Regional Dining Guide

2nd Cousin’s Bar & Grill: A Cozy Place For Sports and Nightlife


Meet a family that always welcomes a diverse crowd at this bar, and see what delicious specials are in store every day.

Maja Bilich, center, helps her parents with operations at 2nd Cousins. At left is server Aleana Bond, and at right is server Andie Link. (Rebecca O'Malley photo)

Sure, it’s a bar, but to Viki Bilich, the Croatian-born owner of 2nd Cousin’s Bar & Grill, 6246 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., this cozy restaurant is a real melting pot, a comfortable place that’s always welcoming and fun.

The fare is straightforward, with 13 burgers, seven wraps and 16 sandwiches on the menu, but there are surprises, too, like the No-Meat Burger made with black beans, a strip steak, and pasta entrees. Burgers are made fresh, not frozen. Buffalo wing sauces are mixed in-house, with 10 options from mild to hot; the calypso, a combination of medium, honey mustard and barbecue, offers an extra flavor blast. Naked wings are available to less-adventurous diners.

“We have the best wings in town,” says Viki. “That’s what I hear the most from our diners.”

Every day, there’s a tempting special – all-you-can-eat pasta on Mondays, taco Tuesdays, burger Wednesdays and wings Thursdays, to name a few. Everything on the menu is available for carry-out.

“Fridays are fish and crab legs, Saturday is all-you-can-eat ribs for $8.99, which is a great deal, and Sunday we have all of the football specials,” says Viki. “We have breakfast, wings, pizza. It’s mostly about football.”

TVs occupy every wall, tuned to the latest sports updates. The house is packed for football games. Early in the season, Bilich welcomes fantasy drafts and tempts fans with special offers.

“If you want to hold your draft, we have power outlets for computers, or you can do it by paper and reserve tables,” says Maja, Viki’s daughter, who pitches in at 2nd Cousin’s when she’s not attending class at Rockford College. “We include beer and pizza and wings in the price, so you can have fun while you do your draft.”

DJs or bands take the stage every weekend, and occasionally 2nd Cousin’s hosts Milwaukee comedian Pat McCurdy, famous for his “Sex and Beer” songs. The wait staff celebrates every holiday, from New Year’s Eve and “Halfway to St. Patty’s Day,” to Halloween.

“For Halloween, we have days where all the waitresses and bartenders dress up,” Maja says. “Last year, on Friday night, we did Superhero Night, and Saturday night was an ’80s theme.”

The Bilich family purchased 2nd Cousins in 2009, as a way to supplement Bos & Son masonry, the family’s construction company. Later, they opened Murphy’s Pub & Grill, 510 S. Perryville Road, Rockford.

“As the construction business was slowing down, we needed something to keep us going, so we bought a bar,” explains Viki. “We had previous experience in restaurants, so we already knew what it would take to make things great. It was probably the easiest thing for us to do besides construction.”

Viki loves the diverse crowd that gathers here – physicians from nearby offices, 20-something bar hoppers, motorcycle riders, sports fans. Always smiling and welcoming, she’s a natural hostess. And like America, her restaurant is one giant melting pot.

“We have so many people who come to work in this area, and some who are regulars or visit on recommendations, and we have guests from all over the U.S.,” she says. “We have a customer from St. Louis who tells us he’s determined to only visit 2nd Cousin’s and Murphy’s when he’s in the Rockford area, and he’s here for months at a time.”

2nd Cousin’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

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