Being from the Iowa side of the river, the Illinois Quad-Cities is a bit foreign to me. We finally ventured over to East Moline, which is, well, East of Moline. We followed 7th Avenue which magically turned into 17th Avenue, where we found Smokey's Country Diner.
Welcome Hansel. Welcome Gretel.
We were greeted in a small front room with one booth and a couple tables. We went ahead and slid into the large booth by the door. They have a larger dining area in the next room.
The lengthy menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and all meals are served all day.
I want to take this home to read it over and over.
Picking my dinner was the hardest decision I've made in a while. Rough life, right?
I elected to continue my tenderloin quest and bravely stepped forward to challenge another promising piece of pork. I also got cheese fries because... CHEESE FRIES!
Richie ordered...a monster burger. Surprise?! Bateman went with the mammoth sized Mac Daddy plate, barbeque pork in a cave of macaroni and cheese with, oh, just a niggle of baked beans and scant serving of coleslaw.
Red insisted on getting a waffle that I knew she would not eat. She is 50% bread, 20% chicken nugget and 30% fruit snacks.
Richie's burger came out tasting fresh and homemade. All three(!) patties were juicy and flavorful enough for him to claim that it rivals Lee's on 14th for the best burger in the QCA.
And here's another giant tenderloin to add to my collection.
Love me tender
I ate about 2/3 of this pretty piece of pork. It was seasoned well and grilled perfectly. In my valuation of all the tenderloins I have had thus far, this is #2 on my list. Still gotta go with 11th Street Precinct as top pig.
The fries were a bit on the soggy side, but they were thick and appeared to be fresh cut. The cheese sauce was an excellent addition. I didn't touch the coleslaw because it's coleslaw.
The waffle was soft and fluffy but remained untouched. Red did gnaw on the bacon and consumed most of my toasted bun. (With lots of ketchup)
I spy an uneaten waffle in the background.
We received a bounty of food and feasted like kings and queens and then...the bill came and we felt a bit like paupers. I have to say, it's fair for the amount of food you get, but not what one usually expects of a family restaurant. Nonetheless, the food will bring us back in the near future.
Who wants to take a road trip to Clinton, Iowa?! No one. No one wants to take a road trip to Clinton, Iowa. Too bad- here we go!
Though largely thought of as an industrial town that stinks to high heaven, Clinton is a hidden gem with some cool spots. Paul's for example. Paul's is a discount general store that has just about everything you could ever think you need. I needed chocolate covered bacon soda pop. Head downtown and you'll find a lot of small businesses, secondhand stores, and thrift shops. After visiting a few of these places, we headed to the Lyons district for a bite to eat.
It was established in 1984 and named after local grocer Homer Kopp. Unlike HH, they offer an array of bread and you can customize your sandwich with over 20 different condiments, including pickles! I can't find their menu online, but it's a deli, you can figure it out.
I ordered their barbecue pulled pork sandwich with mustard and pickles.
My mom ordered the Russian Reuben which is turkey crowned in Swiss cheese buried under Russian coleslaw. Several nationalities under one rye roof.
A slight twist on the traditional. She also ordered a side of pasta salad which seemed to be of the mayonnaise persuasion, so I passed.
I'm going to have to use the most despised word in the English language to describe the pulled pork...moist. It really was. Probably because it was steeped in a sweet barbecue sauce that complemented the yellow mustard and pickles nicely.
My mom enjoyed her hearty Russian Reuben, claiming the flavors meshed well together.
The bakery side was a hoppin with activity, it seems to be THE PLACE to go for graduation cakes. Almost too pretty to eat...almost. The bakery has been going strong since 1950, and original recipes are still used today.
Sorry for the bum shots ladies
After several customers cut in front of me...(wtf Clintonians?) I ordered a filled long john and three iced sugar cookies. The bewitching cookies were on the crisp side, and the icing was very sweet.
Red did not eat much of her doughnut, but I took a bite and it reminded me of the gems at Old Towne Bakery in Moline (whoops didn't review them yet). Apparently Sweetheart is known for their blarnies, but I did not partake because putting nuts on a cake is a surefire way to desecrate a delicious cake.
If you find yourself in Clinton, be sure to check out this deli/bakery combo. A sandwich and a sugar cookie...what more could you need for lunch? Vegetables? pfft.
Tastee Freez is no more. But it has arisen from the depths of ice cream hell to become DAIRY Freez.
At first glance, Dairy Freez isn't much different from it's predecessor. The menu board is exactly the same.
TASTEE FREEZ: 100% MORE TASTEE
We arrived around 5:30 on a Tuesday night and had to wait about 5 minutes for someone to take our order. After we ordered, the crowd cleared out a bit, but our food still took about, oh, AN ETERNITY...or 15 minutes. We grabbed a table and unwrapped our Freez feast.
All day long, Richie was belly aching for a burger. He ordered a double cheeseburger basket with fries and coleslaw. He said the food was OK. The burger was OK, the fries were OK, the shake was OK. Very descriptive.
