Gene’s Irish Pub – Small Setting, Big Flavors

Gene Hayenga and Amanda Head opened Gene’s Irish Pub at 1025 Fifth Ave., in Rockford’s Midtown District, in September, after closing their previous restaurant, Gene’s Place. They wanted a smaller place in all respects.

“Fewer seats, fewer staff, fewer hours, a smaller menu. I feel like everyone likes an Irish pub,” Hayenga says. “It’s about good food and good service in a friendly, relaxing atmosphere.”

“The clientele we’ve had in Midtown has been wonderful,” says Head. “We get people who appreciate the craft beer and finer Irish whiskeys that we have.”

Craft beers are sourced from Blind Pig Brewery, Two Brothers Brewing Co., Stone Brewing Company, Wisconsin Brewing Co. and Lexington Brewing Co., among others. And true to any Irish pub, there are multiple options. 

Irish whiskies like Red Breast 12yr, Jameson, Powers Signature, Tullamore Dew and many more join several non-Irish whiskeys on a lengthy list. Vodka, rum, gin, tequila, brandy, scotch, schnapps and wine are also available.

Favorite dishes from Gene’s Place are on the menu, including the Pork Chop Sandwich, Famous ½- lb. Cheeseburger, Grilled Salmon, Gourmet Mac & Cheese and Gene’s Famous Fish & Chips on Fridays and Prime Rib on Saturdays. 

New items include Chicken O’Sullivan, with two seasoned boneless chicken breasts char-grilled and topped with an Irish Whiskey cream sauce, served with homemade mashed potatoes and vegetable of the day and Lassie Mandy’s Shepherd’s Pie, with a hearty mixture of ground beef, carrots and peas layered in homemade mashed potatoes. 

Real Irish banger sausages are steeped in Irish stout beer and char-grilled for the Bangers & Mash, a classic Irish dish. Rueben Egg Rolls “fly off the menu” with house-made corned beef rolled up with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. 

“There’s also an Irish twist on some of our older dishes,” Hayenga adds. “A lot of our meals have Irish whiskey infused into the sauces, like the Ribeye, which comes with a peppercorn and Irish whiskey sauce.”
It’s Irish through and through, as the owners distinctly envisioned.

Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. to midnight; closed Sunday and Monday.  ❚