A Full First Day in the Quad Cities (& Lots of John Deere)
Day two in the Quad Cities is in the books and what an adventure it was. We began in Rock Island, Illinois for breakfast at QC Coffee and Pancake House. The retro atmosphere might seem like your average diner but don’t be fooled. Chef Jose Zepeda has curated a dynamic and eclectic menu that goes much beyond typical breakfast plates. If gluten-free isn’t a concern, check out their famous cinnamon roll pancakes!
We were also in great company. Rock Island Mayor, Mike Thoms, joined us for breakfast. I love the opportunity to feel like a local on these trips. Getting to meet the Mayor certainly made me feel like I was “in the know.”
We next headed over to Boetje’s. Inside a very unassuming building lays the headquarters for one of the top-rated mustard brands in the USA. Boetje’s has been using the same mustard recipe since 1908 and gave us an interesting tour of their tiny but mighty family-run production facility.
Circa 21 Theatre
From Boetje’s, we returned to the corner where we had breakfast. Just across the street from QC Coffee and Pancake House, we noticed the beautiful Circa 21 Theatre. Jessica, our incredible host from Visit Quad Cities, got to texting since we were pining to see the inside. The next thing we knew, we were getting a tour from the owner, Denny Hitchcock. Circa 21 has lived many lives. Since 2001, Denny and his family have operated it as a unique dinner theatre.
Their 2022-2023 season includes some of my favorites like Clue and Beauty and the Beast. Several of Circa 21’s performers have gone on to Broadway and television. Something that makes the experience unique is that the wait staff also act as performers while they serve guests. I was most surprised at how reasonable their pricing goes and that admission includes your meal.
The John Deere Pavilion
Next up, we headed where one must always visit if in the Quad Cities. The John Deere Pavilion! The newly opened center serves as the farming mogul’s headquarters and visitor’s center.
We learned that the Pavilion was a complete brainchild thanks to Covid-19. The previous John Deere Headquarters were forced to shut its doors due to the pandemic. This inspired the Deere team put their thinking caps on. What did they dream up? A beautiful space visitors can now enjoy.
Now, we all know I am anything but a farm girl. This made my time with John Deere even more interesting. The tractors on display make for great photo ops. It was mind blowing to learn how technology is progressing the way farmers farm.
One of John Deere’s newest tractors can be completely operated by your smartphone. Yes, you read right. This new model will enable farmers to work and control the tractor from their homes if they wish. Having not thought much about the life of working in agriculture, this made so much sense. Many times farmers are unable to be with their kids, go to that sports game, and so on. Inventions like this, at last, give farmers more opportunities to have both the farm and domestic life.
Lunch at Lagomarcino’s
I didn’t quite understand on the itinerary how lunch could be at an ice cream parlor. But, I wasn’t complaining. As soon as we walked into Lagomarcino’s it was as if I’d stepped back in time. Lagomarcino’s is one of the Quad Cities oldest businesses and has been making ice cream and chocolates since 1908. I love that they are owned by the Lagomarcinos to this day. They were a James Beard award recipient in 2006 and is a “must stop” when in the QC.
They might be famous for their ice cream sundaes, but also their rye bread. This is where lunch comes in. They serve up sandwiches if you insist on lunch before dessert. Watching so much food and plates be served around me, I did a double take when we learned all food and desserts are prepared in their basement. How’s that for a small business?
Cinnamon Ridge Farms
Learning about the future of tractors at John Deere was a perfect intro for our next stop. Cinnamon Ridge Dairy Farms in Donahue, Iowa. As soon as I saw the opportunity to come to the Quad Cities, visiting Cinnamon Ridge was one of the top reasons that I applied. John and Joan Maxwell are the absolute power couple in dairy farming. John was selected as the Nation’s Top Farmer in 1997 and their dairy is the top milk production farm in the country.
Tours at Cinnamon Ridge are usually reserved for larger parties so it was quite the treat to have this opportunity. The tour began at the Maxwell’s home with an introductory movie to learn more about their history. Although rare, we had both John and Joan leading us on the tour and answering questions. I intend to write a much more detailed story on this fantastic excursion.
Miss Effie’s U-Pick Flower Farm
After a good 90 minutes at the farm, we headed to another farm. This time to Miss Effie’s U-Pick Flower Farm. Their owner, Kathy, treated us like family and I immediately felt like I was hanging out with an old friend. The atmosphere was serene and picturesque. As I strolled the stunning gardens with a glass of wine in hand I felt incredibly at peace. Monarch butterflies flew by me as they made their way to the flowers. The sky was crystal clear and blue.
Speaking of wine, we enjoyed a lovely array of local wines paired with Cinnamon Ridge Farm cheeses. I didn’t think much of the cheeses, surprisingly. Since I rarely eat cheese anymore, I was excited to “splurge.” I tried the aged Gouda and was not a huge fan. The wines took me by surprise and ended up being what I favored. The semi-sweet white from Lavender Crest Winery (in nearby Colona, Illinois) was ideal for a warm summer day in the Midwest.
Dinner and Nightlife in Davenport
After a break back at the Axis, we set off for dinner at Cavort in Davenport, Iowa. I’d done some research on Cavort and was looking forward to dining with them. Imagine a slightly upscale tiki room. Their cocktail menu has Tropical favorites like daiquiris, mai tais, and even a prickly pear margarita. While at first look their menu seems small, they manage to offer a great variety of options. The atmosphere offers an environment that’s good for both date night and out with the family (kids, too).
After Cavort, we headed over to Up SkyBar on the rooftop of the Current Hotel. When we got up to the roof and I saw fire pits going and a live acoustic band playing, I wondered where I was. Was I back in LA?! The vibe reminded me of the Andaz in West Hollywood. The clientele was very “trendy,” young, and much better dressed than me. In my jeans and Tom’s shoes. Nevertheless, we enjoyed remarkable views of the Mississippi River and the nightlife in Davenport.
After laughing at the Tiki drinks at Cavort, ones I loved in my 20s, I ended up outdoing myself at Up Sky. I decided on a frozen strawberry margarita. I assumed it would be served in a fancy glass given the swanky atmosphere. Instead, they keep it real and serve it in an adult-sized juice pouch! I didn’t expect much to order a frozen drink but it turned out to be excellent.
It was now time to say good night to a full first day in the Quad Cities. Stay tuned and let’s see where the Quad Cities take us for day three. Report coming next week. xo
Liz BoardmanSeptember 7, 2022 at 2:00 pm
Glad you enjoyed your visit to the Quad-Cities, Mary! The longevity of Circa ‘21 is even more amazing than you state. Denny opened it in 1977! The John Deere Pavilion opened in 1997, so it was around long before COVID.
AlongComesMaryOctober 3, 2022 at 7:24 pm
Thanks for reading, Liz. We’re both correct on the Pavilion. It did ORIGINALLY open in 1997, but when they closed to Covid, they gave it a complete overhaul. What I saw is newly open and nothing like what was previously there as the JD team told me.
As for Circa ’21, my notes have that Denny took over in 2002. I will reach out to see if corrections are needed.
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