Enjoy Scandinavian Delights at The Norwegian in Downtown Rockford
Emily Christensen always knew she wanted to be an architect, a chef or a musician. After her father passed away suddenly while she was living in Chicago, she felt called back to her hometown of Rockford, where she bought a dilapidated old building and turned it into a restaurant.
“I saw really clearly that life was very short…and I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “This just felt like the right thing to do.”
With the help of her dad’s friends, Nicholson Hardware in Rockford and a Kickstarter project that helped her raise more than $100,000 to save the building, Christensen finally opened The Norwegian in December 2018. The menu is Scandinavian but with Midwestern twists. Some of the most popular items: Æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls with hints of vanilla and cardamom, served with house-made raspberry jam and maple syrup) and Frikadeller (a smashed meatball with Jarlsberg cheese, house-made sauerkraut and horseradish mustard aioli). Swedish pastries such as cinnamon knots, topped with pearl sugar and served warm with butter, as well as lefse, a traditional Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes and topped with butter and sugar, satisfy a sweet tooth.
“My grandmother was 100% Swedish, and she taught me to make things simply and use what you have to put things together,” Christensen says.
One of the hallmarks of Swedish food culture is a slow morning ritual called fika, which she wanted to incorporate in the design of The Norwegian.
“We built this so people could sit and stay for an entire morning, having their slow coffees and rolls,” she explains. “When you’re in the restaurant, it feels like home.”
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Location: 1402 N. Main Street, Rockford, IL 61103
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Phone: (815) 329-6191
Christensen takes care to source locally whenever possible, and even sends her staff out foraging for ingredients to incorporate into cocktails: Think elderberries, black raspberries and elderflower. It’s not always easy to do this in the Midwest, especially in winter, but pickling summer vegetables from businesses like Harrison Market Gardens and Lost and Found Farm makes them last through the first few months of the year.
“Nature usually gives you what it wants you to eat when it’s available,” Christensen says.