Best of the Quad Cities 2001 Print
News/Features - Feature Stories
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Tuesday, 19 February 2002 18:00
Now in their sixth year, the River Cities’ Reader’s Best of the Quad Cities awards have become an institution, and some of our winners are approaching that status, too. Biaggi’s, for example, swept the major restaurant categories and ended up with five awards, in only its second year of operation. (Last year, it nabbed four titles, including a tie for best restaurant.) The restaurant joins repeat winners such as Jalapeño’s, Jim’s Rib Haven, Harris Pizza, Coöp Records, Yen Ching, RIBCO, Old Chicago, Boozies, Greatest Grains, Corrine Smith, and Borders. Of course, there are plenty of new champions this year, including Veranda restaurant, Chateau Lounge, and John Resch & The Detroit Blues.

Winners were chosen in balloting by our readers, and we’ve given you the top three finishers in each category. Some are old favorites you’ve known for years, but we encourage you to seek out winners that are unfamiliar to you. You just might be missing out on the Best of the Quad Cities.

Best Restaurant
1. Biaggi’s
2. Faithful Pilot
3. five tied

BEST RESTAURANT, MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT, BEST PLACE TO TAKE CLIENTS TO LUNCH, BEST ITALIAN, BEST SELECTION OF WINE
Coming up on its second birthday in May, Biaggi’s has become a giant on the local fine-dining scene, winning five categories in this year’s awards. “We just want to do the basics well,” said Scott Hopkins, a managing partner. Those include good food, service, atmosphere, and value, he said. Hopkins credits designers with some of the atmosphere, but he added the staff can add extra touches to make the dining experience complete and special. “If you want it to be intimate, we can do it,” he said. Making the restaurant a destination for business lunches was one of Biaggi’s goals from the outset. That means delivering the same food and service as it does for dinner, but ensuring that people get in and out in an hour. Biaggi’s, at 5195 Utica Ridge Road, also prides itself on its wine list, and customers benefit from careful selection. The main list is done by the company – there are now eight Biaggi’s in the Midwest – while Hopkins prepares the reserve list himself. He said he tries to find wines that are “best buys” – high quality and a reasonable price – and that’s why two-thirds of the wines on the reserve list are less than $50.

Most Romantic Restaurant
1. Biaggi’s
2. The Dock
3. Faithful Pilot
3. Steventon’s

Best New Restaurant
1. Veranda
2. Fuji/Shogun
3. Krispy Kreme

Veranda opened in April with the goal of providing the Quad Cities – particularly Rock Island – a new place for “casual upscale dining,” said Linda Doran, who owns the restaurant with her husband Clint. Based on balloting in our annual poll, Veranda has succeeded admirably. The restaurant, off Blackhawk Road at 4619 34th Street in Rock Island, offers everything from pizza to fillets and seafood, as well as a pasta bar for lunch. When the weather warms up, Veranda also offers outdoor dining and a view of the Rock River. Location was an important factor, Doran said, but the food is key, too. If you haven’t yet experienced Veranda, favorites include the Veranda Pasta and the restaurant’s steaks and the built-for-two tenderloin salad.

