It's a jam-packed day of entertainment when you find yourself in Rockford. Welcome to the official hot dog capitol of Michigan. Here, I found my sandwich soul mate then died and went to toy heaven.
A wee bit outside of town is Herman’s Boy (220 Northland Dr. NE), a mix of five different businesses in one beautiful old farmhouse. You can get deli items here, but I was interested in breakfast goods. There’s so much that you sort of get lost, but it’s a good lost as in, "I’m finding everything I’ve ever wanted to eat all under one roof!" Muffins, caramel pecan rolls, cookies, health bars and a pulled-pork Eggel bagel sandwich for only $3.50. Throw in a 20-ounce coffee for $1.50 and that’s an affordable and amazing start to your morning. There was tons of traffic the day I stopped in and the special was a Butterfinger Latte. Word from a chatty customer was that “everyone was mad about this place” and that they had “the best coffee.” Herman's Boy has a new cupcake of the month each month, which is reason enough in itself to come back over and over. Oh, and I saw beef jerky in the shape of hearts. This place is my new hang out.
If I were a rich lady — and I dream of this often — I’d back my luxury vehicle up to Paperdoll Boutique (10 E. Bridge St. NE) and start loading up the goods. Filled with trendy and tailored layering pieces, this shop offers a ton of style inspiration. Filled with cool-girl pieces from brands such as Free People, Billabong, French Connection and BB Dakota, this boutique is accessory laden with dazzling statement jewelry, purses, candles and gifts. I spent way too much time in the back corner sniffing and inhaling all the romantic Lollia perfumes and hand creams.
The Rockford Dam Overlook (located on Bridge Street) provides a charming view of the Rogue River. In the summer everyone gets ice cream from Custard By The Dam and lingers there. In the colder months, you walk by and shiver.
The Corner Bar (31 N. Main St.), established in 1935, has been crafting its famous dogs the same way for nearly 80 years. Some choices include The World Famous Chili Dog Basket, Slaw Dog Basket, Burrito Dog Basket and Vegetarian “Not Dog” Basket. It’s no wonder thousands have recorded their names in the restaurant’s World Famous Hot Dog Hall of Fame (including my father-in-law, who got his name on the wall but missed his daughter’s first birthday, but that’s a story for another time). If you like a challenge, sign up to eat 12 chili dogs in one four-hour sitting and win a T-shirt and a spot on the wall. If you visit the city, it’s mandatory that you stop here and take part in this Rockford tradition. Oh, and hot dogs go great with root beer and I just so happen to know a place…
I have the palate of a five year old so I’m quite familiar with the homemade root beer at Kayla Rae Cellars (31 Courtland St.). Beyond sweet, this stuff has wonderful vanilla and licorice notes and I swig some every chance I get. Here, they offer dollar samples so you can toast to your favorite white or red. A glass of wine or cider is $6. I was smitten with the Caramel Delight dessert wine and the Wildberry fruit wine, also referred to as “adult Kool Aid.” Grab a cheese-and-crackers plate featuring Amish cheeses or food can be brought in from nearby Ramona’s Table, Grill One Eleven and Marinades.
I overheard that Aunt Candy’s Toy Company (63 Courtland St.) is “where you can play.” You don’t have to have a kid to be a kid all over again in this sprawling toy shop. Find dolls, puzzles, toy cars, books and tons of little novelty items like rocks, marbles and retro candy that changes every two weeks. The new crayon rocks were pretty cool and may have been tested by moi. It’s cumbersome to drag your own inner child out, but I did it.
Super inviting with smells leading you down a long hallway, Grill One Eleven (111 Courtland St.) is the perfect dinner spot. I recommend the Thai Chicken Satay with spicy peanut ginger sauce. But how killer does the Peach Rubbed Atlantic Salmon sound? There’s plenty of seafood, steaks and sandwiches to choose from and their martinis and cocktails could get a girl in trouble (try the French Kiss). The staff was bend-over-backwards accommodating and chipper. If you’re here on a Friday, you’ll enjoy live music. During the week, happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m.
Celebrate your Rockford adventure with some brews and live music. Open a little more than two years, Rockford Brewing (12 E. Bridge St.) is kitty corner from the Rockford dam and you can overlook it and the beautiful Rogue River (maybe even some fishers). It’s right off the White Pine Trail and inside it’s very rustic and woodsy with local artwork upstairs. While it doesn't have a kitchen yet, plans are in the works for a farm-to-table kitchen and a big barbeque pit in the spring. There’s even talk of a rooftop deck installation that will overlook the river and hold around 100 people. In the meantime, you can get limited food items including pizza, grinders and salads. Stop in for the popular Paradigm Pale Ale or the huge hit, Little George, an imperial IPA for those that love their hoppy beers. Along with the regular line up, there’s The Permaculture Series of beers featuring Michigan ingredients — whatever happens to be in season. Rockford Brewing has also made a plum barely wine in the past and have a fun Beanilla Brown creamy vanilla bean brown porter. The brewery has a great live music space featuring original artists from Michigan. You’ll want to remember live music happens every Thursday and Friday and sometimes on Saturdays. Get your buzz and get a seat, this is your entertainment, folks — unless you want to try out bowling at Rockford Lanes. Not musically related, but since we’re talking dates, Wednesdays are half-off growler fills, so lug your jug on over and save.
I fell in love with a sandwich and am now in a relationship with it on Facebook. You too can find love or lunch at The Twisted Vine Deli & Catering (51 E. Bridge St.), where they sell classic deli fare, American Spoon delicacies and the Bridge Street Grilled Cheese. Pick from Boar’s Head Gold Label Imported Swiss, Picante Sharp Provolone or Double Gloucester Cheddar cheeses (or try a mix of all three — I did) on fresh bread. You can add American Spoon farmhouse tomato relish, mango habanero salsa or jalapeno pepper jelly (my pick). This is so filling, flavorful and addicting that I went home and tried to make my own poor man’s version of it. It didn’t compare. Nothing does.