Ernie’s Midtown Pub, 1025 Fifth Ave., Rockford, won for best atmosphere and vibes for the second year in a row in the Rockford Region Restaurant Week awards. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
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    ROCKFORD — Local foodies said for the second year in a row that Ernie’s Midtown Pub has the best vibe and atmosphere. When it comes to the most flavorful bite, they liked The Norwegian.

    Those were a few of the winners from the annual “Best of” awards handed out for 2023 Rockford Region Restaurant Week. The winners were announced Tuesday by the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, which puts on the weeklong event to help drive business to local restaurants.

    Lino’s, which celebrated 50 years in business a year ago, won the “best for all” category. Alchemy won for the best Restaurant Week package, and for the second straight year 8th Ward Pub won for best brew.

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    The bureau said 52 establishments participated, including 23 that were new to the event. More than 1,300 votes were cast in the “Best of” awards.

    “Through radio, television, out-of-home and digital advertising, combined with social media promotion, our goal with Restaurant Week is to drive incremental business during a slow time to our local restaurants,” John Groh, president and CEO of the visitors bureau, said in a news release. “Whether they are existing or new customers, we aim for the week to be a celebration of the culinary excellence in the region and a motivator to encourage repeat visitation throughout the year.”

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    Groh said restaurateurs felt supported and appreciated that the event helped kick off a good start to the new year.

    “We were blown away by the enthusiasm for our Restaurant Week feature menu,” said Paul Sletten, executive chef and president of Abreo. “It was the single busiest week we’ve had in January or February since opening in 2005: 18 years! We want to thank everyone who came out to dine with us and all the other amazing Rockford restaurants.”

    The winning restaurants will receive an award suitable to hang in their establishment and get recognition on billboards and the visitors bureau’s “GoRockford” social media channels.

    “For the third year in a row (Rockford Region Restaurant Week) served as a great sales driver in this otherwise slower time of the year,” said Josh Binning, the owner of Lucha Cantina. “This year, our sales were up 24% over the same week last year. It was great not only seeing our regular guests but also seeing so many new faces during the promotion.”

    Niklas Leonhardt delivers an order on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, at The Norwegian, 1402 N. Main St., Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Patrick Alberto said Restaurant Week was a blast for his team at Octane.

    “It was great way to kick off the year which is usually a slow time for the industry,” he said. “Sold so much of our package deal and the best part was people asking us to please put the Fried Chicken Rice Bowl and the Jungle Bird Cocktail on menu. We are pumped for Restaurant Week 2024.”

    Here are the winners

    Lino's Restaurant Rockford
    Lino’s Restaurant is located at 5611 E. State St., in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Best Atmosphere & Vibes: Ernie’s Midtown Pub, 1025 Fifth Ave., Rockford. (A food establishment that showcases the best vibes through lighting, service and overall experience.)

    Best Restaurant Week Package: Alchemy at Aldeen Supper Club, 1902 Reid Farm Road, Rockford, for its three-course dinner. (The most creative deal, experience, or package.)

    Best Cocktail or Brew: 8th Ward Pub, 3905 Broadway, Rockford. (The most creative and tasty beverage. This category includes coffee, cocktails, smoothies, beer, and other freshly served beverages.)

    Best Bite: The Norwegian, 1402 N. Main St., Rockford. (Vote for the meal packing the most flavorful bite.)

    Best for All: Lino’s, 5611 E. State St., Rockford. (Your favorite food establishment showcases a welcoming environment for all. This is defined as a venue that welcomes residents and visitors by creating a sense of belonging.)

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas.