Hanging Out in Rockford: The best of Rockford

(A little waif of a girl is standing outside the Irish Rose asking about the apartment for rent over the back dining room and the kitchen. She is a new reporter for the Register Star. “Will I have to sign a lease?” she asks. “I don’t know how long I will be here.” She has only gotten here, and she is planning to leave already. It’s typical. “Is it safe?” I say it is pretty safe, that the mayor used to live here. I never hear from her again.)

Sunday morning, I finish my work and decide I am hungry. I am fortunate to live where I do because one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in town, Tortacos Soto, is just a couple of blocks from my apartment above the Irish Rose. I stop in the Kwick Stop next door to get a Rockford Register Star and sit down to have some Posole. The Posole is really good today, chock full of twice-roasted pork, chile and hominy.

I open the Register Star, and a small insert falls on the table. The annual “What Rocks In the Rock River Valley” is out again. Is it that time already? Somebody should talk to the folks over at the daily and tell them to quit embarrassing themselves, but they probably wouldn’t listen. They have been producing this same piece of trash for the past several years.

The categories are lame, things like who has the best restroom (Incidentally, one of the runners-up in the bathroom category was listed as Baca’s. Do you think they meant formerly Bacchus, now Brio? How totally out of touch can you be?) but what do you expect from a Mc-chain newspaper that brings you ringing stories on such things as which way to roll your toilet paper, over or under. No surprise, then, that the best pizza is from a chain or that Taco Bell gets the nod for best Mexican food. If this were really Rockford, I personally would have left town a long time ago. Thank heavens, it is not.

So few people fill out this survey that a few years ago, one of the chain restaurants on the east side figured out how to manipulate the results. It only took giving a paper to a few of their regular customers. Evidently, it did not produce the desired results as I see they are no longer doing it.

In the past, this piece of unmitigated trash lauded Burger King as the best hamburger and McDonald’s as the best French fries. But then, what do you expect from a newspaper that is as thoroughly processed as the worst fast food? The new “Go” section makes my stomach wrench. “Go-getters!” “Go artsy!” “Go-vernment!” “Go to hell?” And then there is the Hmmm! moment and the Ahhh! moment. How about the Make me puke! moment? This seems to be a continuation of those cutesy front-page headlines. Who writes those, and how do we get rid of him? He makes our community look stupid.

This from a newspaper that spells Judge Kapala’s name correctly on the front page and then consistently spells it incorrectly (Kampala) on the continuation of the same article inside the paper (including the headline). Is there someone working for the Register Star editing and writing headlines who is so out of touch he or she has not heard of the man who is to be the new federal judge? It boggles the mind. The only thing I and an aide to the former mayor could ever agree on was the fact that we both despised our daily paper. The quality of a newspaper affects the quality of life in the community in which it resides. Big time.

Incensed by all of this, I talk to Frank Schier at the River District Mixer being held in the new space being remodeled by the Furneys where Rockford Furniture used to be. I want to produce a “Best of Rockford” with him, a real “Best of Rockford” that celebrates only things Rockford, and not chain stuff. Something with real categories. Later at the Irish Rose, we talk over ideas. We decide to bring people in the community into it.

Holland Zander is waiting on us, and we ask her about doing the music scene. So far, Kerry Knodle from CCS is going to do breakfast places; John Lundeen of Growth Enterprises is going to do Southeast Asian restaurants; Gerlinde Sampson is going to tackle fusion places; I am going to do Mexican. We want this to be a contribution to the fine places that make our community worth living in, and a guide for newcomers. We are open to solicitation. If you would like to participate, you can e-mail me at rosenorte@aol.com.

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 Oct. 4-10, 2006, issue

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