210819NORWEGIAN

Beth Webb, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this entree of pyttipanne during a recent visit to The Norwegian in Rockford, Illinois. The dish features cubes of potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, along with crispy-fried firm tofu drizzled in a maple and cashew sauce.

ROCKFORD, ILL.

On a recent trip to Mrs. Fisher’s Potato Chip factory, we stopped by The Norwegian in north Rockford for lunch.

The Norwegian’s ambiance is casual and evokes a hipster vibe. There is a roomy, covered outdoor dining area right off the parking lot in the rear, and when you venture inside from the back, you step into a cozy space with leather armchairs and a wood burning stove.

There is also a small library with overloaded bookshelves and a “jukebox” that consists of a turntable, speakers and numerous record albums. For just $1, staff will spin the vinyl of your choice. Very cool.

The dining area and bar are in the front of the restaurant and are decorated in a soothing teal color. Abundant natural light fills the space from the large lead-glass windows, and modern pendant lighting adorns the bar. Hardwood flooring and a wooden tongue-and-groove ceiling along with plenty of fresh greenery give diners a feeling of home.

The Norwegian currently is open for breakfast and lunch (dinner hours will be returning soon) along with special evening events such as jazz concerts and fish frys.

We started out with some great coffee. The Norwegian has all of the specialties along with some of its own, such as stout latte or goat milk dulce de leche.

I had a double espresso with oat milk ($3), which was just what I needed to get going for the day. Nikki cooled off with a spicy iced chai ($3.75).

We felt obligated to try the ebelskiver (Danish pancakes, which were three for $6), and it was worth it. Each was warm, soft and topped with a wonderful maple syrup and house raspberry jam.

We also ordered the peach salad ($14)—a featured brunch special—to split. Mixed greens were tossed with thinly sliced fresh peach, ricotta cheese (made in-house), basil and pistachios, and then drizzled with a sweet, tangy mix of maple and balsamic vinegar. The peaches and pistachios gave the salad an extraordinary taste and texture.

For my meal, I ordered the pyttipanne ($13) after asking how to pronounce it. It is a dish similar to hash, and The Norwegian makes a vegan version.

Served on a wooden plank, the presentation was wonderful. There were nice cubes of potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, along with a firm tofu served with a crisp outside. Tied together with a maple and cashew sauce, the dish was both delicious and healthy.

Jennifer had breakfast on her mind as she perused the menu, so she chose the eggs Benedict ($12). The Norwegian uses cage-free eggs, and they were perfectly poached before being placed on an English muffin with a layer of Eichman’s ham.

House-made hollandaise sauce came along on the side as did a lovely salad made with organic greens with a light summer dressing. A fresh sprig of dill decorated each egg.

Jennifer has long been a fan of eggs Benedict, and she said The Norwegian’s version stood out as one of the best she has had.

The mushroom melt ($14) proved to be a winner for Helene. The mushrooms were pastrami-seasoned (not sure what that means) and boasted a peppery taste, and red-stained sauerkraut added a splash of color and tartness. There wasn’t quite enough horseradish-mustard aioli on board, but it was hard to discern all the flavors because everything was incorporated in a melted Jarlsberg cheese.

On the side of Helene’s sandwich were shoestring-cut fries that were so perfectly seasoned with salt they were difficult to stop eating.

Nikki ordered the frikadeller sandwich ($15), which featured mashed meatballs on light rye with sauerkraut, lingonberry barbecue, Jarlsberg cheese and onion aioli. Her meal also came with a huge pile of shoestring fries and was served on a wooden plank. The meatballs overflowed from the sandwich, but the cheese held everything together to avoid creating a mess. Reminiscent of a meatloaf sandwich, the dish resembled comfort food with a twist.

Cookies were on the dessert menu the day we visited, so we sampled a few.

The oatmeal raisin was moist and chewy with walnuts included. We also tried a gluten-free, mixed-berry thumbprint flavored with cardamom and a blueberry thumbprint with a delicious butter-cookie base filled with sweet, subtle blueberry jam.

On YouTube, there is a testimonial for The Norwegian by musician/chef Emily Hurd Christensen. She relied on a kickstarter campaign to save the building that houses the restaurant from destruction and overcame major hurdles to make it happen. On the wall, visitors will find wooden plaques recognizing those who pitched in to create the space.

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

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