August is a busy month, or Return to Taco Hell

August is a busy month, or Return to Taco Hell

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

August is a busy month. It starts with the arrival of my cousin from Ireland and ends with the On The Waterfront. In between, I squeeze in a new relationship, meet Mom and Dad, and cater a birthday party for the new girlfriend. The new friend remarks that she must be trying to kill me off. I have to meet her mother and sister for the first time, cook for them at Irish Rose Norte on Saturday, and then cater a party for 70 on Sunday night.

After the Saturday night dinner, we all stop at Fantini for a drink. It is the new woman’s favorite place to go. Well, everyone else has a drink, I stick to water. I have a big day the next day, I have to do my column, all the normal Sunday work getting the receipts ready for the bank, and a party to boot. While standing at the new bar at Fantini, I have a deja vu. I have stood in this same place years before when it was Saddle and Cycle. I am totally absorbed by this and miss the point of a story the new girlfriend’s sister is telling. Everyone laughs, and I stand there looking stupid. When I try to explain, I only make it worse. Later, however, I tell Jeremy, and I think he understands the feeling I had. He has restored the old Saddle and Cycle.

The next day it turns out to be quite a party. Harlan Jefferson plays with Rick Burns and Freddy Miller. Those guys sound so good, you have to ask yourself, is it live or is it Memorex? The crew (Jule Ann and Ang) from Fantini shows up. Mike Laloggia sings, a chip off the old block. His Uncle Angelo was my high school Latin teacher. The whole family has always been in bands. His father and uncle used to play at Uncle Frank’s when he owned Lake View Supper Club.

We all sit there, drinking wine, too late. The next day it is difficult to work. Fortunately, I was really productive on Sunday. I pry my butt out of bed at 8 a.m. and sit around at the Irish Rose waiting for my chef, Marco, but he doesn’t arrive. Finally, the new lady friend and I go out to the party site together to clean up. We work up a good sweat carrying garbage and tables. Then we are done, and the pool looks too good. We decide to take a dip. We finish by going to Cafe Greco for lunch, and that shoots the whole day. Good way to spend a birthday. Glad Marco didn’t show.

Then it’s Tuesday and Wednesday, and I have to go to the market for both restaurants. I have to do that because Thursday I plan to go for the supplies for the La Voz Latina Taqueria. We are running the booth for La Voz Latina in the On The Waterfront. Marco spends his whole week making salsa, Chile Verde, and Chile Arbol. I go to Chicago Thursday morning to pick up 500 pounds of meat, 3,000 tortillas, and all the stuff to go with that. The new girlfriend is in Chicago at her Rush Street apartment. We are supposed to have lunch, on her actual birthday. God has another plan. The load is too much for my little van, and I have to make two trips. She is understanding and only warns me to be careful.

Friday morning, it is all about getting ready. When five o’clock arrives, we are almost done but not quite. Art Purvis from the Health Department makes an extra trip by and helps us get open. Then it is nothing but put your head down and cook tacos. Each hanging tender has to be sliced thin and grilled over charcoal. The chicken thighs have to be cooked over the coals too. Everyone in my crew is cooking, chopping and assembling. It never lets up. Marco Lenis, the director of La Voz Latina, shows up with many volunteers. Thank God.

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: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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