Best Eats After the Bars Close
1. Village Inn
2. Ross’
3. Denny’s

Best Place to Take Clients for Lunch
1. Biaggi’s
2. Blue Cat
3. Olive Garden

Best Steaks
1. Outback
2. Lonestar
3. three tied

Best Ribs
1. Jim’s Rib Haven
2. RJ Boar’s
3. Circle Tap

Best Pizza
1. Harris Pizza
2. Happy Joe’s
3. Nancy’s Pizzeria

Best Burger
1. Boozie’s
2. Hunter’s Club
3. Burger King
3. Culver’s

Best Deli Sandwiches
1. Subway
2. Hungry Hobo
3. Panera
3. Arthur’s Garden Deli

Best Cup of Coffee
1. Theo’s Java Hut
2. Coffee Hound
3. Panera
3. Novel Café

Best Selection of Beer on Tap
1. Old Chicago
2. Blue Cat
3. RIBCO

Talk about a no-brainer. With its slogan of “110 Beers,” it’s no surprise that Old Chicago, 3030 Utica Ridge Road, captured the title of Best Selection of Beer on Tap in our 2001 poll. Manager Kris Borene said the restaurant features 30 beers on tap. And if none of those is to your liking, there are at least another 80 brews available in bottles. In addition, Old Chicago also has ever-changing “mini-tours” that allow patrons to sample new, seasonal, and out-of-the-ordinary micro-brews and imports. It’s one reason that the parlor might consider adopting a Homer Simpson-like mantra: “Mmmmmm … beer.”

Best Selection of Wine
1. Biaggi’s
2. Gendler’s
3. The Dock

Best Martinis
1. Mac’s Tavern
2. Blue Cat
3. five tied

Best Margaritas
1. Chi-Chi’s
2. Rudy’s
3. Chili’s Bar & Grill

Best Sunday Brunch
1. The Dock
2. Jumer’s (now The Lodge)
3. Village Inn

Best Bread
1. Panera
2. Bread Basket
3. Café Express

Best Vegetarian Food
1. Greatest Grains
2. Café Express
3. India House

Best Asian Food
1. Yen Ching
2. Erawan
3. Mandarin

Best Mexican Food
1. Jalepeño’s Mexican Cuisine
2. Rudy’s Tacos
3. El Rodeo

Best Italian Food
1. Biaggi’s
2. Olive Garden
3. Trattoria Tiramisu

Best Other Ethnic Food
1. India House
2. India Gate
3. Bier Stube

Best Bloody Marys
1. Chateau
2. Cheddar’s
2. Mac’s Tavern
2. Pat McGuire’s

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR, BEST BLOODY MARYS

Located in a residential and industrial area in Milan, Chateau demonstrates that family touches can go a long way. The dining room’s cuisine is wholly based on family recipes, with lobster and steak popular items on the menu. And the setting is eclectic, featuring mix-and-match chairs, tables, and dinnerware. Bloody Marys are popular at Chateau, according to Karen Chillemi, bartender and part-owner with her mother, brother, and sister-in-law. The Bloody Mary recipe originated in Madison, Wisconsin, where Karen’s previous employer instructed her in the fine craft of mixing. Calling ahead for dinner reservations is recommended. The lounge is located at 1213 West 10th Avenue in Milan.

Best Nightclub
1. RIBCO
2. Blackthorn
3. Stars & Stripes

Best Casino
1. Isle of Capri
2. Rhythm City
2. Casino Rock Island

Best Neighborhood Bar
1. Chateau
2. Mac’s
3. Rusty Nail
3. Sassy’s

Best Place to Meet Someone Over 30
1. Rusty Nail
2. Novel Café Speed Dating
3. RIBCO

Best Place to Meet Someone Under 30
1. Thirsy Beaver
2. Novel Café Speed Dating
3. Lollies
3. RIBCO

Best Live Show Venue
1. The Mark
2. RIBCO
3. Adler

Best Local Band
1. John Resch & The Detroit Blues
2. Rust
3. Paul DePauw & Company

John Resch would be the first to admit that his young band – essentially Shane Johnson’s Blue Train without Shane Johnson – hasn’t moved too far from its roots. “It’s pretty similar to what Blue Train originally was,” he said of his group. “We’re still doing a decent amount of stuff that Blue Train did.” That seems fine with our readers, who voted Resch and his ensemble the best local band of 2001. The band features Resch on vocals and bass, Tony Carton on drums, “Detroit” Larry Davison on harmonica, and new guitarist Jeff Andrews, whose first gig will be February 23 at O’Meara’s. Resch said the band is trying to implement some changes and is hoping to add some “fresher” material. He said he hopes that he and The Detroit Blues will have a record out by the end of the year.

Best Alternative Band
1. Smooth Groove
1. Sugar Nipples
1. Wicked Liz & The Bellyswirls

From these three very different bands, common notions of the Quad Cities’ budding music scene ring through: The musicianship in the area is topnotch; bands seem to work collaboratively to further the cause; and there hasn’t been a stylistic range this wide for a long while.

Sugar Nipples, featuring guitarist T.J. Magennis, drummer Rodney Blocker, bassist Jim Stichnoth, guitarist Jon VanCamp, and vocalist Matt Truitt, are by far the veterans of this trio of bands that tied for the top spot in this category. The band’s blend of lighthearted if not disturbed lyrics with a fairly heavy guitar-riffed backing is reminiscent of the style of the New Duncan Imperials out of Chicago.

Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls – showcasing the vocals of Liz Townsend, the guitar magic of Leo Kelly, the bass maneuvering of bro Bob Kelly, and the percussion of Greg Hipskind – played their very first gig as the opener for Sugar Nipples some three years ago at the Nipples’ venue of choice, Boozies. Since then, the WickedSwirls have been frequenting community bars, displaying their bubbly craft, which consists of about 75 percent covers and 25 percent originals if you catch them at a long show.

Smooth Groove is the newest favorite of the bunch. When asked how to describe the band’s style, one of Groove’s two guitarists, Mike Ortiz, labored over the task. Ortiz and his partners – Rueben Sierra, percussion; Laura Udy, keys; Joe Soliz, guitar; and Jeff Booker, bass – play a wide variety of styles, including Motown, classic rock, R&B, and a couple of country tunes, with a few originals thrown in. Mike seemed dumbfounded by the “alternative” label, but perhaps the sentiment is an incurable symptom of the local music scene’s ongoing search for an identity to defy while representing its deep roots at the same time.

Best Metal Band
1. Rust
2. Free Weed
2. Lynn Allen

“When you come to see a Rust show,” notes drummer Brian Gordon, “be ready to bang your head and mosh.” Utilizing this as an appropriate credo, Rust has combined considerable playing experience with a traditional stable of heavy influences, such as Pantera, Ozzy, and old-school Metallica, to secure the 2001 title of the Quad Cities’ best metal band. Founding members Craig Baker (guitar, backing vocals), Brian Gordon (drums), and Doug Norris (bass, backing vocals), performed as Lefwitch for nearly 10 years before deciding to switch gears a year and a half ago, adding vocalist Josh Epping. Apparently it was a good choice, as Rust emerged victorious last August in a “battle of the bands” sponsored by the Pig Pen in Clinton, earning the right to open for Sevendust and Drowning Pool a month later. Sporting a repertoire of nearly all original music, Rust has set its sights high, hoping to work itself into a touring position and eventually catch the ear of a label.

Best Blues Band
1. Shane Johnson’s Blue Train
2. John Resch & The Detroit Blues
3. Paul DePauw & Company

Best Jazz Band
1. Elixir Featuring Claudie Smith
2. Anthony Catalfano Trio
2. River City Six

Best Country Band
1. Danielle & City Limits Band
1. Suzy Bogguss
1. Truesdales

Best DJ
1. Dwyer & Michaels
2. Tom McGuire
3. six tied

BEST DJS, BEST RADIO PERSONALITIES

Weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m., our readers religiously tune in to Q106.5 for their daily dose of off-the-wall humor from the Quad Cities’ own Greg Dwyer and Bill Michaels. One testament to the duo’s popularity: In an hour, they were able to inspire nearly 3,000 people to greet the Quad City Mallards when they returned to the Quad Cities after winning the team’s first Colonial Cup championship. And for people who just can’t get enough of Dwyer & Michaels, the pair has a Web site (http://www.2dorks.com) to keep fans giggling any time of the day or night. (The site was down for more than a week recently but returned on Tuesday.)

