We had to go over to the Quad Cities main U.S. Post Office facility in Milan one evening to drop off some mail to send out late. It was past 6:30 and I figured we'd just go get something to eat over on the Illinois side of the river that night. I threw a couple places out and Cindy wasn't thrilled with either one. She said, "We need to go someplace new." (She's getting into the spirit of Road Tips wanting to find new places for me to write about.) "Let's go to that log cabin place over here a bit. You know, the one with the neon palm trees." She was referring to Crabby's Bar and Grill in Coal Valley, IL. (See map)
We had been past Crabby's on numerous occasions, albeit the backside of Crabby's that sits up next to Interstate 280. The site on which the bar and grill sits is the site of the original Quad City Speedway. When the Interstate was built about 40 years ago, the speedway closed up and moved to East Moline. The original building that Crabby's became started out as the Speedway Inn. It later became Powers' Country Store before it became the old Fleetwood Tap and Liquor Store. In 2001, Lori and Bill Rotz bought the business and turned it into Crabby's Bar and Grill. They kept the liquor store that was attached to the side of the building. Lori Rotz was no stranger to the restaurant business having been the general manager for The Captain's Table for over 12 years.
In 2006, a roofing crew was working on the roof of Crabby's when a torch used to melt tar accidentally caught some of the structure on fire. In no time the fire engulfed the building, gutting it and causing the structure to be a total loss. With the help of friends and patrons, the Rotz's rebuilt Crabby's on the original foundation, changing the floor plan to include a larger bar area with more seating. They were able to reopen in the spring of 2007.
The bar, itself, is a large rectangular structure that can seat 25 to 30 people. On the west side of the large, well lit room are pool tables and games. There's a covered beer garden just outside the west side of the building. The opposite side of the dining area has about a half dozen booths and high top tables. On weekends, Crabby's features live music and there's a set up area for bands on the floor on the east side of the restaurant.
We sat in one of the booths along the south wall near the in-house entrance to Crabby's liquor store. Our waitress for the evening came over and handed us a couple menus.
The menu is primarily typical bar food - burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers - but they also featured an 8 oz. New York strip with a baked potato and Texas toast for $8.45. That sounded like a helluva deal. They also had comfort food such as hot beef and meatloaf sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gray. They had a Philly cheese steak sandwich and something they called the chicken cheese steak sandwich. It was intriguing, but I was looking for something else.
Our waitress came over to check on us and Cindy asked, "What are you guys known for?"
The waitress pointed at the menu and said, "Well, the steak dinner is one of my favorites and one of our more popular dinners. We have hand-pattied cheeseburgers that are pretty good. Our reuben is very good." She certainly got my attention when she said "hand-pattied cheeseburger".
She gave us a couple more minutes and I needed it. I really didn't know what I wanted. It was a toss-up between the hot beef sandwich and the reuben. I thought about the burger, but decided I really didn't want one. Actually, I wasn't really sold on either the hot beef or the reuben.
When our waitress came back, she asked if we were ready to order. Cindy was, I wasn't, so she spoke up right away. She took the steak dinner, "medium, but to the medium-rare side."
All too quickly it was now up to me to order. I took a quick look at the menu hoping for some divine intervention that would steer me to something and I saw the pork tenderloin sandwich - grilled or breaded and fried. Out of the blue, I heard myself say, "I'll take the grilled pork tenderloin." The normal garden vegetables came with it, but I just had her put onions and pickles on it. I also got a side of fries with it to make it a basket. You get your choice of five or six sides with the basket.
After the waitress took our order, Cindy exclaimed, "Pork tenderloin? Where did THAT come from? You didn't even mention the tenderloin when you were trying to figure out what you wanted."
"I know," I replied. "Something just told me to get the tenderloin."
And I'm glad I did. When she brought it out, the grilled tenderloin was bigger than the bun - and the bun wasn't small by any stretch. It had a good, chargrilled smell to the sandwich. It looked pretty damn good. And it was.
The bun is what what made the sandwich. It was light and fluffy, and had a great taste to it. The bottom half of the bun looks flat in the picture above right and that's because I pressed down on it to cut the sandwich in half. But the crown of the bun was overly flaky and held together very well. It was a damn fine sandwich.
Cindy was very impressed with her steak dinner - especially for $8.45. The steak looked bigger than 8 ounces and was cooked exactly as Cindy wanted - more medium-rare than medium. (Would that be medium-rare plus?) The chargrill marks on the steak looked like she got it from a regular steakhouse.
The waitress had taken my water glass away to refill it and Cindy said, "I wonder if they have horseradish here."
I said, "Oh, I doubt it. Unless they make their bloody mary's with it."
When the waitress came back with my water, Cindy asked if she had any ground horseradish. "Sure! I'll get some for you," was her exuberant reply. A place like Crabby's having fresh ground horseradish was certainly surprising to me. In a bit, the waitress brought back a little container of horseradish for Cindy's steak. Our waitress was very good, really on top of things and helpful all throughout our visit without hovering over us.
I was overly impressed with my sandwich, Cindy's steak and the overall service at Crabby's Bar and Grill. Everything about Crabby's was surprisingly very good. You wouldn't think a bar and grill like this would have as good as food - and at as good of a value. It's not an exquisite steakhouse, nor is it fine dining. But for a burger, sandwich or a great deal on a very good steak, Crabby's is tough to beat. We told the waitress before we left that we'd be back at some point. The next time, I'm getting the burger.
(Update - We have since been back to Crabby's and I did try the burger. Unfortunately, it's a processed, frozen burger patty that they get from a local food distributor. Then they overcooked it and there wasn't much flavor or juiciness left in the burger when it was served to me. However, my wife got the steak special again - the price has now risen to $9.49 (which is still a great deal) - and it was still very good.)