A totally self-serving column (but it didn’t start out that way)

A totally self-serving column (but it didn’t start out that way)

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

It is Sunday. I rise early and after coffee, go right to work. I spend the whole day doing settlements, preparing for the weekly bank deposit and the other work I usually do on Sunday. Just before 4 p.m., I finish my work and take a shower. At 4, my bartender Christa arrives. It is our first Sunday open at the Irish Rose in the River District. I hang out as the first customers wander in.

But first Sunday or not, I need a column. I call John Agustsson and offer to buy him dinner. He is just sitting around and agrees readily. He asks me to give him a half-hour to shower before I pick him up. I wander back downstairs to the Irish Rose to kill time before I go to his house. Craig, one of my regulars, is there, and I laughingly ask him if this means I have to see him every Sunday now. He replies that there is one sure way I will not have to see him. I get his message, and tell him that he will not have to put up with me long tonight because I have to do something to get a column going.

After some coffee, I head over to John’s. I pull the Villager through the narrow entrance in the stone wall he is building. The old mansion looks like something out of a movie. I walk up to the door and let myself in. I call out to him, and he answers. He is upstairs still getting ready. I just hang around until he comes to the top of the stairs; then I walk slowly up the antique staircase that has no railing. The whole thing is a work in progress.

Actually, I have known several people who have owned this house, each one of them moving it closer to its original appearance. It is a limestone house that dates from the Civil War. It used to be across the street from Rockford College, until they made a mistake and moved the College to the burbs. Someone made a lot of money on that deal; I wonder who it was?

We get in the Villager and head north, but that is just me being old and forgetting where I am going. The Third Street Bridge has long since fallen victim to a fire. I wind up driving all the way around in a circle to get back to where I was, and then head east on Morgan Street. I turn north on Kishwaukee and then east on State. We are going to the east side to try a new Mexican restaurant I have been hearing about. I have a little trepidation because so many people have been lauding it, but I want to give it a chance. (It is my observation that if too many people like a restaurant, it is rarely good.)

John says that he doesn’t like Mexican food, but I tell him that it is about the column, and he grudgingly agrees to eat here. When we get to the restaurant, we find a seat in the smoking section, and the waitress brings us chips and salsa. After a couple of bites, I tell John that this is not going to give me a column because the chips are obviously commercial, and the salsa is fake. He says that in that case, we should leave. I agree. I tell the waitress that I am on call and that I have been beeped and have to leave. Over at the prep station, I see them opening bags of Tostitos.

We go back to the Mercury, and John says he wants to go someplace where they have pretty girls. He has recently broken up with his girlfriend. I say I don’t know where there are pretty girls on a Sunday in Rockford. I am driving out State Street, and the comment about pretty girls strikes a chord in me. I make the incredibly difficult entry to the Royal Dragon restaurant, and we walk into the bar to have a drink.

While we sit, I tell John how the bar used to be next to the kitchen, and all the salesmen used to congregate near the bar because the pretty Chinese girls in their slit skirts would be there waiting for food. I think the owner didn’t like that because he moved the bar a couple of times, and then the bar crowd dropped off. I have always felt he lost one of his best selling points.

From there, we go to O’Leary’s, still looking for pretty girls. We have a drink, but I want to leave right away because I am hungry, and the waitress has forgotten to bring me potato chips that I asked for. From there, we go to Chen’s, and Norman waits on us. I have a martini. John has his fifth or sixth cranberry juice of the evening, and we split the pork appetizer, washing it down with copious amounts of chili sauce.

Then it is back to the Irish Rose. As we get out of the car, I look up. The flag atop the Faust has switched from north to south, signaling that our unseasonably warm weather is about to end. We go into the Irish Rose, where Christa and Dawn wait on us. We have filet mignon and lamb kidneys. John remarks that we should have just come here in the first place because not only could we get good food, but the girls are pretty, too.

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 Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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