By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
ROCKFORD — Midtown’s newest pub is ready to get you hooked on its fresh Italian beef and versatile signature sauce inside a restaurant filled with Rockford nostalgia.
Ernie’s Midtown Pub, 1025 Fifth Ave., opened its doors on Wednesday to serve craft beers and cocktails to its first customers. The kitchen opens at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
The menu is filled with Chicago-style food with a twist, and owner Andrew Vowles expects the Italian beef to become a customer favorite. The beef is roasted in-house and freshly sliced. The pub’s tangy signature sauce, called Ernie’s Sauce, can be served alongside everything from burgers to fried mushrooms.
“We put it on our nachos. We put it on our burger. It’s very versatile,” Vowles said.
He said the food service is built for speed so people can get in and out quickly for lunch if needed.
Photos: Ernie’s Midtown Pub opens in the heart of Rockford
Ernie’s is named after Vowles’ grandfather, who died 19 years ago and is honored both on the pub’s logo and in some old newspaper clippings and photographs on the walls. The restaurant is themed around Rockford nostalgia with memorabilia from the first Rockford IceHogs game, past On the Waterfront festivals and from places like Camp Grant, the former U.S. Army facility where thousands of soldiers trained for World War I and World War II.
“I decided I’m right in the heart of Rockford, let’s theme it all Rockford,” said Vowles, 35, a Belvidere native who has lived in Rockford since he was 16. He and his wife, Cara, have three children ages 13, 8, and 3.
Vowles has about 15 years of experience in the food service industry, including working at the former Kryptonite in downtown, which closed in 2016, and managing Rural on Tap for its first three years.
Much like he did at Rural on Tap and Kryptonite, Vowles plans to hold festivals outside Ernie’s Midtown Pub next year.
“I threw some parties at Rural on Tap when I was there called the Rural Oaks Corner Parties, and then we did some Main Street District parties when I was at Kryptonite,” Vowles said. “I really know how to throw a good festival and a good party, so we’re going probably to throw either two or three of those next spring and summer.”
Until then, Vowles is ready to welcome new customers to his pub.
“I just want this to be a neighborhood bar – an after-work spot – for everyone in Rockford,” he said. “We really want to be known for just being a versatile place where any walk of life can come in and enjoy themselves and not feel out of place.”
About | Ernie’s Midtown Pub
Where: 1025 Fifth Ave., Rockford
Hours: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Saturday for opening week. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The pub is closed Sunday and Monday.