The worst things are the best things—only sometimes you can’t tell

The worst things are the best things—only sometimes you can’t tell

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

My son, the world traveler, has time for one more adventure before he returns to Budapest. It is a Tuesday night, and he wants to go to DeKalb to have dinner with Dan Klefstad and Susan Stephens from WNIJ at It’s Greek To Me. We take his car because I have been at the South Water market. I am tired, and I don’t feel like driving. We are on 39 when Dan calls wondering where we are; they are waiting at the restaurant. Drew says to tell them we will be there in 10 minutes.

When we get there, they already have a bottle of wine and some Tzatziki (cucumber, yogurt, garlic sauce) working. The wine is good and dry, a red. I fail to notice the exact name. The three of them make friendly conversation. I am still recovering from the day, and I stay quiet for some time. Then the good bread and the wine kick in and I join in.

Drew worked at WNIJ with them for about a year, and they all became good friends. Gus, the son of Ted, the owner, is here, but he doesn’t wait on us; another young man does. However, Gus keeps a watchful eye on our table. When we get ready to order, Susan and Dan both order the Grecian Shrimp. Susan remarks that they both shouldn’t have ordered the same thing. I say it’s OK, they can share ours. Drew orders the roast lamb. I inquire if I can get a braised lamb shank; it’s not on the menu. Gus says he will see what he can do. I say if they can’t, just bring me the roast lamb.

When we get our food, everything is wonderful as usual. We all share. Everyone likes my braised lamb the best. It comes with wonderful Greek-style green beans. After dinner and two more bottles of the wonderful wine, I talk everyone into Greek coffee. Dan says be thinks he has discovered a new addiction. Ted comes out of the kitchen and is the center of attention as usual. He tells some wonderful stories. Everyone listens with rapt attention.

Then, all too quickly, it is Thursday, and my son leaves for Hungary. “When will you return?”, I ask. He says, “Maybe for the holidays.” We are installing a new touch screen register system at the Irish Rose, River District. I don’t have time to drive him to the airport. We say goodbye over my desk as I am running a calculator with Tom from Midwest Business Systems looking over my shoulder. Tom asks if he should leave us alone. We both shake our heads no.

That evening I go to Maria’s with a woman friend. We have a wonderful dinner with a special bottle of wine that Joe gets us from the basement. The dinner is great. We start with the special salad. I have the Italian sausage dinner. My companion has a pasta. I try her pasta; it is cooked perfectly. I am very fussy about pasta, never want it overcooked.

We see Mitch Johnson and his wife, Melissa. Melissa used to work for me as a waitress. That’s where Mitch met her. They have a beautiful two-year-old son, Aaron. I get to hold him in my lap; he is a peaceful child. Blond hair like his old man’s. Chris Walsch stops by to say hi, talks about his life. Chris seems really relaxed. The worst things in life often turn out to be the best things; at least that’s what always seems to happen for me. Mitch stops by again to tell my companion that I am a special friend who saw him through a difficult time. Mitch is a special person. I am glad he is so happy.

The following Saturday, I am driving my van to Irish Rose Norte to cook when my cell phone rings. It’s Elisha Williams. “What are you doing?,” she asks. I tell her I am going to Norte to cook. I invite her to come up and have dinner. She does. Later I run into her at the Irish Rose downtown. We have a few glasses of wine and then decide to walk over to Kryptonite. On the way there, I tell her that I have two tickets to the Coldplay concert at the UIC Pavilion Tuesday night and no one to accompany me. Coldplay is the number one band in England. She says she would like to go.

When we get to Kryptonite, the place is jumping. The Snaggs are playing, and I will write about that and the Coldplay concert next week.

It’s Greek To Me, 241 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb: 758-3638; Maria’s Italian Cafe, 828 Cunningham: 968-6781; Kryptonite, 308 W. State: 965-0931:

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

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