South Water Street to India House, Part Three—57 again

South Water Street to India House, Part Three—57 again

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

(The world traveler son and I are in his car headed to DeKalb to have dinner with Dan Klefstad and Susan Stephens at It’s Greek To Me. He is home from Budapest because of his birthday. I say to him, “So how old are you now, 37?” He says, “No, Dad, I am only 36.” I say, “You can’t be because I am 57.” He says, “No, Dad, you are only 56. You are only a year older than Mom.” And with that, I gain an extra year in life. Fifty-seven all over again. Actually for two months, I was a year younger.)

That happened to me once before when I thought I was going to be 29. I got really depressed one night thinking I was almost going to be 30. I was so relieved when I realized I was only going to be 28. So it is about a once every 27- or 28-year phenomenon. I wonder if that has any significance?

A few days before my 57th birthday, my friend Jenny calls me to say she and her mother Janet would like to repay me for the trip to the market by taking me out for my birthday. She wants to know where I would like to go. She has made reservations at a Mexican restaurant in Janesville, but I remind her that we had been there when we took a road trip a few months earlier. She didn’t realize it was the same place. I say I would like to go to the India House so I can incorporate it into an article. She says that is fine, and that she will call for reservations.

We decide to go in the early evening because they close at 2 o’clock after the lunch buffet. That’s fine with me because I use Sunday to get a lot of work done (including my column), and that way I will have that out of the way. I say that I want to stop at O’Leary’s to have a drink first, and we agree to meet at O’Leary’s around 5. I finish up slightly ahead of time, and I head out to the bar. When I get there, a good-looking bartender waits on me and makes me a killer martini. (It is my birthday. All the girls at O’Leary’s are good looking.)

[Dick Rawls, the owner of O’Leary’s, is having dinner at the Irish Rose. He says, “We do pretty good for an Irish pub.” “You’re a sports bar,” I say. “We’re an Irish pub.” “OK,” he grudgingly admits.]

I sit there a while. I am on my second martini. The girls are late, but I’m OK; the scenery is keeping me occupied. Finally, they arrive, bearing gifts. I am slightly embarrassed, but manage to maintain my composure. We have a round, and I open my gifts. Then we have another round.

My friend Jenny, as I have said, is older than her years. Maturity is not always a product of the number of years you have been alive. Sometimes it is a product of what you have endured. Unfortunately, Jenny has endured a lot, but that is what gives her character. Her mother is a wonderful, understanding person. That has to have some effect also.

As we enter the India House, Jenny says that she called them to say she was bringing me here for my birthday. I want to run and hide. The Indian waiters don’t (fortunately) let it faze them at all. Our waiter is a charmer. We tell him that we want to eat real Indian food. We want to eat like they order it for themselves, and just as spicy, and he takes us at our word. Having turned the dinner over to him in this manner, we can just sit and relax and enjoy ourselves, and we do.

When he brings our dinner, it is a delightful assortment. We get Saag Paneer, spinach with homemade cheese, Dal Fry (black lentils with curry), Chicken Masala (chicken in butter and tomato sauce), and Garlic Nan (Indian bread made in the Tandori, a clay oven fired with charcoal; they stick the bread to the side of the clay oven pot). Everything is spicier than if you ordered it off the menu. After dinner, our waiter brings us a Kheer (rice pudding dessert).

After dinner, we head back downtown. We go to the Office, where a guy tries to pick up Janet. I tell the girls I am too tired and head up to my little loft apartment above the Irish Rose. After a half hour or so, I stand looking out the window at the little flag above the Faust. I look down to where Janet’s van was parked. The girls have gone home.

O’Leary’s Pub – 636-2979

India House Restaurant – 637-4771

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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