Best of the Quad Cities 2009: Food and Dining Print
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Wednesday, 01 April 2009 07:30


1. Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits

2. DJ's Steakhouse

3. Antonella's Pizzeria & Ristorante

3. Granite City Food & Brewery

3. Johnny's Italian Steakhouse


Best restaurant, fine dining -- The Faithful Pilot Cafe & SpiritsBest restaurant

Best fine dining

The Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits

It can seem tough in this town sometimes for us foodies. Sure, chains are ubiquitous anywhere you go in the country. But for the Quad Cities' secret little society of gastronomes, the ratio here seems tilted a bit too far in favor of the usual, the expected, the unsurprising - the previously frozen. I have nothing against the Applebee's of the world, really. They clearly have a market hungry for their product. But give me attention to detail, attention to nuance, and above all, attention to flavor. Mix that with a locavore consciousness, fresh, seasonal menus, and something really interesting to fill the stemware. According to the voters in this year's Best of the Quad Cities poll, the place to find all of these things is The Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits in LeClaire - which won the "best restaurant" and "best fine dining" categories and placed in the top three for seafood, desserts, and Sunday brunch. After a recent date-night visit with my girlfriend (not our first, by any means), I can attest that Reader voters know what they're talking about.

Steve Rosetti says that while he and his wife Nancy, proprietors of The Faithful Pilot, tend to stick close to an already successful formula, they are always looking ahead to the new local, fresh ingredients that each change of season brings. As usual, the season unfolding in front of us right now means a new menu is in the offing. The details are still being refined and decisions still being made, but Rosetti says he expects the menu to be unveiled sometime this month. (You might want to get up there and try the garlic-stuffed sea bass before then; trust me on this.)

Their March half-price wine Wednesdays (that's all bottles and half-bottles at half price plus special appetizers) were successful enough that they've extended that promotion through April. Other weekly special events are being planned to keep things interesting through spring and summer. Not the least of which is the everyday plan the Rosetti's have for buying top quality, regional ingredients and performing their magic for us gourmands. Even their butter has qualities that made it clear that this is not your average grocery-store butter. That it is chosen with a certain sensibility. They haven't told me where they get it yet, but I've got my fingers crossed. Procuring supplies from area producers and farmer's markets and turning them into great dishes has been a hallmark of the Rosettis' operation since they opened in 1991. And more recently they've expanded into a logical companion endeavor, picking great wines and selling them online at The restaurant and wine shop host regular wine tastings, the next of which will be a biodynamic wine tasting on April 26. Find out more at or at the wine shop's Web site. And if you need a break from the latest variation on nachos (don't get me wrong, I love nachos, but ... ), head up to the Faithful Pilot, about 14 miles east and north of downtown Davenport at 117 North Cody Road, and find out what many Best of the Quad Cities voters already know.

- Shawn Eldridge



New restaurant (opened in 2008)

1. DJ's Steakhouse

2. Symposium Café

3. Café Fresh


National chain restaurant

1. Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar

2. Granite City Food & Brewery

3. Olive Garden Italian Restaurant


Best national chain restaurant - Applebee'sBest national chain restaurant


When we think of the quintessential items that grace an American menu, we think of burgers, fries, chicken fingers and Caesar salads - not forgetting the ever-delicious mozzarella stick. There is something to be said about the comfort and satisfaction that comes with the warm, rich, filling meal so many American restaurants can provide. And that's what's offered at Applebee's, winner in the inaugural "best national chain restaurant" category.

As expected, we get large portions, good value, and American-style fare. But there are deviations: The Oriental Chicken Roll-up, the Quesadilla Burger, and the Cajun Lime Tilapia incorporate new flavors into old standbys. I was pleasantly surprised by the Chili-Lime Chicken Salad - from the Weight Watchers menu items - during a recent visit.

But it was probably the straightforward American cuisine that brought Applebees' name to the forefronts of so many of your minds, along with the current promotion of two entrées and a shareable appetizer for only $20.

