Best of the Quad Cities: Introduction, Hall of Fame, & Major Awards Print
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius & Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 14 February 2007 03:26

Reader issue #620 You might notice something different in the River Cities' Reader Best of the Quad Cities poll this year: For the first time, we're offering "staff picks" for certain categories.

This doesn't mean that we're invalidating our readers' choices. Rather, we're offering individual picks based on our experience, as a way to broaden the conversation a little. Sometimes the best things in our community are popular; other times, they need a little push to get the recognition they deserve.

We received 394 valid ballots in our poll this year, and we would be remiss if we didn't congratulate dedicated ballot-box-stuffers. We were a little surprised when Uncle Bill's Pizza nabbed "best restaurant" (and several other) honors this year - the award usually goes to a fine-dining establishment - but the fans of Uncle Bill's followed the rules: one ballot per person, with at least half the ballot filled out. And the reality is that more people are likely to order pizza than go out for a fancy dinner.

More murky was the stuffing done by a handful of voters who selected Joe Conklin as "Quad Citian of the year" and Zach Cornwall as "best public servant." (If they voted for one, they also voted for the other.) As best we can figure, Conklin is a Quad Cities native who plays football at Iowa State University, and the only public service Cornwall performed was voting in our poll - twice. We contacted these voters (and Cornwall), asking them to justify their choices but got not one response, so we decided to disqualify those particular votes as jokes/hoaxes. We'd love to hear why these two men were worthy of our awards and will happily correct ourselves if we've made a mistake in disqualifying them.

Thanks to the hundreds of voters who participated in this year's survey. We are humbled that so many people are this passionate about their favorite things in the Quad Cities.

Beyond the Hall of Fame and major-honor winners listed here, see pages dedicated to this year's winners in Food & Drink; Business; Civics & Media; Nightlife; and Arts, Culture, & Leisure.


The Hall of Fame


The River Cities' Reader Best of the Quad Cities Hall of Fame is reserved for local institutions that won their respective categories year after year.

This year, we're happy to induct into our hallowed hall Janos (or Jon) Horvath, who has served drinks and beer at RIBCO for two decades and has consistently won the category of "best bartender."


Best record/CD store Co-Op Records

Best barbecue Jim's Rib Haven

Best selection of beer Old Chicago

Best hardware store K&K True Value

Best bartender Janos Horvath, RIBCO



Quad Citian of the year

1. Chad Pregracke

2. Michael Whalen

3. Chris Connors


Staff Pick - Sean Moeller


Sean Moeller When the River Cities' Reader featured ( in a May cover article, founder Sean Moeller said the Web site was getting 5,000 visitors a week, but that the number was growing.

That's an understatement.

In January, Daytrotter attracted 307,000 visitors to go along with 800,000 page views and 40,000 unique visitors. It's been featured in USA Today and Wired. Put simply, Daytrotter is a big deal, one that's likely to get much bigger.

Moeller's conceit was simple and brilliant: Bands passing through (or by) the Quad Cities would stop in at Pat Stolley's Rock Island studio for a short, lo-fi recording session, and the results (typically three or four songs) would be posted on the Web. That basic premise hasn't changed since Daytrotter's debut in March, but the site is now bursting with content, from cartoons to "progressive reviews" (a week-long look at a single album) to essays to original artwork. The bands aren't household names yet, but most are on the cusp of breaking out. Recent sessions have featured Paleo, My Brightest Diamond, Whispertown 2000, and Dressy Bessy. Daytrotter songs have been downloaded more than 400,000 times.

Unlike Chad Pregracke, last year's winner of "Quad Citian of the year," Moeller's work with Daytrotter doesn't yet contribute much to its home community. But by bringing in up-and-coming bands that otherwise wouldn't stop in the Quad Cities, he's raised the community's hipness factor immeasurably. And Moeller has given a great deal to music fans worldwide.

The nagging issue with Daytrotter is that it has been so quiet in the community. The site is a testament to the fact that cool musical things have been happening in the Quad Cities, but they've been happening in private for the most part.

Moeller is trying to change that - a little. Daytrotter already held one show at Huckleberry's restaurant in The District earlier this year, and another is scheduled for March 4 with Broken West paired with Silent Years and Death Ships.

Moeller has visions of larger shows and possibly a music venue, but ... ummmm ... Huckleberry's? "I like using Huckleberry's right now," Moeller said. "It's kind of the same aesthetic as we're doing with the Web site." - Jeff Ignatius


Best-kept Quad Cities secret

1. Food

2. Redstone Room

3. People

3. Cup-A-Jo


Best damn thing about the Quad Cities

1. Friendly people

2. Pizza/Food

3. Mississippi River



1. Uncle Bill's Pizza

2. Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

3. Centro

3. Exotic Thai


Uncle Bill's Pizza Uncle Bill's Pizza won the Reader's "best pizza" category, which, considering the product, makes sense. "Everything is done from scratch," says owner Joe Barroso, whose pizzeria (with Davenport locations on East and West Locust) is currently celebrating its 11th year. "I mean, our sauce, our dough ... everything. We hand-cut all the vegetables, we put a lot of product on," - the garden pizza weighs more than five pounds - "and we try to keep the price down." Uncle Bill's Pizza won the Reader's "best locally owned business" category, which, considering the staff's devotion to their customers, makes sense. "We'll have some elderly people come along [for carry-out], and they'll just kind of flash their lights, 'cause they can't get out of their vehicles, and we'll run the pizza out to them," Barroso said. "We've had regulars for years and years." Uncle Bill's Pizza won - by a considerable margin - the Reader's "best restaurant" category, which, considering the ... wait a minute ... . "Best restaurant"?! But it's a pizza joint! "We have calzones - our calzones are huge - and we have wings, we have cheese sticks ... ," lists Barosso. Yeah, but still, Uncle Bill's is carry-out and delivery only; you can't even sit down there! "Well, we have a ... a lot of loyal customers," Barroso understates, revealing that several of his employees "were trying to promote us a little bit," and asked customers for their votes. He says, "We have people that order every single day." And eat while on the computer, no doubt. - Mike Schulz


Local visual artist

1. Leo Kelly

2. Jon Burns

3. Heidi Hernandez


Leo Kelly Leo Kelly, best known to most people as a guitarist in the popular bands Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls and Spatterdash, certainly understands the accusation that as a cartoonist and caricaturist, he's not really an artist. He jokingly refers to what he does as "the bastard son of art," but he's serious when he notes that "there are a core of people who like what I do." That core is certainly a contributing factor to his being named the Quad Cities' "best visual artist" in our reader poll. The 40-year-old Kelly said he began drawing when he was four or five years old, copying comics such as Peanuts and Beetle Bailey. By the time he was in sixth or seventh grade, he was making a strip called Joe the Bruiser that was set in a bar. (Kelly's father owned a pub.) Now, in addition to his musical endeavors and his day job at the Rock Island Arsenal, Kelly does live caricatures at social functions two or three times a month and sometimes does caricatures of entire classes of schoolchildren to help them raise money through the sale of his work. He'll launch a Web site ( by the end of March, he said, and is looking to sustain himself financially through his artwork. And to critics who say that his art isn't "art," he notes that cartooning and caricature traffic in abstraction: "How little [visual] information can you give somebody for them to say, ‘Yeah, that's a person'?" - Jeff Ignatius


Local musical act

1. The Parish Festival

2. Wicked Liz & The Bellyswirls

3. Patio


Locally owned business

1. Uncle Bill's Pizza

2. Emeis Automotive Service

3. Whitey's


Annual event/festival

1. Bix Fest

2. Bix 7 Race

3. Mississippi Valley Blues Fest


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