 to $11 and come with thick-cut natural fries. The Drunken Cuban consists of pulled pork that’s been marinated in spiced Captain Morgan rum; shaved ham; red onion; yellow mustard; a pickle spear (in the sandwich and on the side); Swiss cheese; and a side of au jus. The chili-rubbed tacos, made with chicken, fish or steak, are also in demand, especially the grilled whitefish taco. The half-pound Bleu Burger, a customer favorite, is topped with tangy red onion marmalade.
Entrées include a selection of seafood, beef and pasta dishes, along with comfortable favorites like mac ‘n’ cheese. A big fan of tuna, Shepp is especially fond of the seared ahi, encrusted with black and white sesame seeds and served with a soy reduction.
“I listen to my customers and take what they say to heart, and some of these changes reflect what they’ve told me they want. We’re always tweaking the menu,” says Shepp.
Perry Rock has 26 full- and part-time employees. “I’m very fortunate to have great people who like being here and enjoy their jobs,” Shepp says. “In August, we won People’s Choice for best appetizer at the signature event at Giovanni’s, and Best Martini and Best in Show at Mosaic. I’m proud of everyone on my team.”
While Shepp covers the front of the house, Fraser focuses on the bar. “He keeps thing current,” says Shepp. “We have a great selection of domestic and craft beers, and all of the top-shelf liquors.” The wine list includes vintages from Australia, Italy, Argentina and Napa Valley.
The restaurant has a seating capacity of 230 and is set currently for about 180, with additional tables on an outdoor patio.
The pub holds martini tastings, and Thursday through Saturday, a DJ spins music.
Obviously, Shepp and Fraser are hands-on, veteran restaurateurs, evidenced by the way they’ve not only launched a new restaurant, but also, within six months of that launch, rolled out a new menu with an entirely new kitchen staff.
“For an owner, addressing problems and making adjustments to solve them is at the top of the job description,” says Shepp. “One of us is always here, and we love it. We couldn’t ask for a better job.”
Perry Rock Pub opens at 11 a.m., and closes at 2 a.m., seven days a week. ❚