Jenny and me—Part Two

Jenny and me—Part Two

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

Jenny Geiger and I are out for the afternoon during the holidays. We start by going to Funderberg Antiques in Belvidere. I notice Jenny slowing down. She is having a bout with low blood sugar. I try to take her to Bacchus Nibbles to get something to eat, but it is too far advanced. I get instructions about how to cope with the situation over the phone from Susie, my Rockton manager, and after a 22-ounce Seven-Up, her equilibrium is restored. Then we make our way to the east side of Rockford.

I want to check out a new bar I have heard about. Jenny is game. I hear it is right across the street from O’Leary’s, and I drive up and down Riverside Boulevard looking for it. No such luck. Then I wonder if it is in the shopping center where the Eagle used to be, and it is. The name of the bar is Hard-Hat, but, undaunted, we enter.

Inside, the place is bright and airy with one big bar in the center, so large that when I want to talk to Mike Woodring, the fire inspector, I have to shout. I guess I could have walked over to where he was, but in any event, no one seemed to mind. The tops of the tables are covered with brushed stainless; so is the front of the bar.

Some of the walls are covered with zinc-coated barn roofing. The bar and floor are commercial. Three walls of the place are arrayed with hard hats, with designations of the outfits from whence they came. Some of the biggest construction firms in the city are represented. Signs outside the restrooms announce live music on the weekends.

Jenny (the only woman in the place beside the bartender) and I sit at the bar. I need to relax after the battle with low blood sugar, so I order a martini. Jenny gets another soft drink. The bartender is a perky blonde who seems to know and is friendly with the customers. At one point, she bends way over and puts both hands on her behind, an act that is not lost on the predominantly male audience, yours truly included.

Jenny and I talk about how this is not our kind of place. Jenny says that she prefers O’Leary’s because it is not so bright inside. I say nevertheless that this place will probably make a lot of money. I want to get something to eat, but it is getting busier, and I have trouble trying to catch the attention of the bartender. We decide to go to the Singapore Grill.

When we get to the Singapore, we are almost tempted by the India House next door. It is a favorite of both of ours, but we are more cocktailing than dining, and the Singapore has a really nice bar. When we enter, we are the first customers of the evening. We pull up two stools at the bar, and a beautiful blonde waits on us. She is totally attentive and anxious to please. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name.

We order the fried green beans with a sauce that has soy in it and chilies, I think. Anyway, they are great. With this, we get some hand-breaded and fried shrimp. We both pile on lots of hot sauce. Some other customers start to come in and sit at the bar. Bruce, the owner, shows up and is all smiles. I wish I could work the crowd the way he does. It is not one of my strong suits. Jenny and I are much happier here. It is more our kind of place.

After a couple of drinks, I need to be heading in a homeward direction. I don’t want to have any more to drink if I am driving. I suggest we finish up downtown. We wind up at Little Italy. Kerry Knodle is sitting a couple of stools away, and he and I discuss the event we are working on together for March 13.

Kerry’s not-for-profit (Comprehensive Community Solutions) has bought the old Mott Brothers’ building on South Main Street, and is going to put a school there. I am helping him do an open house that will host the Chamber of Commerce, the Council of 100, SWIFTT, the River District, and various factiouns of local government development. We are going to have a Caribbean night. I want to make Jerk.

When we leave Little Italy, I show Jenny the little flag atop the Faust. He is doing his job well, blowing straight north. Hopefully, this unseasonably warm weather will continue.

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 Web site: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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