Getting over it, Part Two
By Mike Leifheit, Columnist
My friend, Jenny Geiger, meets me at the Ye Olde Pub in Rockton. We decide to go to Tilleys Club Ballyhoo in Beloit to have pizza and their special french fries. On the way, we stop in downtown Beloit at B Bs King of Cajun and pick up some greens. We drive to the Ballyhoo. Jenny is feeding me mouthfuls of greens with a plastic fork. The carryout box leaks and spills juice on the seat of her SUV. Jenny thinks the greens smell funny. I am more used to greens, and to me they just smell delicious. They taste delicious too.
Then we are in the Ballyhoo. Jenny has to go to the girls room. I order a Bloody Mary while she is gone. They have Bloody Marys on special on Sundays. They are only $1.75 and powerful, I kid you not. Jenn arrives and wants a beer. Then she strikes up a conversation with the woman to her left. They seem to be hitting it off. I sit and look at the menu. When the bartender comes for our order, I order a cheeseburger (California style) and the famous French fries. Jenn is in charge of the pizza, and she orders it with onion and half bacon.
When I went to Beloit College, we used to take study breaks at 2 or 3 in the morning. On the days we didnt go to the Demus Grill or the Spot Diner, both of which were across the street from the college, we would order in from Tilleys. The french fries were famous. They came in a brown paper bag, and the grease always soaked through. But they were really good. We used to put salt in the bag and shake it so the salt covered the greasy fries. I think in those days, they cooked them in beef tallow or lard. Most places did, including McDonalds.
Julia Child has mentioned many times that the french fries at McDonalds used to be great until they started cooking them in hydrogenated vegetable oil. She says that now they are just so-so. Recent information reveals that lard and tallow are much better for your health. How long will it take for everyone to change back?
Every stool is full. Above the opposite side of the bar is a replica in miniature of the Ballyhoo. Jenny turns to me and says that a man who is sitting across the circular bar is the person who created the replica. He is a woodworker. I look more closely at the replica, and I see him sitting in the same seat. It is kind of frightening. Sort of like something you would see on The Outer Limits.
The bartender, Mike, is as busy as the proverbial one-armed paperhanger. He can hardly keep up, but he does. He always manages to remain friendly and alert. He brings our food. I dont get mayonnaise and onions on my burger, but when I tell him, he comes back with them in two little cups almost instantly.
Then, all of a sudden, there is a voice and a face out of my past. It is Dennis Christianson. We were like cousins when I was young. He is the son of Lyle and Marge Christianson. Lyle was the brother of Alice Larson, Uncle Franks wife. I tell him that I had been thinking about him on my bike ride through Martin Park. He introduces me to his wife, Nancy. We talk about the famous Tilleys appetizer pizza with its paper-thin crust, cut into tiny little squares, each one only big enough for a single bite.
Even at Tilleys, the french fries are not as good as they used to be. Another victim of so-called progress. When will everyone learn that natural food is better, both for your health and palate? Theyre still better than most places, at least they are fresh and hand cut, with the skins still on. The hamburger is still the same, more like a steak burger than a hamburger, devoid of fat and dense in texture, The pizza seems a little different, but I think it is because of the way Jenny ordered it. I recommend that you order it with sausage. That is the way I remember it being so good.
Then it is back to Jennys to sit for a while, and then I drive the motorcycle down to Rockford, all the while wishing I had brought a warmer jacket and gloves. The cold autumn air wakes me up. When I get to the Irish Rose, the little flag above the Faust is strangely blowing north, indicating that our weather will be coming from the south. Could we be in store for a long bout of Indian summer? I hope so.
Ye Olde Pub, 114 W. Main St., Rockton, 624-6533; B Bs King of Cajun, 163 W. Grand Ave., Beloit, 608-363-1059; Tilleys Club Ballyhoo, 904 Fourth Street, Beloit, 608-362-9969.
Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheits 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.