We had a delightful evening at one of Rockford’s oldest family-run restaurants, the Olympic Tavern. The exterior is Craftsman style featuring dark brown siding, white patterned window panes and a low pitched green roof. It looks as though a couple of additions were added over the years.

The bar area is enormous. There are cozy booths and pub tables and chairs situated in front of the windows. The focal point of the main dining room is a gigantic floor to ceiling stone fireplace adorned with a mounted moose head.

The weather was beautiful when we stopped, so we opted to eat outside. Edison bulb string lights decorate the outdoor dining space along with trees wrapped in tiny white lights, giving it a festive feeling.

The restaurant’s draft beer selection will not disappoint, nor will its wide variety of wines, all with good descriptions to help you decide on your pairing.

We are more of a cocktail group, so we each sampled something unique. I had a blood orange mojito ($8.50). It was light and refreshing for a hot day. Jennifer chose the pretty, pink-hued Lulz blackberry lemonade cocktail ($6.50). The lemony drink made with seltzer had a nice fizz and felt like a drink that should have a cute little umbrella in it. The dirty Palmer ($9) intrigued Helene. Iced tea with lemon, a little bourbon, peach puree and schnapps, the predominant taste was peach, not too sweet and very smooth.

Local variations of poutine, the famous dish of French fries and cheese curds topped with gravy, can be hit or miss for us, although we always love to try it. A recent trip to Quebec left me longing for the taste, so I was happy to see it on the appetizer menu. The salty fries, melty curds and rich mushroom beer gravy made Olympic’s version a winner.

The meat and cheese board ($15) is a new offering for the tavern. The cheeses—a tart Hooks 4-year sharp cheddar, a creamy Edelweiss dill Havarti and a Spanish Manchego—were presented in chunks, which we sliced a little smaller to make more manageable. They were a great complement to the homemade apple butter and toasted bread. The featured meats were Smoking Goose mortadella, lamb salami and capicola. Craisins and sliced toasted almonds added another layer of flavors and textures. A board like this is always a great shared appetizer and goes well with cocktails.

I settled on the tacos ($12). There were three served on corn tortillas with a light green salsa. There were multiple topping choices. My steak was plentiful and delicious. It was served with rice and tasty white beans.

Jennifer ordered fish and chips ($16) as her main course. Three beer-battered Icelandic cod filets arrived deep fried to a crispy golden brown. Her meal included french fries, coleslaw and a few corn fritters. Similar to hush puppies, the fritters were packed with fresh corn and offered a light sweetness.

Nikki tried the bison burger ($15) with sweet potato waffle fries and honey mustard sauce ($1.50). The burger was tender and juicy, with bacon, blue cheese, red onion, lettuce and tomato. Served on a metal tray, it was the picture-perfect meal for outdoor dining.

We decided that one of us needed to order a pizza, and what a selection! All 12-inch with a thin crust, the offerings were eclectic and tantalizing. You can get a basic cheese ($9) and then choose from nine options (at $1 each) to create your own pizza.

Helene was tempted by the unusual offerings and ended up going for the steak and bleu ($15). Ribeye steak was strewn across the pie, which came out hot and browned along the edges. Helene found it difficult to get a slice to her plate as stringy, gooey cheese clung to it. The blue cheese was interspersed with the base of mozzarella cheese and paired nicely with the steak. Sauteed red bell peppers and fresh chopped scallions provided bright pops of color.

Check their event page on Facebook before choosing the day you visit because they offer many specials to entice you. On the Thursday evening we went, it was steak night with $5 off all steak dinners and $15 bottles of cabernet/merlot and pinot grigio. On Mondays in the summer, Pints for Pups is an event which lets you bring your four-legged friend. There is plenty happening here besides what is on the menu.


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