Hanging Out In Rockford, Ming’s On Madison—Part One

Hanging Out In Rockford, Ming’s On Madison—Part One

By By Mike Leifheit

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.

It is a Thursday. I am back from the market. This week has seemed a little disordered because I went to the market on Monday instead of Tuesday. I had a court date on my motorcycle accident. Nothing to report on that subject yet. I do the normal after-the-market things, and then I am ready to take a break. The week has been pretty hectic.

One of my waitresses, Elizabeth, comes up to my place to get some ticket books, and says that Jenny Geiger has been trying to get hold of me downstairs. I had my cell phone off and in the charger while I finished my work. I call Jenny, and she says, “What are you doing?” I say, “Nothing; do you want to go to dinner?” “Yes,” she says, and I tell her I will be there in about 45 minutes.

I sit and finish the glass of wine I am drinking, but the conversation is interesting, and I talk more than I had planned before leaving. I call her to apologize as I drive up the highway to Rockton, but she seems unperturbed. When I get there, I have a little trouble finding her house. I have only picked her up there one time before. I call on the cell, and she says it is the one right across the street from the fire department. Then I remember and feel foolish.

“Where do you want to go?” she asks as she gets in the car. “I don’t know; what do you think you would like?” I ask. We discuss several options and then reject one new place because Jenny has been there, and the food was pretentious but not good. I believe her because I trust her taste. I don’t trust a lot of people’s taste. I finally make the decision. I want to take her to Tilly’s Club Ballyhoo in Beloit for the pizza and the french fries. Both are unique.

We drive to Tilly’s, park and go in. Sliding up to the bar, I ask for menus. The woman who is bartending tells us that the kitchen is closed for two weeks. It is an annual thing. They take a vacation every year at this time. We are disappointed. We have a cocktail and discuss further options.

Back in the car, we drive around Beloit. We wind up at Hanson’s on Colley Road, but decide only to have a drink there also. Then it’s back in the car. I remember a restaurant on Madison Street called Gene’s German Restaurant, but when we get there, it has been replaced by a huge video rental store. Actually, they tore down Gene’s and the gas station next door (it used to be called Red X, and there was a huge red X in front), and filled both lots with this monster. Then I head out Madison Street, and there is a little Chinese restaurant (where, to my recollection, there has always been a Chinese restaurant). We pull in.

After I graduated from Beloit College, I went back to work for the Rockford Nehi RC Cola Company. Before I moved into supervision with the company, one of the things I did was to run both of the Beloit, Wis. routes. Between that and having gone to college there, I got to know the city pretty well. We were just getting into eating different kinds of food (I and my lovely ex-wife and partner, Robin). One of our new interests was Chinese. We used to drive all the way to Clearview in Marengo. Then we discovered The Farmer in The Dell.

We used to go there with large numbers of people and order the multiple Chinese dinners. You know, dinner for four, or dinner for six, but we would always order for two more than we actually had, so we would have food to take home. Also, we liked the extra choices. That is where Robin’s cousin Brad learned to eat something beyond Hong Kong steak. That place has now become Ming’s On Madison.

We sit outside the restaurant. I am flooded by these memories. Then we get out of the car to go in. I walk up to the dining room door I remember, but it is locked. We have to go around to the front door and enter through the bar. We are greeted by a beautiful Chinese woman behind the bar. Her name turns out to be Ming; the restaurant is hers and her parents’.

Tune in next week for Egg Drop Soup, rare steak, bean curd in curry, and some of the best homemade chili sauce I have had. Hope you will join us.

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