Welcome to the Best of the Quad Cities 2004! Nearly a decade old ... and growing. The River Cities' Reader Best of the Quad Cities poll is now in its ninth year, and reader response continues to get better.

For the 2002 competition, we received 260 valid ballots. In 2003, 282. And this past year? A whopping 385, an increase of more than 35 percent. Keep in mind that we make our voters work - half of the ballot needs to be filled out - and that becomes even more impressive.

Brian Barkley of Barkley Location Photography has once again used his skills and creativity to capture the essence of more than a dozen winners. (All photos are by Barkley except where otherwise noted.) And our staff has dug a little deeper in short articles accompanying the photographs, helping to explain what makes these winners special.

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

Best Of The Quad Cities Hall of Fame

Some businesses are simply without rival. That's why we started the Best of the Quad Cities Hall of Fame last year: to enshrine community institutions that are heads and shoulders above their competition.

We removed their categories from the ballot and will honor them in this space as long as they continue to excel in their chosen endeavors. Last year, we put four local businesses in the Hall of Fame. This year, we're not adding any.

It's not that there aren't people and businesses worthy of induction; rather, we've changed and adjusted our ballot so much in the past few years that the results are difficult to compare. For instance, the Blue Cat Brew Pub in our 2002 poll won "best locally brewed beer." In 2003 and 2004, it won for "best brewpub." And in 2001, there was no category specifically for local brewing busiensses.

So our Hall of Fame remains at four members. Look for it to grow next year.

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

Major Awards

Quad Citian of the year
1. Phil Yerington
2. Mike Whalen
3. Jack Stamm
3. Lane Evans

Quad Citian of the Year, Best Local Controversy
We all know what happens when you fight the law - as the song says, the law wins - but Phil Yerington is still fighting. Yerington, the former Davenport mayor and a lieutenant in the Davenport Police Department - was fired October 1. Running for sheriff at the time, he responded on September 28 to an anonymous fax sent to the media. The fax contained false statements, suggesting that an internal-affairs investigation was being conducted against Yerington. (There wasn't.) Yerington's termination was the result of his speaking to the media about the fax without Davenport Police Department permission, even though he was speaking as a political candidate. (For full details on the case, see "Last Chance," River Cities' Reader Issue 510, January 5, 2005.) Yerington lost his termination appeal before the Davenport Civil Service Commission and has now appealed to the Iowa District Court. The case will likely be heard this fall. Yerington said that not a day goes by that someone doesn't come up to him to offer support. "It's been humbling and it's made me proud to be from this area," he said. He's working part time right now at a Christian bookstore, in part because he's found that his termination makes it difficult to get another job as a police officer. "My entire professional career was based on police work," he said. Yerington said that his case is important because it shows how the political process can be corrupted - the malicious, anonymous fax that because of police-department rules he couldn't respond to without getting in trouble - and how civil servants can have their personnel files opened to the public in a high-profile case such as his.

Best-kept Quad Cities secret
1. Brew & View
2. Scott Silver's Chicago Jazz Band
3. River Music Experience

Best damn thing about the Quad Cities
1. People
2. Rivers/Mississippi River
3. Cost of living

Best restaurant
1. Johnny's Italian Steakhouse
2. Centro
3. Granite City Food & Brewery

Best Restaurant, Best Upscale Dining, Most Romantic Restaurant, Best Atmosphere
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, at 1300 River Drive in Moline, has made a big leap in the minds of our voters, supplanting Biaggi's as the area's best restaurant is this year's balloting and nabbing three other awards. Manager Jack Viviani thinks that's because Johnny's has a wide appeal. The restaurant tries to be "fun dining over fine dining," he said. "We want Johnny's to be for everyone." Part of the Moline-based Heart of America chain, Johnny's has made minor changes since opening in late 2002. The restaurant opened a private dining room in November 2003 and in November 2004 added a new bar. The wine list has been tweaked in recent weeks, with the additions of more foreign wines, particularly good values from places such as South America. And this week, Johnny's is unveiling a few new menu items, including lobster tail and Seafood Pasta Pomodoro. But the template for the restaurant was pretty well set when it opened: a classic atmosphere taken from the supper clubs of the 1940s, some Rat Pack hipness, and a topnotch menu.

Local visual artist
1. Isabel Bloom
1. Ralph Iaccarino
3. Jane Koski

Local musical act
1. Metrolites
2. Jim the Mule
3. Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls

Locally owned business
1. Brew & View
2. Ritzi Reruns
3. Whitey's Ice Cream Store

Annual event or festival
1. Bix Jazz Festival
2. Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
3. Brew Ha Ha

Best Annual Event or Festival, Best Annual Family Event/Festival
When the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival started in the 1970s, many of the performers who came to celebrate the legend's life and music had played with him back in the '20s. Now heading into its 34th year, the festival has grown from a regional to a national event, with an attendance of roughly 12,000. Last year's festival featured bands from San Francisco, Orlando, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and the Quad Cities. Aside from handling the logistics of bands, venues, and crowds, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society has also coordinated the Youth Band for the past 11 years, giving a new generation a forum to engage with traditional jazz. Area musicians in middle and high school audition for the chance to perform at the festival and compete for merit-based music scholarships. (All participants receive a small stipend.) Over the years, events beyond the main-stage concerts have been added, including a jazz brunch, a tribute at the Bix gravesite, and a jazz liturgy at Davenport's First Presbyterian Church. New last year was the jazz clinic, at which 60 student musicians got the chance to meet and talk shop with Bill Allred's Classic Jazz Band and then jam afterward. The 2005 Festival will be held July 28 through 31. For more information, visit (http://www.bixsociety.org). - Lars Rehnberg (Photo courtesy Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society.)

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