Best Art Space/Gallery
1. Davenport Museum of Art
2. Quad City Arts
3. Quad City International Airport

Best Painter
1. Corrine Smith
2. Loren Shaw Hellige
3. Julie Townsend

Best Sculptor
1. Isabel Bloom
2. Eric Mart
3. Corrine Smith

Best Artist (Other Medium)
1. Tracy Nichols
2. Bill Douglas
3. eight tied

Best Annual Music Festival
1. Bluesfest
2. Bix Fest
3. Pig Stock
3. Rock Island Summer Fest

Best Annual Arts Festival
1. Beaux Arts
2. Riverssance
3. nine tied

In its fourth decade, the Beaux Arts Fair is still growing. Last year, according to Fair Director Tom Major, the spring festival drew 213 artists and approximately 30,000 guests. Major said he thinks the fair might attract even more artists and attendees this year, which could present a logistical problem because of all the construction in downtown Davenport. “We’ll get them in there somehow,” he said. The fall festival, while smaller, still had more than 150 artists in 2001, and 20,000 fairgoers. And the events, which benefit the Davenport Museum of Art, are working to establish even more partnerships. The spring fair, for example, is working with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters flower sale and a German-American festival in LeClaire Park. The spring festival is scheduled for May 11 and 12, while the fall event will happen September 7 and 8.

Best Place to See Live Theatre
1. Adler
2. Circa ‘21
3. Comedy Sportz

Best Play
1. A Christmas Carol
2. Nuncrackers
3. Children of Eden

Best Concert
1. Sting
2. Ozzie Osbourne/Rob Zombie

Best Club Show
1. Cheese Pizza
2. Comedy Sportz
3. six tied

Best Museum
1. Putnam Museum
2. Family Museum of Arts & Science
3. Davenport Museum of Art

The winner in this category is closed until March 16, but that should only make it even stronger for next year’s polling. When it re-opens March 16, the Putnam Museum of History & Natural Science will be showing IMAX movies on a giant screen, starting with Journey into Amazing Caves. “We think they [the IMAX movies] will be a nice complement to our exhibit halls,” said Chris Reich, the museum’s director and CEO. IMAX films, like the Putnam’s exhibit halls, will appeal to a broad audience, both children and adults. “Our exhibits cover a wide range of learning opportunities,” Reich said. The Putnam was founded in 1867 and has been in its current location on Museum Hill since 1964. “We really are the repository for the history of the community,” Reich said. Other touches, such as performances by the Heritage Theatre troupe and interpretations by the museum’s naturalist, “enhance the visitor experience,” Reich said. “Those kinds of things help the exhibits come alive.”

Best Annual Family Event
1. Bix Fest
2. Mississippi Valley Fair
3. Festival of Trees

Best Local Sports Team
1. Mallards
2. Steamwheelers
3. River Bandits

Ken Jacoby used to work for another team in the United Hockey League, but when a position came open with the Mallards, he made the jump. “This is the top organization in the league,” said Jacoby, director of media relations & broadcasting for the team. That description applies to Mallards management but also the team. The Mallards are the only professional hockey team to win 50 games for five consecutive seasons, and they’ve been in the Colonial Cup finals each of those years, winning the league championship three times. That kind of success draws big crowds, and those things combined attract top players. “It all works together,” Jacoby said. And the Mallards are living up to tradition this year, maintaining a narrow lead in Western Conference.

Best Women’s Clothing Store
1. Von Maur
2. Old Navy
2. Talbots

Best Men’s Clothing Store
1. Von Maur
2. Structure
3. Gentry Shop
3. Old Navy

Best Kids’ Clothing Store
1. Gap
2. Old Navy
3. Von Maur

Best Used/Thrift/Vintage Store
1. Goodwill
2. Ritzi Reruns
3. Salvation Army

Best Bookstore
1. Borders
2. Barnes & Noble
3. Mellow Blue Planet
3. Readmore Bookworld