He was disappointed that the bun was not toasted and said it kind of ruined the burger for him.
I decided to try the Philly chicken. The chicken was basically grilled, chopped, capped with white cheese, and stuffed into a hot dog bun. I'm not picky, it was delicious, and I skipped the bun anyway. A cute little sparrow benefited.
My "loaded" fries were a big letdown. Scant amount of cheese was melted into a rubbery glue on top of their crinkle cut fries. The bacon was chopped into a few large pieces and sprinkled on top. I barely touched them.
I capped off my meal with a gummy bear shake. The gummy bears infused a light fruity flavor into the vanilla ice cream. They then rested peacefully on the bottom in a mass grave of mutilated gummy bears. I drank for awhile, then grabbed a spoon to properly lay the bears to rest in my mouth.
Richie got the Nerds shake, also fruit infused, but try to suck a nerd through a straw. It cannot be done.
I think Dairy Freez is a cool place, a throwback to "simpler times," or so I'm told. The food was fast food quality but it certainly wasn't fast. To be fair, it can't be easy to cook food in that tiny little cracker box. There aren't many better options for drive-in food in the QCA, but you could try Big Dave and Holly's in LeClaire. As for the ice cream, I will give you the green light.
I apologize in advance for the lack of beer in this post about a brewery. We are just in it for the food.
Front House Brewery is housed in a building that has worn many hats. It used to be a vegetable warehouse, a car repair shop, and a printing company. It became Front Street Brewery in 1992. Front Street references River Drive which runs just outside it's doors and separates the building from the mighty Mississippi River and that lovely smell.
Both of us have been to Front Street Brewery before, but never at the same time. We decided to visit on a relatively quiet Tuesday evening. The restaurant is long and narrow with booths along one wall and a bar on the other. They also have a nice beer garden area in the back. The booths were full, so we grabbed a table right in the front of the restaurant.
I remembered enjoying fried pickles on my last visit, so I was a bit dismayed to not see them on the menu. Dismayed is a nice way of saying this hangry prego lady was pissed. It was a long day and I was about ready to eat my hand, so the Slow Roasted BBQ Pork Nachos sounded particularly pleasing. Richie ordered the Cajun Burger. I think he was sold as soon as he read "candied bacon." Having just watched the movie "Bears," Red wanted to eat fish like a bear.
Luckily they have fish and chips on the kids menu.
Our food arrived in a timely manner and I was immediately overwhelmed by my plate of nachos.
This was a 1/2 serving. Maybe the cook can't math?
How do I...hands?...fork?...dump into mouth? The chips are layered with pork, BBQ, roasted sweet corn with onions and beans, and melted cheeeeeeze. They normally come with jalapenos, but my stomach would have NOPED on out of there.
I attempted to eat politely with a fork, but what's the point? I eventually threw that aside and dug in with my hands. The pork was moist and tender. The BBQ is a Chipotle Mustard blend that was sweet and tangy. There was more than enough cheese to make a vegan cry. When the waitress took away my plate it looked like I hadn't touched it, but touched it I had. Mhmm. I also snagged some of Richie's sweet potato fries. He said they were too sweet, so I guessed they'd be perfect for my palate. They were.
Between roaring like a bear and trying to lick the window, Red ate one of the fish fillets. I call that a victory.
Richie's burger was a hot mess. I mean that in the best way possible.
The burger was crowned with pepperjack cheese, jalapenos, spicy mayo, and candied bacon. He said the flavors blended well together and created a spicy masterpiece of a burger. The burger itself was juicy and cooked well. The fries were a nice contrast to the spiciness, but they got too sweet for his tooth. How anything can be too sweet to a guy who drinks 6 cans of Mt Dew in a day is beyond me.
Front Street has earned itself a return visit by this dining duo and their bear child. The food was delicious, filling, and priced fair. I presume that Front Street would appeal to people who are both food and drink connoisseurs.
What makes pizza so delicious ? Yoga mats? No that was Subway. Apparently it's MSG. And no one cared and we all continued to eat pizza. In fact, 13% of Americans consume pizza on any given day! That's a statistic from the USDA
Over the past few months, Richie has partaken in many a pizza.
First, I treated him and Red to a heart shaped pizza from Papa Murphy's for Valentine's Day. If you can operate an oven, Papa Murphy's is pretty much pizza perfection. It's seasoned perfectly and the toppings are well distributed (until you drive it home in your car and take a hard turn).
Just tilt your head to the left, k? Heart!
Then we headed downtown to Falbo Brothers Pizza (2nd and Main Davenport). It's a Midwest chain that started in Madison WI. Here is their cute story. They have pizza slices most of the day and a full menu, including gluten free crust.
Richie and his friend shared a Cajun Firebomb. My stomach wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole. Last time I ate spicy food, I ended up in the ER. NEVER FORGET
They ordered a deep dish but got served thin crust. So I guess the service wasn't the best. It was jazz night when we visited. Despite all those darn seniors making noise, we both give Falbo's food thumbs up.
