A darned good time

A darned good time

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

My world traveler son, Drew, is here from Budapest. I pick him up at O’Hare Tuesday. I have to juggle my days at the market in order to be able to be at the airport at the right time. I usually shop for Irish Rose Norte on Tuesday and for Irish Rose River District on Thursday. This week I go on Wednesday and Saturday. He arrives on September 5th, the day before his birthday.

He was here a year ago, too. He did a spot on the World Trade Center disaster that I heard on National Public Radio. It had to do with the effect of the disaster on people living in Rockford. That is what he does, my globetrotting son. He is an independent journalist, living by his wits in a foreign country. I’m terribly proud of him.

His time here is precious. He has a lot to get in. I’m very busy, too. It is hard to arrange time when we can see each other. He has a grandmother who wants to see him, not to mention some aunts and relatives and, of course, my lovely ex-wife and partner, Robin.

We manage to slip out for some Mexican food a couple of times. Mexican food is one thing he misses in Hungary. He says there is only one Mexican restaurant, and it is not authentic. The first time we go to Taco Loco. That is on his birthday. I think Taco Loco is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Rockford. It is the kind of food the poor people In Mexico eat. They have things like Buche (esophageal tract of the pig, caramelized in deep fat, and then steamed to tenderness). It is one of my favorite things in the world. Poor people have the most wonderful dishes because they use every part of the animal.

A few days later, we are on our own together again. I just drive around waiting for inspiration to strike. And strike it does, in the form of Mi Magdalena. I haven’t been there since I wrote a column about them many months ago. I especially liked the chipotle rice soup, and I want Drew to try It. Chipotles are ripened jalapenos that are smoked and then dried. The flavor is fantastic.

I pull up in front of Mi Magdalena, but then I have a change of heart. I want to sit and have a beer first. Drew agrees, and we head right down the street to the Stadium Lounge across the street from the ball diamond. The Stadium belongs to my friend and accountant, Tom Chapman. He was originally partners with Jack Winkler, but then, and I don’t know how or why, Tom wound up owning the place outright. He also owns Sluggers out by Sportscore.

We walk in the front door, and I tell Drew about how his great grandfather, who used to own the building, had his family crest and name in the entranceway. His Grandmother Jane used to be proud of that. Now, unfortunately, it is covered with carpeting. Then we walk into the bar and pull up two stools. The bartender, Paul, gets us a couple of cold Heinekens in frosted mugs. The ice-cold beer tastes really good. I am hungry and ask for chips. He obligingly goes to the kitchen and returns with a bowl of Fisher’s. They are my favorite potato chips.

When I lived in North Park growing up, I used to go to the North Park Prescription Pharmacy when it was owned by Lloyd Eister and Al Cerutti, for Coca-Cola and Mrs. Fisher’s. They used to make all the soda fountain delights, too, from chocolate sodas to hot fudge sundaes. This was undoubtedly the start of my weight problem. Recently I have gotten to know Mark Cerutti, Al’s son. He is an electrical inspector for the city. We share an affection for Little Italy.

Paul (Taylor) turns out to be a delight. We talk about Pete Diventi, who used to be on the Mrs. Fisher’s truck until he bought the company from Mario. I tell a story I heard about how Mario said that he had made a million, and now it was Pete’s turn.

Drew tells Paul about his grandmother’s father owning the building, and Paul takes us in the other room to show us an old picture of the place. We see a person in the picture who might be his grandmother. Drew says that he should bring her here to see it. As we leave the bar, Drew remarks that this was a really good idea. We both enjoyed Paul’s company.

Then we go to Mi Magdalena for the chipotle and rice soup. A gorgeous young woman serves us. She speaks perfect English. We have cheese enchiladas and chicken in a wonderful homemade red mole. “Why would anyone eat in a chain restaurant when they could get this?,” says my world traveler son.

Taco Loco, 1122 S. Main, 969-9313

Stadium Lounge, 160 15th Ave., 962-7354

Mi Magdalena, 102 15th Ave., 986-1150

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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