Hanging Out In Rockford: Mings On Madison, Part Two
By By Mike Leifheit
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.
I still need to find a column. Jenny Geiger and I go to dinner at Mings on Madison, and I think about that being the source for a column, but I really dont have the material I need to write about the restaurant. I try to think about alternatives, and I stop to see Tricia at the Green Quarter after cooking at my Rockton restaurant on Saturday. I ask her and Jenny to accompany me to a restaurant we have previousLy discussed. Wade might go, too. We decide on 12:30 the next day.
Riding back to the Irish Rose, I pass Paragon on State, and see Walt Rebinan. He waves me over, and we discuss promotions for downtown. He is working on one, and I am working on another. Then I break away remembering that I have company waiting for me at the Irish Rose I arrive for my company about 45 minutes late.
I wind up partying late. I sit at the new bar at Fantinis for the first time. It is Art Deco. I really like it. I go over to a new friends house to visit. It is 3 a.m. before I head home. The next morning I am wrung out. Even the smallest amount of paperwork is excruciating. I persevere.
Twelve-thirty comes and no Tricia, Jenny or Wade. I count my blessings. About 1:30, Tricia calls and says that they all got up too late to go. I know that I must get a column written and decide to do the column on Mings.
After I get the absolute minimum amount of work done, I fire up the Yamaha and head north to Beloit. I go the back way, taking Rockton Avenue through Rockton and then Highway 2 to Beloit. I am going to have lunch at Mings and collect the information I need to write a column. I drive to Madison Street and think about all the times I have been there. I really dont even know if the restaurant will be open on Sunday, but I am willing to take the chance. Anyway, its a great excuse to take a ride in the country.
When I get to Mings, they are open, and Ming is behind the bar as she was when Jenny and I were there on Thursday. I sit at the bar and order a Dos Equis in a frosted mug. The beer is really cold and tastes good on this hot July day. I ask Ming if she knows any of the history of the building. She replies that she knows all about the building, and proceeds to give me a recitation of all the different restaurants it has been. Most important of these is probably The Farmer In The Dell. It was the first Chinese restaurant in Beloit.
The man who owned it wasnt Chinese; his name was Vince Stankewitz. He hired a Chinese chef. I dont think Ming was the name of the Chinese chef; at least she didnt say so. (George Stankewitz, his brother, owned a teen club called the Pop House. I saw the Kingsmen [Louie Louie] there in a live performance when I was going to Beloit College.) After the Farmer In The Dell, it was the Golden Dragon for 18 years. That was Mings parents.
When Jenny and I ate there on Thursday, we ordered Hong Kong Steak. Ming asked if I would like it rare and whether I would like a New York or a Porterhouse, That has never happened to me in a Chinese restaurant before. I ordered the Porterhouse. Jenny ordered a vegetable dish, and we split. The vegetables were interesting, fresh and crunchy. Today I order the bean curd with curry. Right after I get it, Ming asks me if I want some homemade chili sauce. Anyone who knows me would know the answer to that one. When she brings the chili, it is the best sauce I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant. That is a tall compliment; I have had many Chinese chili sauces.
After my lunch at Mings, I ride around Beloit on the motorcycle. I drive down fraternity row, and all the memories of my college years swim through my mind. I head the Yamaha back to the Irish Rose. It Is definitely an alone day. I really need it. I write the first installment of my column, then I nap in front of the television. Finally I go to bed.
I spend the weekend in Chicago. I dine at Rosebud and Roditys. At Rosebud, I eat tomato salad and roast chicken; it is only fair. At Roditys I have braised lamb and a selection of vegetables. My companion orders the dolmades. Everything is breathtakingly perfect. It almost always is.
Then its back to Rockford and working for a living. After doing the money, I sit in my office writing this column. Jenny calls on the phone. She wants me to help her promote her new business, Harvest Catering. Her number is 624-0234. She has a good palate.
Mings On Madison, 1309 Madison Road, 608-362-3388. Closed Monday; Tues. Through Fri. Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sat. 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sun. noon to 10 p.m.