Regional Dining Guide

Josef Steakhouse and Oyster Bar: Epicurean, Aesthetic Delights Await

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Known for its delectable cuisine and elegant, upscale atmosphere, this Rockford destination is exciting both on and off the menu.

Josef Schwaiger, chef and owner of Josef Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, in Rockford, fills his restaurant with eclectic artwork. When it comes to cuisine, he prioritizes fresh ingredients. (Samantha Behling photo)

Josef Schwaiger, chef and owner of Josef Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, in Rockford, fills his restaurant with eclectic artwork. When it comes to cuisine, he prioritizes fresh ingredients.

The clean, simple and unassuming exterior of Josef Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, 6860 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, is just the first of many surprises for patrons of this elegant and upscale dining destination. Known for its fresh seafood, aged Angus steaks and international wine list, the restaurant provides guests with a quality dining experience while they’re surrounded by an aesthetically impressive art collection.

In recent years, the wine bar at Josef’s has undergone a renovation to distinguish itself from the main dining room. Flanking the wine bar, an impressive floor-to-ceiling temperature-controlled room houses an international wine collection. According to general manager Joseph Tuttle, the renovation complements the overall atmosphere of the establishment.

“We are upscale, yet casual,” he says. “Josef’s is an ideal place for a business dinner or date night, or to celebrate a special anniversary. There’s a relaxed feel in the bar area, with the high-top granite tables, and a fine-dining feel with the white tablecloths in our main dining room.”

Tuttle notes that diners can order from either the bar menu or the restaurant menu no matter where they are seated. Freshness and attention to detail are inherent to all of Josef’s culinary offerings.

“One of our specialties is the seafood ragout,” Tuttle says. “It contains a well-rounded sampling of our fresh seafood, which includes mussels, scallops, shrimp, white fish and salmon. This dish is served over fresh pasta with a Parmesan chardonnay sauce. Our petite Angus fillet is also very popular, as is our sauteed rainbow trout, which is fantastic.”

On the bar menu, guests can enjoy hot and cold appetizers, entree salads and unique a la carte items including roasted quail with wild rice, corn and chorizo stuffing, and grilled soy-infused tofu with stir-fried vegetables and sweet/sour sauce.

An international restaurateur for more than 40 years, chef and owner Josef Schwaiger has combined his discriminating culinary tastes with an artistic vibe to entice both the palate and the eye of his guests.

“If one of our fish or seafood shipments isn’t fresh enough, Josef will refuse it,” Tuttle says. “If you have never had oysters before, this is the place to try them. Our oysters come in with seawater still in the shell, and they are packed on ice. That’s how fresh our seafood is. Josef also makes all the soups and sauces from scratch, and he will hand-trim steaks and season them with an in-house dry rub.”

Perfectly paired with the food at Josef’s is the restaurant’s eclectic art-infused atmosphere. Several oil paintings by Schwaiger’s wife, artist Cherri Rittenhouse, grace the foyer while other pieces ranging from photography to mixed media are tastefully appointed throughout.

“Similar to a wine list, we have an art list,” Tuttle says. “The art pieces featured at Josef’s are also for sale. So, if a restaurant customer is really taken with a piece, they can inquire about purchasing it.”

Among the original artwork is a piece called “Studio Door” by local artist Robert McCauley.

“This is the actual door off of his studio apartment,” Tuttle says. “It’s just full of his ideas, inspirations and quotes. It’s an especially interesting piece of art because every time you look at it, you find something you may not have seen before.”

One of Josef’s private dining rooms, the Waterford, features a brilliant chandelier made from actual Waterford crystal. The room also features work of local photographer Bradley Nordlof.

“Whether it’s a casual after-work get-together, a distinctive private party or a special celebratory dinner, dining at Josef’s offers an unparalleled culinary experience steeped in artistic ambience,” Tuttle says.

Restaurant hours are Mon.-Sat. 5-11 p.m., closed on Sundays. Happy hour is from 4-5:30 p.m. Call (815) 282-3400 for a reservation.

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