Best Record/CD Store
1. Coöp Tapes & Records
2. Best Buy
2. Borders

With bottom-dollar box chains and the onslaught of readily available free music on the Web, it’s a wonder that a locally owned music store can make ends meet these days. But it hasn’t been a problem for Coöp Records, as it’s consistently proven that bigger isn’t always better. Owner Reid Robinson notes that practical attributes, such a noncorporate atmosphere and the ability to order virtually anything – from that hard-to-find title to specialty items including shirts and posters – have earned the store a loyal customer base. So loyal, in fact, that Coöp Records has earned its title of Quad Cities’ Best Record Store for the past six years. The shop has two Quad Cities locations: at 422 East Locust Street in Davenport and 3727 23rd Avenue in Moline.

Best Cigar Shop
1. Hickey Bros.
2. Baker Street SouthPark Mall
3. Baker Street NorthPark Mall

No matter your income or background, if you’re a fan of cigars you’ll find a friend at Hickey Bros. in The District of Rock Island. Customers and staff “have something in common,” said owner Michael King. “You can sit and talk about cigars forever.” A knowledgeable staff leads to better service, he said. A customer might prefer a certain type of cigar, but a salesperson could recommend an alternative that might be better or cost less. “That’s where we win over most customers,” King said. Although Hickey Bros. opened four years ago, on the downside of the cigar boom, the market’s still strong for a boutique with an informed and helpful staff. “There’s a need for a place like this,” King said.

Best Bike Shop
1. Healthy Habits
2. Bike n Hike
2. Jerry & Sparky’s

You can count on the experts at Healthy Habits to gear you up for your next biking adventure. The store, at 3374 Middle Road in Bettendorf, boasts an extensive selection of bicycles, especially BMX, and if they don’t have it in stock, they’ll find it! Healthy Habits also carries nutritional products, clothing, and skateboards. And if your bike needs a tune-up, the professionals at Healthy Habits can fix it, regardless of make, model, or where you purchased it. For those seriously interested in mountain biking, the staff can hook you up with FORC (Friends of Off Road Cycling), which organizes weekly on- and off-road mountain-biking excursions. This is definitely a Healthy Habit worth pursuing!

Best Music-Equipment Store
1. Griggs
2. West Music
3. Music Mart

Steve Judge started frequenting Griggs Music in 1975, when he was 18. And like many customers, he then starting working there. Since then, he’s ascended to the position of company president. “Everyone who works here started as a Griggs customer,” Judge said. “Our people have walked in our customers’ shoes.” Griggs is the oldest music store in Iowa, having originally opened its doors in 1903, and it caters to a diverse audience, from rock-and-roll bands to school music programs. It has a large selection of guitars and amps and was the largest dealer of Martin guitars last year. Griggs also offers in-store financing and service, meaning that it’s pretty much a one-stop shop for musicians of all ages and skill levels. Griggs has two locations: at Brady and Kimberly in Davenport and 4329 16th in Moline.

Best Sporting-Goods Store
1. Dick’s
2. Temples
3. Gander Mountain
3. Kunkels

Best Jewelry Store
1. Rice Jewelers
2. Samuels
3. McGivern’s

It all started with a 19-year-old young man and a dream. Now, 44 years later, Rice Jewelers is still offering excellent customer service, quality jewelry, and reasonable prices. The secret to Rice Jewelers’ success has been excellent customer service, and the qualified professionals at the store can repair, customize, or special-order your jewelry. Located at 1611 West Locust Street in Davenport, the store is a major carrier of ear pins, and it also has a great selection of wedding and anniversary rings, watches, baby gifts, and other gift items. Because Rice Jewelers is not a chain, the store can offer affordable prices. Stop in and see more than four decades of success in action.

Best Hardware Store
1. K&K
2. Mernards
3. Lowe’s

Best Liquor/Beer/Wine Store
1. Regal Liquors/Hy-Vee
2. Gendler’s
3. Cork & Brie

Best Grocery Store
1. Hy-Vee, East Kimberly
1. Hy-vee, West Kimberly
3. Hy-vee, Bettendorf

Best Car Dealer
1. Lujack’s
2. Zimmerman
3. Dahl

Best Florist
1. K’nees
2. Hy-Vee
3. Green Thumbers
3. Lamps

It might not seem that computers would make much of a difference with a florist, but K’nees co-owner Lauren Zenk would disagree. “We are the only florist in the Quad Cities that’s fully computerized,” he said. This means that phone orders can be done in a minute or two if the shop already has your information. K’nees’ database of florists also means that “when we place an order, the system will automatically select a preferred florist.” The computer also avoids florists with which K’nees has had a problem. But the flower business is fundamentally about flowers, and not computers. This winner has a freshness guarantee – arrangements should last for seven days – and has its roses packed in South America and shipped directly to the business.

Best Dry Cleaner
1. Burke Dry Cleaners
2. Quality Cleaners
3. Crescent Cleaners
3. Sanitary Cleaners

Best Furniture Store
1. American
2. Good’s
3. Amish Haus

Best Auto-Repair Shop
1. Ace Muffler
2. Emeis Automotive
3. Lujacks

Best Cell-Phone Provider
1. U.S. Cellular
2. Sprint
3. Verizon

Best Antique Store
1. Riverbend
2. Fred & Ethel’s
3. three tied

Best Art-Supply Store
1. Dick Blick
2. Hobby Lobby
3. Evergreen Art

Best Hair Salon
1. Storm Design Team
2. William Wesley
3. De De’s Professional Touch

Best Barista
1. Greg Aronson
2. Heather Blake
3. Theo Grevas

Best Realtor
1. Mel Foster
2. Ruhl & Ruhl
3. eight tied

Best Hair Stylist
1. Heath Morgan
2. Ashley Codling
3. seven tied

Best Waiter/Waitress
1. Mike Mato at Blue Cat
2. Heather Blake at Novel Café
3. three tied

Best Bartender
1. John Horvath at RIBCO
2. Karen Chillemi at Chateau
3. Garth Bote at Mac’s

Best Small-Business Owner
1. Denise Day of Storm Design
2. Greg & Beth Aronson of Coffee Hound
3. Lori Freemire at Novel Café
3. Winnie Duncan of Hodge Podge

Best Radio Station
1. KORB (93.5)
2. KBEA (B-100)
2. KCQQ (Q-106)

Best Radio Personality
1. Dwyer & Michaels
2. Bill Stage
2. Corey Stone

Best Local TV Newscast
1. KWQC NBC 6
2. WQAD ABC 8
3. KLJB Fox 18

Best Local TV News Reporter
1. Paula Sands
2. Sharon Derycke
3. Ed Lewis

Best TV Weathercaster
1. Terry Swails (KWQC)
2. Neil Kastor (WQAD)
3. Erik Maitland (KWQC)

Our cover subject doesn’t really nap on the job, but with one of the mildest (and least eventful) winters on record, KWQC-TV6 Chief Meteorologist Terry Swails certainly has had every opportunity to catch some shut-eye lately. And that doesn’t exactly please Iowa native Swails, who counts tracking snowstorms and severe thunderstorms as his favorite pastime. When the big storm does hit, though, our readers trust Swails, who delivers the forecast weekday evenings and has been with KWQC-TV6 since 1986.

Best Golf Course
1. TPC at Deere Run
2. Emeis Park
2. Palmer Hills

Best Bowling Alley
1. Miller Time
2. Bowlmor
3. Town & Country

Best Pool/Water Park
1. Wacky Waters
2. Splash Landing
3. Riverside Riverslide

Best Downtown
1. Rock Island
2. Davenport
3. Moline

Best Public Park
1. Vander Veer
2. Longview
3. Crow Creek

Best Bike Trail
1. Ben Butterworth
2. Duck Creek
3. Bettendorf

Best Public Library
1. Bettendorf
2. Davenport
3. Rock Island