Applebee's has three Quad Cities location: 3838 Elmore Avenue in Davenport (563-355-9643), 3005 West Kimberly Road in Davenport (563-445-8646), and 3805 41st Avenue in Moline (309-797-9232). For more information, visit

- Stephanie Burrough



Fine dining

1. The Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits

2. Red Crow Grille

3. Johnny's Italian Steakhouse


Asian restaurant

1. Exotic Thai Restaurant

2. Osaka Japanese Steak House

3. Hi Ho Mongolian Grill


Mexican restaurant

1. Azteca

2. Los Agaves

3. La Flama


Italian restaurant

1. Biaggi's Italiano Ristorante

2. Olive Garden Italian Restaurant

3. Lunardi's

3. Trattoria Tiramisu



1. Harris Pizza

2. Happy Joe's

3. Antonella's Pizzeria & Ristorante

3. Papa Murphy's



1. Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

2. Texas Roadhouse

3. DJ's Steakhouse



1. Theo's Java Club

2. Starbucks

3. Coffee Hound


Best coffeeshop - Theo's Java ClubBest coffeeshop

Theo's Java Club

My history with this coffeehouse may be construed as bias, but firsthand experience can also provide a more intimate portrayal of this 16-year-old local haunt. As a former barista of Theo's Java Club (at 213 17th Street in Rock Island), I served the leagues of regulars who filtered in and out everyday, who arrived at the same time every morning or every afternoon for their favorite drink - and because of this, I respect even more the quality of service that enhances an already excellent cup of coffee. And Theo's does provide excellent service.

Theo's also offers a home for characters and a meeting place for friends, a forum for discussions, and a space for art and music. Most important though, Theo's is a place to leave the daily grind behind you, giving you a chance to wrap your hands around a warm mug in a booth all by yourself and relax for a while. And while I'm sure some things have changed since my working days there, I know the coffee is still excellent. And I know that you can still find business women and men sipping their coffees in the morning and enjoying their sandwiches at lunch. And I know there is still live music and philosophical conversation to be found when sought. And I know they still know my name and smile every time they say it when I walk through the door. And I know they would do the same for you.

- Stephanie Burrough




1. Maid Rite

2. Ross' Restaurant

3. Village Inn



1. Red Lobster

2. Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits

3. Farraddays'

3. Osaka Japanese Steak House

3. Thunder Bay Grille


Best seafood - Red LobsterBest seafood

Red Lobster

Ivan Pavlov famously used a bell to get dogs to salivate, and Red Lobster has a simple method to start humans a-droolin': a commercial. Seriously, if you like seafood, have you ever watched one of Red Lobster's TV ads and not instinctively reached for a napkin? (And your car keys?) Despite competition from local eateries, the national chain was named "best seafood" in the Reader's annual poll, and little wonder: How is one to choose between the Seafood-Stuffed Flounder and the Rock Lobster Tail and the Snow Crab Legs and the Garlic Shrimp Scampi and the ... and there I go, salivating on my keyboard. Brad Lybbert, general manager for Red Lobster's Davenport locale (at 3420 East Kimberly Road), says that beyond the criminally yummy menu items, the allure of the chain comes from running a different promotion every four to six weeks - we're currently in the midst of Lobsterfest - and that "all of our grilled items are now cooked on a wood-fire grill," lending many entrées a new, mouth-watering appeal. Adding the restaurant's appetizers (including calamari, scallops, and lobster pizza), it makes for the perfect spot for the seafood lover in all of us, as evidenced by the Davenport locale's parking lot, which, as a co-worker and I agreed, is packed every single time we pass. To see if this was just a coincidence, I thought I'd visit the chain at a time I presumed the lot would be deserted - a Monday afternoon at 3 o'clock. And it was deserted. Only 28 cars. More information can be found at, and you can contact the Davenport restaurant directly at (563)359-7185.

- Mike Schulz




1. Village Inn

2. Whitey's

3. Lagomarcino's

3. Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits



1. Panera Bread

2. Hy-Vee Foods

3. Bruegger's Bagels


Best bakery/bread/bagels -- Panera BreadBest bakery/breads/bagels

Best soup

Panera Bread

On the Panera Bread Web site, the company's mission statement reads: "A loaf of bread in every arm." So how on earth are we also supposed to carry bagels and pastries and muffins and scones and sweet rolls and croissants and ... ? The truth is, there are almost too many options to pick from, which is surely one reason for voters naming Pamera Bread "best bakery/breads/bagels" in the Quad Cities. With two local sites - Davenport's Panera Bread (at 3410 East Elmore Avenue) opened in June of 1997, followed by Moline's site (at 4044 38th Avenue) in July of 1998 - the eateries have proven hugely popular for over a decade running, which the company's public relations and marketing manager, Amy Turner, credits to "great, loyal customers" and "a fresh-baked product that people can enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere." Yet as Best of the Quad Cities voters know, not all of Panera's offerings are baked; the chain, cited as the country's healthiest fast-food restaurant in the March edition of Health magazine, also won the Reader's poll for "best soup," with five different options (of a rotating seven) offered seven days a week. "Most people think that if it tastes great, it can't be good for you," says Turner, "but you can make many good choices at Panera Bread. We're really proud of that. You can get a good, home-cooked meal on the run." And be sure to save room for the freshly-baked desserts. "When they bake cookies after lunch," says Turner, "that's when I get in trouble." Join the club, Amy. For more information, visit; contact the Davenport location at (563)344-4909, and the Moline locale at (309)736-9260.

- Mike Schulz




1. Jim's Rib Haven

2. Famous Dave's

3. Circle Tap



1. Village Inn


3. Denny's

3. Ross'



1. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

2. Boozie's

3. Steak 'n Shake


Best burger - Red Robin Gourmet BurgersBest burger

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

It makes perfect sense that Red Robin Gourmet Burgers would win this award, given that burgers are the chain's specialty. It doesn't make sense when you consider that this is the Quad Cities, and Boozie's is supposed to claim this title by default.

What could possibly unseat burger behemoth Boozie's? Perhaps it's the Royal Red Robin Burger, which is "crowned" with a fried egg and also has three strips of bacon. Maybe it's the Five-Alarm Burger, with pepper-jack cheese, jalapeños, salsa, and chipotle mayo. Or the Whiskey River BBQ Burger, with its onion straws and barbecue sauce. Or the Banzai Burger, marinated in teriyaki and topped with pineapple.

Or maybe it's the menu of 30 burgers, even though sticklers will question the broad definition of "burger" the restaurant uses. If you are a purist, there are still more than a dozen beef-patty burgers on the menu.

"We take a lot of pride in our fresh ingredients," said Nathan Dance, general manger of the Davenport location (3903 East 53rd Street, near the Showcase cinemas).

Dance said his favorite is the Royal Red Robin Burger, and it's also among the restaurant's most popular. Feel free to indulge yourself every now and again, but as somebody who's looked at the nutritional information, I wouldn't recommend making a habit of it. Let's just say it makes the Big Mac look like Lean Cuisine.

For more information about Red Robin, call (563)344-8655 or visit

- Jeff Ignatius



Deli sandwiches

1. The Hungry Hobo

2. Subway

3. Arthur's Garden Deli


Fried chicken

1. KFC

2. Mulkey's

3. Riefe's



1. Dr. Gyro's

2. Uncle Pete's

3. Jimmy's King Gyros


Best gyros/Greek -- Dr. Gyro'sBest gyros/Greek

Dr. Gyro's

Located at 2519 18th Avenue in Rock Island, the dine-in/carry-out establishment Dr. Gyro's is just outside easy walking distance from my home. Which is probably a good thing, because otherwise they'd never get rid of me. Since January of 2003, co-owners John and Mary Beth Stopoulos have not only been serving fast and de-e-e-elicious gyros and Greek cuisine (voted the area's best in this year's Reader poll), but also sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, dogs, tenderloins, the loose-meat treat of Spoonburgers, appetizers, and desserts. It's understandable, then, that Mary Beth herself is loath to pick a personal favorite. "I eat a lot of salads," says the co-owner, "but if I want something a little heavier, the Beef & Sausage is really good. And the gyros are excellent - obviously those are our main item." With so many tasty, freshly cooked items to choose from, it's no wonder that the cozy Rock Island establishment has become a favorite for diners throughout the Quad Cities, and the proprietors of Dr. Gyro's have made it even easier for devotees to enjoy the menu's selections, offering delivery service on orders of $20 or more every Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. "We go everywhere," says Mary Beth, "but if we go to Bettendorf or something, I do ask for a higher minimum on orders." Something tells me securing a higher minimum is never a problem. More information on Dr. Gyro's is available by calling (309)786-0735 or visiting

- Mike Schulz


Sunday brunch

1. Granite City Food & Brewery

2. Thunder Bay Grille

3. Player's Buffet

3. The Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits


Best Sunday brunch, business lunch, outdoor dining -- Granite City Food & BreweryBest Sunday brunch

Best business lunch

Best outdoor dining

Granite City Food & Brewery

Everybody has a favorite. My wife loves the gigantic caramel rolls and the Eggs Benedict station. My favorites are the Baked Reggiano Hash Browns. But we agree on one thing: Our favorite Sunday brunch buffet in the Quad Cities is at Granite City, 5270 Utica Ridge Road in Davenport.

Best of the Quad Cities voters agreed, although I'm guessing some might prefer the Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, or the Fresh Carved Roast Beef, or the Fresh French Toast. Those who've been to Granite City in recent weeks might rave about the new brunch feature: scones baked on-site. The selection isn't massive - you can see the full menu at - and it runs adults $14.99 and children five to 12 $5.99.

But everything I've had on it is fantastic. Just don't believe my wife when she tells you that I've only eaten the hash browns. (I had some sausage links. Once.)

Granite City obviously has a devoted following, because it won two other categories: best business lunch, and best outdoor dining.

Assistant Manager Jennifer Ross said some business customers bring clients in to Granite City three or four times a week. She theorized that loyalty is a function of location and fast service. From experience, I'll offer a bit of advice if you're not in a hurry: Don't order your meal until you've finished the appetizer. Yes, sometimes Granite City is that fast.

I can also say from experience that dining on the Granite City patio is lovely, although it won't be officially open until all vestiges of winter have disappeared - most likely May, Ross said.

For more information on the local Granite City, call (563)344-9700.

- Jeff Ignatius




1. Buffalo Wild Wings

2. Hooters

3. The Filling Station


Best wings - Buffalo Wild WingsBest wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

Let the record show that Buffalo Wild Wings has 14 sauces for its chicken wings, and four of them promise to bring serious heat. The description of "Blazin'" warns to "keep [it] away from eyes, pets, children," and one presumes away from the eyes of your pets' children, and the eyes your children's pets.

"It's hotter than any sauce I ever tried," said Carlos Goodman , assistant general manager for the Davenport restaurant at 4860 Utica Ridge Road. He compared it to an open flame.

Don't worry if you're not that much of a masochist. The restaurant offers plenty of wussy sauces, too, from Sweet BBQ to Parmesan Garlic to the truly unadventurous Mild. And if you're a little bit of a masochist, you could always get most of your wings with your baby sauces and one or two spun with a sauce that'll put some hair on your chest, whether you want it or not. And remember that Tuesday features 40-cent regular wings, and Thursday's special is 60-cent boneless wings.

While Buffalo Wild Wings was our readers' choice for the Quad Cities' best wings, the restaurant has two other specialties: beer and sports. With 20 brews on tap and another 30 in bottles, you'll surely be able to find something to extinguish the fire in your mouth.

And it has a wide selection of interactive games along with television packages for major sports, from the NCAA men's basketball tournament to the NBA to Major League Baseball to the NFL.

The combination seems to be working. Goodman said his store had its best Thursday ever the first day of the NCAA tourney, and its best weekly sales ever during the tournament's first week. "We have stores that are in better markets than ours, and we're killing them," he said.

But there will be more competition soon: A Moline location is opening May 1 near SouthPark Mall.

