One owner is from New York and the other is from Boston. Discover what brought two people to the Midwest in pursuit of a destination that’s about to become the talk of downtown Rockford.
Neither Ted Brothers nor Carl Murphy had ever heard of Rockford; they had never spent any time in Illinois. Brothers is a native of Boston, Murphy’s a native New Yorker. But now the duo is an integral part of the ever-changing look and feel of downtown Rockford.
This June, they will open Capital House, a high-end urban coffee house and bistro, at the address formerly occupied by Kryptonite bar, 308 W. State St. Murphy, who has worked at high-end facilities around the country, will oversee the restaurant. His most recent position was that of executive chef at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. He’s an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who has worked with the likes of Chef Mario Batali.
“He’s a New York chef and I’m a Boston guy,” Brothers says. “We banter a lot, but we make it work. I’m lucky to get him here.”
Between them, Murphy and Brothers have more than 60 years of experience and have worked together in various locations.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here,” Murphy says. “Rockford is screaming for the ideas we’re bringing with us.”
As if the team wasn’t already high-wattage, Brothers and Murphy are bringing in high-end pastry chef Carlee Murphy, who worked with reality TV show “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro.
Brothers has spent most of his life on the East Coast. After high school, he went into the military, serving two terms in the Army before going to college. In the 1980s, he earned a business degree at Boston’s Northeastern University and a culinary degree from Newbury College, also in Boston. “I went to culinary school on a whim,” he says. “But culinary is what I wanted to focus my career on.’’
He started working at the Boston Hilton Back Bay Hotel and then the state of Connecticut’s YMCA as a corporate chef. He later worked for Holland America Cruise Lines in Alaska before going to New York City to work for Restaurant Associates, at the famous Sea Grill at the Rockefeller Center, under the guidance of Chef Ed Brown.
So what brought Brothers and Murphy to Rockford?
Brothers worked for Equestrian Sport Productions, an equestrian company where he met Robin Young, a native of Belvidere. Young competes all over the country, but makes her home in the Rockford area, where she runs Foxwood Farm, an equestrian farm in Rockton.
The couple met at the Wellington Equestrian Festival, the largest equestrian event held in Florida. “Our first date was in the international room, which was filled with celebrities, politicians and sheiks,” Brothers says. “She thought it was just going to be us.” The two hit it off, became engaged, and Brothers moved to Rockford a year ago. “I remember asking her, ‘Where’s Rockford?’ I never thought I’d end up in Illinois.”
Now he’s here to stay and he’s not stopping with just one restaurant. In addition to Capital House, Brothers plans to open a supermarket across the street from the restaurant, along with a chop house later this year near the BMO Harris Bank Center. Brothers said he will put about $1 million into renovating the three locations and Murphy will oversee all three businesses.
“Rockford is 10 years behind the times in the restaurant business,” says Brothers. “There are too many ma and pa shops and too many chain restaurants.”
The supermarket will be a New York-style market with fresh deli, bakery and a small café. Everything will be organic. It will also include delivery service and off-site catering.
“It’s an urban supermarket,” Murphy says. “There will be no carts, just handbags. It will be like an Italian market you’d find in upper Manhattan. The second restaurant will be called the Capital Reserve, a Chicago style chophouse.”
Murphy wants Capital House to be similar to restaurants in Boston and Chicago. The bistro will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu will include steaks, pastas, seafood, specialty coffees, pastries and breakfast items.
The seafood will be delivered fresh directly from Boston and Seattle 24/7; the steaks willbe shipped from Chicago and Denver; and the coffee will be brought in straight from Vermont.
“Everything will be high quality, things you can’t find anywhere else,” Murphy says.
Capital House will feature blues and jazz on Friday and Saturday nights.
“This is a hybrid restaurant,” Brothers says. “It’s multiple restaurants in one. There will be a sushi bar on the main level, along with a coffee bar. There will be a martini bar upstairs. Our focus is on professionals and millennials. It’s sorely needed in Rockford.”