Der Rathskeller German Restaurant in Rockford
You might say Rockford’s oldest restaurant, Der Rathskeller, started with a great-tasting sausage.
“Der Rathskeller opened in 1931,” says Mike DuPre, manager of the German restaurant and bar. “Founder Fred Goetz sold sausages door-to-door in Rockford. His client list grew so large he decided to open a sausage shop so he could sell from a retail storefront. Der Rathskeller – a restaurant in the cellar – was added several months later.”
Rathskeller is a German word that literally means “the cellar of a city hall that is used as a restaurant and bar.” Rathskellers are common in Germany, and Rockford’s own Der Rathskeller has been hailed by thousands of patrons as one of only a few such restaurants in America identical to true German Rathskellers.
Like the founder, the current owners of Der Rathskeller are of German descent and continue to serve mouth-watering sausages made from Old World recipes.
“They are handmade with the freshest spices and choicest cuts of pork,” DuPre says.
Other dishes that keep customers coming back are Butterfly Ribs and Deep-Fried Cod.
“The Butterfly Ribs are tender, meaty and lean – our own cut of pork butterfly rib boiled with our special seasonings until the meat falls from the bone,” DuPre says. “The Deep-Fried Cod has a special price on Fridays and has a thin and flaky crust. We have become one of the most popular fish fries in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.”
Half of Der Rathskeller’s cherished recipes came from the original owner, while others are a collection of dishes DuPre has gathered from chefs abroad. The Old World restaurant is also popular for its warm, cozy ambiance.
“It’s like walking into a German restaurant, minus the trip to Europe,” DuPre says.
For a sweet ending to your meal, try the rich, homemade cheesecake.
“We’re known for our cheesecake,” DuPre says. “It was the only recipe not included in the sale of the business when my family bought Der Rathskeller. The cheesecake recipe required a separate contract to purchase.”
The building itself holds many stories from the past, including a false wall where liquor and beer were hidden and stored when Der Rathskeller operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.