For more information, call (563) 359-0800 or visit

- Jeff Ignatius



1. Osaka Japanese Steak House

2. Shogun

3. Dynasty Buffet

3. Target



1. Players Club Buffet

2. Golden Corral

3. Dynasty Buffet


Best new restaurant opened in 2008, buffet -- Jumer's Casino & HotelBest new restaurant (opened in 2008)

Best buffet

Jumer's Casino & Hotel

Since opening its doors on December 1, Jumer's Casino & Hotel, off Route 92 in Rock Island, has had more than 330,000 people walk through its doors. Billed as the Quad Cities' only Vegas-style casino, this new Jumer's is drastically different from the big old boat sitting next to the District of Rock Island, and this year's Best of the Quad Cities voters noticed.

In-house restaurant DJ's Steakhouse won best new restaurant, and placed second in best restaurant, which is quite a feat considering the restaurant had been open less than four months when voting closed. Boasting a menu of Certified Angus Beef, and offering entrées including 12-ounce Fillet Royale filled with lobster stuffing (it tastes as decadent as it sounds) and Blackberry BBQ Rack of Lamb (sweet, smoky, tangy, tender - no negative adjectives apply), DJ's is likely to give our first- and second-place winners of best steak/steakhouse some serious competition next year. DJ's is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Another win for Jumer's is the Player's Buffet. The space is clean, open, and inviting, and the staff could not be friendlier, but the food is the real draw: freshly prepared salads, entrées, sides, and desserts, with sections for diners who prefer Americana, Asian, or International cuisine, and a carving station. The buffet is open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), with lunch under $10 and dinner under $15. The surest bet is the Surf n Turf Special on Wednesday nights, and Seafood Special on Friday nights, both for the regular buffet price.

Jumer's also placed third in the "best damn thing about the Quad Cities, period" category, trailing the Mississippi River (been here more than 200 million years) and the people (been here hundreds of years). So Jumer's is doing pretty well in its first four months.

- Elizabeth Fier


Chips and salsa

1. Azteca

2. Carlos O'Kelly's

3. Los Agaves



1. Panera Bread

2. Cup a Jo

3. Blue Cat Brew Pub


Business lunch

1. Granite City Food & Brewery

2. Cup a Jo

3. Blue Cat Brew Pub

3. Woodfire Grill


Outdoor dining

1. Granite City Food & Brewery

2. The Boat House

3. TGI Friday Moline


Kid-friendly menu

1. Village Inn

2. McDonald's

3. Denny's


Locally brewed beer

1. Blue Cat Brew Pub

2. Bent River Brewery

3. Front Street Brewery


Best locally brewed beer - Blue Cat Brew PubBest locally brewed beer

Blue Cat Brew Pub

The District of Rock Island's Blue Cat Brew Pub (located at 113 18th Street) is currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of its opening, although co-owner and brewmaster Dan Cleaveland says he isn't entirely sure about which day in March 1994 the grand opening took place. "So," he says, "we're kind of celebrating all year." I'm guessing the Blue Cat's fans are, too. Voted the Quad Cities' "best locally brewed beer" - and not for the first time - Cleaveland's beloved establishment offers a daily variety of six beers brewed on-site: the light-bodied Wigged Pig Wheat, the Off the Rail Pale Ale, the full-bodied Big Bad Dog Old English Ale (the latter two brews, according to Cleaveland, are the venue's most popular ones), two rotating seasonals, and a rotating stout, all on tap for $3.50 a pint. Taken together, Cleaveland says the Blue Cat has "about 50 different recipes" for beers, with new ones created every few months. "I always wanted to do one per year," says the over-achieving Cleaveland, but the variety of options - to say nothing of how damned tasty they are - is surely one of the reasons the establishment has thrived as a District treasure for the past 15 years. Coming up for admirers of the Blue Cat's local brews are the intriguingly labeled Blue Bastard - named, says Cleaveland, after a young child's mispronunciation of "brewmaster" - and a blend of the Rail and the Wheat called a Mrs. Smith. "I have no idea why they named it that," admits Cleaveland. "If anyone knows why, let me know." For more information, call (309)788-8247 and visit

- Mike Schulz

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