Then we have Monical's Pizza. A point of contention in our relationship. He loves it, I hate it. He grew up with it, so I imagine that is some of the appeal. This is also true of our opinions on Quad-Cities style pizza. I grew up with it and I love it. He does not.
Monical's is a chain located mostly in Illinois and Indiana. They serve scant pizza toppings on crackers. But that's just my opinion. SOME people put this bright pink french dressing on top and call it delicious while inhaling an entire medium. Some people. *shakes head*
Chef Boyardee makes a better pizza.
Finally, we have The Slice. The Slice Pizza opened in downtown Moline (1401 5th Ave) back in January. They offer a lunch buffet, a full pizza and sandwich menu, and pizza slices are available from 9 pm to 3am on the weekends. The name is a tad misleading as a couple people stopped in while we were there and wanted to know if they could just get a slice. No dice. I could hear the cook's frustration as he once again explained, "it's just a name."
I knew Richie would, yet again, want the spiciest pie on the menu, the Cajun Gumbo. I ordered an unbreaded tenderloin with fries. He also got an order of 5th Avenue Bread, which is a fanciful way of saying "pizza crust with garlic and lots o cheese."
Red was quite amused when the cook began tossing the pizza crust in the air. It truly is an art. The cook then brought us out fancy white plates and nice silverware, a stark contrast to what I would expect of a pizza joint on the corner.
Our food came out about 15 minutes later. Here is our bounty:
My tenderloin is hiding under that mass of pickles. I am still half heartedly on a quest to find the best tenderloin in the QC. This was not it, but I have no complaints. It was thin and grilled with a touch of spice.
The 5th Ave bread ended up being the big hit. Richie called it addictive and finished over half of the pan. He also took in two slices of gumbo pizza while telling me, "you definitely wouldn't like it." He thinks pizza sauce is mixed with cajun spices to create the "cajun gumbo sauce." The crust had a nice chewy consistency, not too thin, not too thick. Hmm, that's how I like my men.
So there we have four pizza joints. As if you needed help finding pizza, right?
Let's just pretend it hasn't been an eon since the last update...
The latest issue of River Cities Reader's Dining Guide recently hit the news stands, so we eagerly picked up a copy and made some notes of places we would like to visit. We were again reminded that we had yet to stop by the restaurant approximately . 3 miles from our front door, Grille 350 (350 E LeClaire Rd Eldridge). Earlier this year, Lancers Grille went through a renovation and morphed into Grille 350. The e on the end makes it fancy, k? Lancers was nothing to sing about, and I had heard mixed reviews of 350, but we decided to try it out anyway.
The menu is small, but intriguing. You can order from the adjacent Happy Joe's as well, which in hindsight, would have been a good idea. Nomelet pizza!
I am a sucker for mac n cheese, and the "Eldridge Mac N Cheese" had sweet corn, steak, bacon, and green beans?! I was hoping this could be a side dish because I really shouldn't eat macaroni, but no dice. I was also tempted by Smokehouse BBQ Candied Bacon options. Luckily Richie ordered it so I could steal a taste.
Entreese frome thee grille
Though our waitress was prompt and polite enough, the food was slow to come out. We waited 20-25 minutes but it felt like 60 because we had our toddler crawling on the dirty floor and trying to eat ice cubes. The bar was pretty packed with sad retired teachers and coaches, but only a few other booths were ordering food.
When our food arrived, I was disappointed by what I saw. It looked more like cheese soup than homemade macaroni. I had flashbacks of eating similar looking Hamburger Helper meals in the 90s. Like buried treasure, I had to search for the steak. I found about one big piece of what looked like a slice of Steakums guiltily hiding under the mess.
"Sorry, not sorry for pretending to be steak"
I have to admit, this photo was taken right before we left, after I had eaten about 3 bites of macaroni and picked out most of the green beans and bacon. I did not get a doggy bag.
Richie's burger came out branded like a cow.
The burger was tucked under aged cheddar, BBQ bacon jam, and candied bacon. His expert opinion on the burger? The jam was too sweet. It did not have the smoky or savory flavor that he expected. The candied bacon was caramelized and well prepared. The patty was mediocre and he felt that it was probably frozen and pre-made, as it did not have much flavor or juiciness. His onion rings were crisp and delicious but also probably frozen and dumped in a fryer. For the price tag, he felt the food should have been fresh and on par with Red Robin.
And here is Red's burger and sweet potato fries. I eventually coerced her into eating most of the burger.
I ate most of the sweet potato fries. They were quite good, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
My overall impression of Grille 350 is that it is a bar that offers food to soak up the alcohol. I appreciate the thought put into the menu, but the food doesn't live up to its description. I mean, I'd eat it if someone else bought it, but I'm not opening my wallet to go there. The interior is nice and features one billion TVs all tuned to ESPN. Like Lancers, there just is no reason to make a return visit.