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Manes: Hot Stuff makes for hot topic

Leroy Flores LydiMendozColburn. | Jeff Manes/For Sun-Times Media

Leroy Flores and Lydia Mendoza Colburn. | Jeff Manes/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:24AM



“...Well Friday ‘bout a week ago

Leroy shootin’ dice

And at the edge of the bar

Sat a girl named Doris

And oh that girl looked nice...”

— Jim Croce

Since 1990, Leroy Flores has owned and operated the restaurant-bar Leroy’s Hot Stuff in Porter. He lives in Portage with Lydia Mendoza Colburn, his companion of 10 years.

Flores, 57, enjoys riding his Harley Davidson Ultra Classic, is a huge Chicago Bears fan, and is a Chicago Cubs season ticket holder who always roots for the White Sox when they play each other. I don’t get the latter either.

A week before our interview, I stopped by Leroy’s Hot Stuff and ordered the chicken burrito dinner. In Spanish, burrito means “little donkey.” There was nothing little about it. That burrito fed me for three days.

***

“I grew up in Hammond and attended Gavit High School,” Flores began. “My parents were born in Mexico.”

Leroy, when I was a kid, I had a friend named Rufus Reyes. His parents also were born in Mexico. Rufus is the only Hispanic guy I know with that name. I believe you are only Hispanic guy I’ve known named Leroy.

“My dad named me Leroy. My mom wanted to name me Phillip, but Dad put down Leroy. My middle name is Phillip.”

Do close friends or family refer to you as L.P.?

“No, very few people know my middle name is Phillip.”

They will now. Memories of growing up in Hammond?

“We used to play street hockey at a place called Frigidaire on Columbia Avenue. They sold appliances there. We’d sweep the parking lot and play all night.

“We ended up beating the heck out of what was a brand new building and not knowing it. It was made of corrugated metal and from about five feet down, it became all crumpled up from us crashing the ‘boards.’ As an adult and a business owner, I feel kind of bad about that today.”

Boys will be boys.

“The owners and the cops enjoyed watching us play. We never broke into anything or did anything malicious.”

What did you do for a living before opening Leroy’s Hot Stuff?

“I worked for my uncle at Pepe’s in Merrillville. My mom and brother owned the Pepe’s in Griffith.”

Above your bar there’s a plaque that reads: “Local 150 Bomb Squad.”

That’s for some operating engineers who stop in and do Jagerbombs.”

Jagerbombs?

“They’re shots of Jagermeister placed into glasses of Red Bull.”

This establishment is known for its live entertainment on weekends.

“Yeah, we have a great blues jam night on Sundays.”

This closed off restaurant portion of the building is nonsmoking until 9 p.m. Are children allowed to eat in here?

“Not anymore. It’s a state law.”

Has that hurt business?

“Big time. I’m more of a bar now, than I am dining. But we’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Leroy, I’m a nonsmoker, but you’d think a family could come in here at say, 5 or 6 p.m., and enjoy some authentic Mexican cuisine. Will it ever revert to the way it was?

“No, it’s a feel-good law. My friend in LaPorte had to sell his business. He had a big dining room and a big bar. He needed both halves to make it work.”

What’s your personal favorite on the menu here at Leroy’s Hot Stuff?

“The fajitas.”

You offer specials during the week.

“Yes, probably the most popular is Taco Tuesday. We also have dart and pool leagues and karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Leroy, my old friend, the late George Popovich, had a saloon in the Harbor section of East Chicago. Popovich’s had no ambiance whatsoever. Back in the early ‘80s, George showed me a flyer a salesman had dropped off about a machine that allowed amateur singers to perform pop hits. George asked me if this thing called karaoke could be good for his struggling business.

“Your reply?”

I told Popovich karaoke was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of and it would never fly.

“That’s funny.”

You seem to have a loyal clientele.

“A lot of people have been coming here for a lot of years. We do a lot of catering and festivals.”

***

Leroy Flores also does a lot of benefits and fundraising for the surrounding communities. He and Lydia are an affable couple and I’m glad to have met them.



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