Beth Webb, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this vegan quiche during a recent visit to Mary’s Market in Rockford, Ill. Along with American fries, the dish featured tofu, sun-dried tomato, vegan mozzarella and turmeric.


Mary’s Market has been a favorite in Rockford since it opened in 1982. It has long promoted fresh baked goods, homemade soups, great coffee choices and just really good food with a focus on using organic and local ingredients whenever possible.

Whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon treat, I highly recommend giving them a try. There are now four locations in the area, but we visited the original market on State Street for this review.

Mary’s will be incorporating table service soon, but traditionally, customers order at the counter. First, I had to get past the fabulous bakery choices which all are on display when you walk in the door.

We were planning to eat a meal, so we all took a quick look at the sweet offerings (making mental notes for later) and moved on to the next order of business: getting beverages.

It’s a no-brainer for me, as coffee is a big plus with breakfast. Mary’s gets it right. I loved the “bold” option, but the restaurant also had two flavored coffees and a full espresso menu. Jennifer ordered a cup of organic chamomile tea, and its calming sweetness was quite satisfying.

Before ordering, we waffled between the breakfast and lunch menus.

I’m not sure why I decided to sample the vegan quiche ($8.95). I like tofu, and I loved the sun-dried tomato, but I’m not so sure about the vegan mozzarella. The turmeric, however, was a nice touch, and the dish came with a choice of sides (I chose American fries).

I was on firmer ground with the short stack of Swedish pancakes ($4.25) that we got to share. Two yummy, thin pancakes arrived with lingonberry butter and warm syrup. The light and fluffy crepe-like pancakes, which were slightly sweet, simply melted in our mouths. Next time, I want to try the lemon poppy-seed pancakes.

Helene was feeling a little under the weather, so she opted for a bowl of chicken noodle soup ($4.95). Hot and rejuvenating, the fusilli noodles gave the bowl an Italian flavor. So did the spices used, which made the soup quite flavorful, and there was even a bit of slow-gathering heat that lingered on the tongue but wasn’t uncomfortable for someone who doesn’t care for spicy food.

Chunks of carrots and celery also livened up the soup’s presentation, and there were plenty of pieces of chicken—both shredded and chunked—to make it hearty and filling. Included with the soup were several pieces of artisanal bread that were perfect for sopping up that tasty broth.

Nikki went with lunch, too. She debated between one of the gourmet sandwiches and the made-from-scratch soups, so the “market sampler” option was perfect.

The build-your-own meal included two choices from the list of sandwiches, soups, salads or mac and cheese and a side. She picked the vegetable beef soup and half of a Grecian grilled cheese sandwich and chips ($11.90). The soup was delicious, featuring beef, cabbage and other vegetables in a savory broth. The grilled cheese included artichoke hearts, pesto and mozzarella cheese with the added tang of feta and Parmesan. It was a very rich combination, and the half-sandwich portion proved just right.

Jennifer was craving breakfast, and with a plethora of options, it was tough to choose. In the end, she went with the chorizo breakfast skillet ($8.50).

What a beautiful sight her meal was when it was delivered. The skillet was layered with American fries, deliciously seasoned chorizo (the most prominent flavor), pico de gallo and shredded cheddar, all topped with two eggs, a generous amount of crumbled feta and a side of house-made guacamole. She could have eaten the guac by the spoonful—it was that good—but instead spread it on top of her skillet. The dish was delightful in every way, and it was accompanied by a side of multigrain toast to top things off.

The in-house bakery at Mary’s also is phenomenal, and we made our way back to the big glass case before leaving.

Jennifer was salivating as she surveyed the options. Something sweet sounded appealing, so she ordered triple ganache to go to enjoy with her family. With three thick layers of chocolate and cream, it ranked high on her list of all-time favorite desserts.

I went home with a loaf of my favorite peasant bread, but I get a pat on the back for not overdoing it and buying a piece of pie or a scone.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.