Tower Kitchen & Bar: A Taste of Rockford

Whether you’re staying overnight or just dropping in, the signature restaurant at Rockford’s downtown Embassy Suites serves up a taste that’s totally true to its hometown.

Rockford’s historical factories are strong reminders of the city’s long industrial legacy. As these landmarks undergo a revitalization, they in many ways pay homage to their forebears.

That’s certainly the case for Tower Kitchen & Bar, 416 S. Main St., a culinary hub located below one of Rockford’s highest-profile urban resuscitations. What once hummed with knitting machines as the Ziock Building and later became known as the Amerock tower is now the shining Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront Hotel. Its signature restaurant, Tower Kitchen & Bar, pays fitting tribute to this building’s past.

Exposed brick walls and steel-framed windows mix with original elements like a boiler and air compressor in a blend of nostalgia and modernity. Elsewhere, museum displays highlight Rockford’s history, from knitting to women’s baseball and beyond.

“There’s a lot of juxtaposition to this building,” says Kelly Plath, director of sales for Embassy Suites. “You’ve got these huge concrete pillars, steel frame windows and exposed brick, but then you have a warm, friendly atmosphere with the staff and everybody you come into contact with.”

The menu at Tower Kitchen & Bar is curated by sous chef Danny Olin, who’s melded standard tastes with the unexpected. The Southwest Steak Salad, for example, sets an 8-ounce choice sirloin steak amidst romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese, black beans, corn, tomatoes and tortilla crisps with a chipotle ranch dressing.

Fusion dishes offer a twist on traditional cuisine, as seen with the Salmon Poke Bowl, with cured smoked salmon, jasmine rice, cucumbers, radish, edamame, Sriracha aioli, fried onions and sesame seeds.

“The philosophy behind any great menu is that less is always more,” says head chef Robert Phillips. “An extensive menu doesn’t always mean it’s a great menu, so we focus on the things that we do great instead of overloading it.”

In a further commitment to Rockford, Tower Kitchen collaborates with local suppliers including nearby organic farms that provide such fixtures as corn and green beans. The drink menu boasts selections from local breweries like Pig Minds of Machesney Park, Ill., Generations of Freeport, Prairie Street Brewing Co. of Rockford, and Lena Brewing Co., alongside unique signature and seasonal cocktails.

During the summer months, live musicians set up on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, which overlooks another summer favorite: Friday Night Flix at Davis Park. Occasionally, Tower Kitchen partners with local nonprofit organizations to spread awareness of groups like Winnebago County CASA, which provides court-appointed special advocates to foster children.

While the hotel upstairs may seem most appealing to out-of-town guests, the staff at Tower Kitchen recognizes Embassy Suites is in no way exclusive to hotel guests.

“We’re in it for the entire experience,” says Wendy Mensah, restaurant manager. “Take a staycation and check out our golf simulator, the game room, the swimming pool and the fitness center. I want the restaurant guests to know all those things we offer are available to them, even if they live in town.”

Tower Kitchen & Bar is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.