It didn't take long after reaching our table to sense that Farradday's - in the Isle of Capri casino in Bettendorf - wanted to be noticed. The place settings alone would have screamed "First impression!" if decorum allowed. The silverware was polished to such a mirrored shine that I was embarrassed to leave a fingerprint. The stemware was likewise spotless - nearly invisible. Even the water tumblers were as finely crafted as an eggshell. I appreciated seeing a sea-salt grinder on the table that matched the brushed-stainless pepper mill.

I planned for an elegant dinner out last month. It was important to me that everything should be extraordinary, with nothing taken for granted - not the room, not the service, and certainly not the food. Too often, visiting a restaurant amounts to nothing more than escaping one's kitchen - a convenience rather than an experience, a meal rather than an event. But I wanted this night to be memorable.

We have some picky eaters in our house, so visiting a restaurant as a family is not something we do often. Usually only one or two of our children tag along with us to a place that is carefully selected for its ability to provide a dish that has a better-than-50-percent chance of being consumed. With this criterion in mind, I took my 12-year-old son with me on a mid-June Friday night to Au Jus in Milan. Formerly called Hodge Podge, the new restaurant opened in August. Turns out I picked the right kid, anyway.

"You are new here!" he beamed.

He was right, of course. Our host/owner Xuan "Suni" Nguyen greeted us immediately when we entered his dining room, and his regular diners were smiling at a routine they must have witnessed dozens of times.

the Maid-Rite sandwich Sloppy Joes, Reubens, meatball subs, and the Big Mac all have one essential ingredient that makes the sandwich: a special sauce. But at Maid-Rite, you can't say the secret's in the sauce, because there isn't any. The absence of sauce is what sets this loose-meat sandwich apart from the crowd.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then Boetje's Stoneground Mustard was born from 19th Century American cuisine.


Steve and Nancy Rosetti opened The Faithful Pilot Café & Spirits, located at 117 North Cody Road in LeClaire, in 1991. Voted on several occasions as one of the area's most romantic restaurants in the River Cities' Reader's "Best of the Quad Cities" poll, the Faithful Pilot remains a favorite local destination.

Quad Cities Dining Guide Registered users may download a PDF file of the River Cities' Reader's Spring/Summer 2008 Dining Guide.