Learn how this west-side Rockford restaurant is making life easier and more efficient for coffee lovers, all while improving the lives of its workers.
Downtown Rockford has rolled out many fun surprises, lately, and here’s another one. The first downtown specialty coffee drive-thru has opened at Restoration Café, 625 W. State St., just across from the federal courthouse.
“Now people can get their favorite coffee drinks, blended frozen drinks and baked goods, on the go,” says Sherry Pitney, executive director of Rockford Rescue Mission, the café’s owner.
The café serves locally roasted coffee from Java Mania, including its own proprietary blend and three seasonal blends. It also whips up cappuccinos, espressos, lattes, hot chocolate and specialty drinks, some made with Ghirardelli syrups in flavors like chocolate, hazelnut, peppermint, raspberry and caramel.
Baked goods include muffins, bagels, scones and cinnamon rolls.
Health-minded patrons appreciate frozen blended drink options like fruit smoothies. The drive-thru will likely offer lunch fare in the future.
Inside the café, chef John Moore Jr. is putting a fresh spin on breakfast and lunch sandwiches, quiches, wraps, soups and salads.
“We’re developing some new twists, like a house-made pickle slaw on the pulled pork sandwiches,” says Moore. “My grandma always said, ‘Nothing settles the soul like a good meal,’ and I think about that all the time. It’s such a rewarding act to serve people good, nutritious meals.”
“We’re in the process of upgrading our bread products and developing recipes to make all the soups from scratch, as we already do with our chili,” says Valerie Peterson, café supervisor.
But don’t worry. They won’t mess with the extremely popular lobster bisque.
“There’d be an uprising if we changed that,” says Moore.
Non-sandwich meal additions are on the horizon and daily specials like Taco Thursday will continue.
Maintaining moderate prices while making improvements is a priority, says Peterson.
“You can get a good lunch here for about $6,” she says. “That’s a good value.”
Customers come to Restoration Café for more than just food.
“It’s cozy, quaint and home-like, here,” says Teresa Reeverts, the mission’s director of support services. “We have downtown professionals who start their day here every morning.”
The café offers a 10-person private meeting room at no charge and rents out its entire facility for weekend or evening events, in packages with or without food.
Rockford Rescue Mission opened the café to serve downtown customers while providing a practical work experience to people in its Life Recovery Program. During that 9- to 12-month program, about seven mission residents at a time work shifts at the café.
“We know that not everyone here will end up working in food service, but the opportunity to develop good work habits, to be held accountable, and to be productive, is really beneficial to residents,” says Peterson. “They not only learn culinary skills, but also things like using proper cleaning products in food service, good customer service skills and the satisfaction of doing a good job.”
Some program graduates do find long-term success in food-service; the mission even pays for some to receive their Illinois Food Handler licenses.
One grad recently was named manager of a Subway store; another was named kitchen supervisor at Carpenter’s Place in Rockford. Such hard-won success stories are the whole point of Rockford Rescue Mission’s existence.
“To provide meaningful help to people who are struggling to get back on their feet is our big vision,” says Pitney. “Ultimately, it’s about how God changes one life at a time, from the inside out.”
So try out that new drive-thru or stop in for a sandwich. Your money will buy more than a cup of joe.
The drive-thru is open Mon.-Fri. from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cafe is open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.