There's an American TV store in Rockford that I needed to train for both Focal loudspeakers and Cambridge Audio electronics earlier this summer. I got into town around 8:30 p.m. and looked for a place to get a bite to eat. I found this little place - Irish Rose Saloon - near the downtown area of Rockford. (see map) I decided to stop in and give it a shot.
Even though I've lived about 90 minutes from Rockford since 1991, I think I've been to the city - maybe - four times. I've called on a couple of independent dealers there with no success. I've passed Rockford countless times on my way to Milwaukee and points north in Wisconsin, but there's really been no reason to stop. So finding the Irish Rose Saloon was sort of a pleasant surprise.
Mike Leifheit, a gregarious 60-something man, is the owner of the Irish Rose. This is a picture of Leifheit with his daughters Kat and Kara. The restaurant features a nice little outside dining area, an old time bar and a wonderfully furnished dining area complete with linen table cloths, artwork on the walls, and sort of an antique feel to the place.
I got into the Irish Rose around 8:30. There were a number of people out in the beer garden with Mike Leifheit holding court talking to a number of friends who were enjoying a nice evening. A few people were seated at tables in the dining room. There was no one seated at the bar. The Irish Rose doesn't have any televisions in the place, so I couldn't pass the time watching television while waiting for my dinner.
I asked the hostess if it was too late for dinner and she said, "Well, it may be. Let me check with the chef."
She went back into the kitchen, then came out a minute later and said, "Yeah, you just missed the cut off. If you want, you can eat off the late night menu." She gave me a menu to look over and while there were only a few things on the menu, a couple things caught my eye.
I sat at the bar and ordered up a Smithwick's beer while I looked through the menu. The late night menu begins at 8:30 p.m. - it was 8:35 according to my cell phone - and it consists of a 1/2 hamburger, grilled goat cheese salad, linguine with fire roasted marinara, sirloin steak and woodfired, grilled pork chops. And the prices were relatively cheap, but the catch was that you had to have at least one cocktail or beer. If you didn't have alcohol, it was an extra $2.00 on the price of the entree. I thought that was a rather unique way to sell alcohol with food, especially later in the evening.
I didn't have to figure out that I wanted the woodfired, grilled pork chops. The bartender asked me if I wanted soup, salad or home fries with the order. I ordered a salad with their homemade vinaigrette dressing. In the meantime, I asked the bartender for one of their regular menus for me to take a look at while waiting for my food to come out.
It turns out the late night menu is sort of an extension of the Irish Rose Saloon's "Adult Happy Meals", nightly specials where the price of the food is deflated by a couple bucks if the person buys one beer or cocktail with the meal. But they also had something called their "Fresh Board" which featured fresh seafood, steaks, pork and lamb. One thing they had on their "Fresh Board" menu that evening was a sushi-grade tuna steak, cooked rare and sliced. Oh, man! If I'd just gotten there about 15 minutes earlier!
The salad with the homemade vinaigrette was very good and it wasn't long after that when the bartender brought out my pork medallions. It turned out one of the Monday night specials was pork medallions with a side of baked red potato slices, topped with herbs. They brought me out the pork medallions and threw in the potatoes as an extra. I didn't bitch. I would have ordered the pork medallions over the pork chop anyway.
And it was very good. The pork was light, lean and moist. They were very tasty. The potatoes, a couple bites of which is all I had, were very good, too. The herbs were a good complement to the red potatoes. That's about the only way I like to eat potatoes these days. When I have them, that is.
Understandably, the bar tab (Two Smithwick's pints at $5.50 each) was bigger than the food tab ($7.95). But the food was very good. Surprisingly good. I was very happy I stumbled upon the Irish Rose Saloon. If I ever make it back someday, I'm coming in earlier to make sure that I don't miss out on the opportunity to choose from a full menu. If their late night menu is that good, I can only imagine how good the regular menu would be.