When I arrived in the Quad Cities, I was a typical first-time visitor. I had ideas in my head about what the region, located on the border of Iowa and Illinois, would be like. I figured the cuisine would be good but probably heavy on meat and potatoes (and especially corn). Although that kind of fare certainly has its place in the Midwest, Quad Cities offers so much more.
Each day of my visit offered such diverse dining experiences. There was something to satisfy everyone, and I even tried some foods for the first time. I was also thrilled to find that everywhere is more than accommodating of a gluten-free diet.
Read on to discover five of the best places to get your foodie on when in the Quad Cities.
Verde, Bettendorf, Iowa
Since I’m a Los Angeles native, I think I know a thing or two about Mexican food. Verde immediately reminded me of West Hollywood’s Gracias Madre but without the “La La Land” atmosphere. Instead, Verde keeps it laid back within its colorful and bright space. The menu offers modern, contemporary spins on some traditional favorites.
Start with their rice and beans. Trust me. Remember, Verde is all about the modern. Even their appetizers prove it. Something as innocent as a side order of rice and beans suddenly takes center stage with its presentation and spices. I loved munching while enjoying my watermelon Paloma. Verde is also a soy and gluten-free facility.
Cavort, Davenport, Iowa
While Verde brought to mind West Hollywood, Cavort reminded me of the classic Tiki Room at Disneyland, although Cavort has better food and drinks. The tiki bar and restaurant have expertly managed to create a place for both date night and grabbing a bite with the kids.
The menu by Chef Rhea Vrana offers tropical-inspired plates like a tuna poke bowl or Yucatan pork nachos. If you desire something warm and comforting, there’s even mac and cheese or chicken piccata. Chef Vrana has truly thought outside the box with Cavort. The Iowa Restaurant Association recently recognized her as one of 40 Women to Watch in Hospitality. It’s easy to see why.
The Crane and Pelican, LeClaire, Iowa
It’s pretty hard to resist the charm that is LeClaire. It reminded me of a classic “Mayberry” town. They are home to the History Channel’s American Pickers. LeClaire is even said to have “the Cutest Restaurant in Iowa.” That would be the undeniably adorable Crane and Pelican.
The intimate bistro is a converted house once owned by a local riverboat captain. Their menu has a hearty selection of entrees, sandwiches, soups, and salads. My salmon lunch was cooked to perfection, and the risotto was some of the creamiest I’ve enjoyed. Everything is made from scratch in-house (literally). With so many big-name restaurants taking over, it is refreshing to come across ones in the Quad Cities like the Crane and Pelican.
Word of advice: make sure to order dessert. The homemade ice cream is the perfect ending to a visit.
Cook and Cuffs, Rock Island, Illinois
Let’s take it a step further for dining in a home. How about going to a chef’s actual residence for her to cook you dinner? That’s what diners get when they book an evening with Chef Keys of Cook and Cuffs. While all of my experiences were marvelous whilst in the Quad Cities, this was one of the most unique ways I’ve ever dined.
Chef K.C. Ross (AKA Chef Keys) began her culinary journey as a prison cook in New York. When she arrived to the Quad Cities, it struck her how rushed eating out has become. Gone are the days of a slow, multi-course meal with camaraderie among friends as the drinks are flowing. She decided to change that and launched Cook and Cuffs.
For a fee, guests fill out a short survey to give the chef an idea of food preferences. From there, she customizes a meal at her home in Rock Island, Illinois. It was a true fine dining experience. The best part was that it was all tailored for your group. We got to go so much deeper than our “compliments to the chef” and learn more about Chef Keys as we dined in her home.
FoodAffair Bistro, Bettendorf, Iowa
As someone who loves breakfast, I cannot get FoodAffair Bistro off of my mind. They are a newer addition to the Quad Cities and already creating plenty of buzz. They pride themselves on serving “Globally Inspired American Cuisine.” When I first read that, I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. One glance at the menu, and I realized that sums them up perfectly.
Dishes at FoodAffair Bistro are served a la carte. I loved the diversity of omelets, and they are known for their toasts. Of course, I chose one of each. For the carnivores, enjoy a chicken and chorizo or minced lamb omelet. For fellow veggie lovers, don’t miss the asparagus and roasted mushrooms. To pair with it, I decided on Texas toast (quite similar to French toast).
I was once again struck by how “homemade” my meal tasted. You may be eating out when in the Quad Cities, but it will taste like home.
Visit the Quad Cities
Beyond these delicious options, the Quad Cities is also home to its own style of pizza, a James Beard award-winning ice cream parlor, and even Ethiopian cuisine.
Visit their website and remember to pack some stretchy pants. I wish I had.
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