Hanging Out in Rockford: St. Patrick’s Day—part two

I pass by the Hai Quynh, Rockford’s only Vietnamese restaurant, and think about the first time I had Vietnamese food in Sacramento, Calif., and how the local television station caught me stuffing a whole spring roll in my mouth. And I think about how stupid most of Rockford is that they don’t come down here to eat in this spotlessly clean restaurant. I wonder why they would rather have that chain store crap.

In front of the Morning Glory, I remember a couple of weeks ago when Jim Thacker and I went there for the skillets Jim says have all the basic food groups—the bacon group, the sausage group and, oh yes, the fried potato group. Then, there is even a new dental office, Cambridge Dental, and I make a mental note to look into getting an appointment to have my teeth cleaned, something we would have had to go to the east side for. (I avoid the east side at all costs.)

At the Lyran, I try the soda bread John and Gene made for me. It is sweet, with a touch of raisins—different from my mother’s, but delicious nonetheless. I see Jimmy Hughes and Doug Mark. I say hi to Chairman Scott. Jimmy tries to buy me a drink, but I have a long way to go on this St. Patrick’s Day, and a drink this early is out of the question. The Lyran is all fixed up since last year. The gorgeous old wooden floor gleams with new finish, and the walls are a pristine, freshly-painted white. I look for Thacker, but I cannot find him. Someone suggests the kitchen, but he isn’t there, either.

I wander out the front door, and make for home. It is going to be a long day. At the corner of Seventh, Jim pulls up, his car full of shepherd’s pies, and asks me if I want to go back inside. I tell him that it is going to be a long day. I head back north on Seventh. I want to stop in to see Stan at the Fair Trade Store. As I enter the store, the first thing that strikes me is the beautiful maple floor. I remember when the store was Hedrick Electric, and I went there to get my mother-in-law’s vacuum cleaner. I noticed the wooden floor then, but it was the color of dirt.

A very nice woman, whose name unfortunately I cannot remember, chats with me, and then directs me to Stan’s office. Stan comes out and gives me the grand tour. Fair trade stores give all their profits to the indigenous people who make the products. The store itself does not make a profit. This is a great way to find a great gift and help someone out in the Third World. We have so much, and this is one way of spreading it around—and the maple floor is so beautiful. I remark to Stan that it is interesting he is so liberal and I am so conservative, but we both want to see the end of George W. Bush’s term.

I head back to the Rose but, this time, I cut down the old Charles past the Aldi and the bar where we used to have Billy and Earl’s. I walk back to the Rose, and check in with Ryan. Then, I set out across the river. I go to Swilligan’s, and have one glass of wine and a pork tenderloin sandwich. Laura waits on me. Then, I walk back across East State, stop at Runner’s Image and pick up my new pair of New Balance walking shoes from Steve, stop in at Lula’s and say hi to the girls, and then walk rather purposefully back to the Rose. It’s going to be a really long day.

I hide out for a couple of hours. I want to gather a little personal energy. I make my way downstairs, and hang at the little bar. Then, the floodgates burst, and for the next four hours, I do nothing but clear tables and seat people. The customers are perfect, with one exception. The customer is always right, except when he is really wrong—and that happens occasionally. Tonight, it happens once. But, all in all, it is a wonderful St. Pat’s. We aren’t up for the day, but we are for the week—our biggest week ever. I leave early to go upstairs and hide. I am glad to have St. Patrick’s Day out of the way for another year.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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