First of all, I have to remind readers of Road Tips that the owner of Creekside Bar and Grill in Davenport, Randy Adams, is a good friend of mine. (You can read my initial entry on Creekside here.) We grew up together in Newton, IA and even though he moved away nearly 30 years ago, we stayed friends as I would visit him on my business trips to Davenport.
When I moved to the Quad Cities just coming up to 20 years ago on June 1, Randy and became fast friends again and have shared a lot of good times since I've been here. When Randy opened Creekside Bar and Grill about five years ago (see map), he wanted to have a great burger on the menu. Through a series of hiccups, trial and error and finding the right cooks, he finally has a pretty damn good burger, including his very good portobello mushroom, bacon, Swiss cheese burger that Randy's step-son, Stephen, came up with last year. It's a two-time nominee for the "Best Burger in Iowa" by the Iowa Beef Industry Council.
Randy told me recently that his other step-son, Ryan, came up with a sandwich on his own - the Two-Tone. Ryan's nickname is "Two-Tone" (I think it had something to do with a colored splotch in his hair that he used as a fashion statement at one point) and he designed a grilled pork tenderloin sandwich that was topped with a homemade onion ring, jalapeno peppers and cheese. Then for good measure, he put on some of his grandfather's homemade barbecue sauce.
On a recent Sunday night when Ryan was cooking at Creekside, he made one for a customer to try. The guy raved about it so much that someone else ordered one up. Then someone else ordered one. By the time he finished his grill time that evening, he had made 10 of this new sandwich which wasn't even on the menu at Creekside. In fact, they weren't really certain what to charge for it.
Randy soon told me that Ryan had come up with this new sandwich and that I needed to come up and give one a try. I was in Creekside on a recent visit and I was sort of hungry. Randy said, "Hey, you should try one of those Two-Tone sandwiches that Ryan made." Ryan just happened to be cooking that day.
I exclaimed, "Yeah, that's right! What's it again?"
Ryan said, "I grill a pork chop, cut it in half, serve it double decker style with cheese and jalapenos in the middle. Then I put an onion ring on top and then pour some of Grandpa's barbacue sause on it."
I said, "OK, you got me when you said, 'Grandpa's barbecue sauce'."
(As an aside, the barbecue sauce is made by our good friend, Randy Brekke. Both Randy's got to know each other when they were in an apprentice program at the Rock Island Arsenal. Randy Adams, in turn, met Randy Brekke's daughter, Lorrie, years ago. After both went through a couple failed marriages, Lorrie moved back to the Quad Cities from San Diego and got together with Randy Adams almost two years ago. They were married last fall in a ceremony in which I officiated - yes, I'm also an ordained minister legally able to conduct weddings and other non-religious ceremonies for people. But that's another story...)
The barbecue sauce that Randy Brekke makes - aptly named "Randy B's" - is a sweet and somewhat peppery sauce that I have to say is damn good. It has a little bit of zip to the taste and it is, by far, the best homemade barbecue sauce that I've ever tasted. Like most homemade beer, most homemade barbecue sauces I've tasted aren't all that good. If you say it's bad, it's like you've told the person their kid is ugly. I can't say that about Randy B's sauce. It's very, very good.
He now makes his sauce for Creekside and was kind enough to give me a small jar of it to use at home. I think he told me that Creekside is going through about three gallons a month and that will grow precipitously once they soon begin using this new smoker (pictured above left and right) that Randy Brekke designed and helped build.
Ryan commenced to make the Two-Tone for me, placing the thin, non-breaded tenderloin on the open grill and preparing the large homemade onion ring for placement on the top. It took about 12 minutes to make, and I have to say that because it was me he was extra diligent in making sure everything was right. He served it to me and here's what it looked like below left.
From the first bite, I was hooked. The Two-Tone was thick, juicy and cheesy with that great barbecue sauce on it. The jalapenos weren't all that hot - toe me, anyway - and didn't over power the overall taste of the sandwich. The onion ring - although Stephen still hasn't come up with the right seasoning for their homemade batter - was a nice additional taste that went well with the pork tenderloin.
Now, as I look at the pictures, there seems to be something else on top of the onion ring. I believe it's white cheddar cheese.
Randy and I were sitting at the bar, and as I was eating the sandwich he was smiling as I kept exclaiming how good the sandwich was between my favorable grunts and "mmmmm" noises. Randy turned to Ryan and asked, "Now, how did you come up with this?"
Ryan said, "I started to figure out all the things that I'd like on a sandwich and I just put it all together. Grandpa's barbecue sauce was the key, I think."
All I know is that it was certainly very good. There's a lot of stuff going on with a Two-Tone pork tenderloin sandwich and Ryan came up with a real winner on this one.
A couple weeks after I tried the "Two-Tone" sandwich at Creekside, I happened to be in there one afternoon and Stephen was cooking. Randy had been telling me about Stephen's version of a "Juicy Lucy", the cheese stuffed burger that is so famous up in the Twin Cities. Stephen starts off with two hand-pattied burgers, stuffs them with pepper jack cheese, then tops it out with jalapenos and white cheddar cheese. I decided to give one a try.
When Stephen brought his "Juicy Lucy" to me at the bar, I was amazed at the size of it. It wasn't quite like taking two of their regular burgers and putting them together, but it was close. The cheese was just oozing out of and off the top of the burger. Randy was sitting there and he said, "It's pretty good, isn't it?"
I said, "Man, it sure is!" The spicy cheese and the jalapeno's gave the burger a little bit of a bite, but not overpowering enough to detract from the overall taste of the burger. The bun continues to be a big selling point with any Creekside sandwich and the toasted egg bun is a great compliment to their sandwiches and burgers. Creekside's "Juicy Lucy" would have put up a good fight against any of the similar burgers I've had in the Twin Cities.
Randy, who is always on the lookout for menu ideas when he goes out and around to other restaurants and bars, said that he's seen variations of the "Juicy Lucy" on a number of menus of places he's been. "Oh, yeah. I'm starting to see a lot of places that do cheese stuffed burgers."
Well, I travel a lot and I don't seem to find them outside of the Twin Cities. Maybe I need to pay a little bit better attention.
The key to a good "Juicy Lucy" style burger is to not over-cook the burger while you get the inner cheese to melt. Stephen did a fine job in making sure that didn't happen. The one thing Randy preaches at Creekside is consistentcy. Between Stephen, Ryan and the other cook, Alyssa, they all do a fine job. Creekside Bar and Grill is one of the most underrated and unknown places for good burgers and sandwiches in the Quad Cities.