For more than a decade, it’s been one of Rockford’s favorite destinations for Mexican cuisine. Learn how a dynamic menu and honest cuisine have made this an enduring success.
For true lovers of authentic Mexican food, Dos Reales is one of the most popular dining spots in the Rockford restaurant scene. Located at 5855 E. State St., it offers traditional Mexican cuisine, some American favorites, exceptionally good margaritas and an intimate yet fun atmosphere.
“I love it there,” says Matt Stacionis of Rockford. “They have the best tacos, nachos and shrimp fajitas in the city. I started going there when it opened. The atmosphere reminds me of what a home-style restaurant in Mexico is like. When I go there, I know the service will be consistently good and the portions generous.”
Dos Reales opened in 1998; there’s also a second location in Champaign, Ill.
“It’s a casual dining experience,” says manager Jose Gonzalez, who joined the restaurant three years ago. “But we also know people are in a hurry these days, so we strive for fast service in order to keep our customers happy.”
Dos Reales features several Mexican signature items on its recently updated menu: burrito cheese steak, chimichangas and appetizers such as guacamole ranchero. Newer dishes include torta Mexicana, a Mexican style of sandwich filled with grilled chicken or steak; sopes Mexicanos, a traditional Mexican dish served with rice and beans; and molletes, a traditional Mexican meal with toasted bread covered in refried beans and grilled steak. There also are non-traditional dishes such as chicken wings, burgers, and french fries.
Dos Reales offers gluten-free options and has always used fresh, preservative-free corn tortillas, chips and vegetable oil in its cooking.
“There’s a misconception that all Mexican food is hot,” Gonzalez says. “All of our dishes are mild unless guests request them to be spicy. We prepare everything from scratch and we purchase our products from local sources.”
Business is steady for Dos Reales during weekend dinners and weekday lunches. Guests come from as far away as Freeport, DeKalb and South Beloit. Many regulars come here several times a week. Reservations are encouraged for groups of eight or more.
“I really enjoy our customers,” Gonzalez says. “Everyone who comes in has different interests, from sports to politics. It’s fun to get to know our loyal patrons and their families. We wouldn’t be here for 17 years without their support.”
There is little turnover among Dos Reales’ 15-member staff. In fact, many employees have been with the restaurant for 10 or more years. “We make them feel like family,” Gonzalez says. “We want them to feel good about what they do, where they work and about the people they work with.”
Recently, Dos Reales underwent a major renovation – its parking lot was repaved, the main dining room was repainted, new flooring and a new roof were installed and the kitchen received extensive upgrades. There’s a new bar, where customers gather for what Gonzalez calls the “best margaritas in town.” Drink specials are popular on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Catering has been important to the growth of the restaurant, too.
The main dining room has plenty of space for 100 guests. The back dining area can be reserved for wedding rehearsals, birthday parties, business meetings and other special occasions. Live music is a big draw every other Friday.
Occasionally, Dos Reales welcomes school groups and Boy Scouts for tours. “It’s a great way to teach young kids about the Mexican culture,” Gonzalez says. “The students enjoy watching their food being prepared.”
Dos Reales is open Sun.-Thurs. from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. from 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.