When growing season started earlier this year, Cindy and I decided to hitch a ride with our neighbors Dave and Steve out to a greenhouse between Davenport and Blue Grass. After spending an abundant amount of money on plants and flowers, Dave suggested we go to a spot in Blue Grass called the Corner Grill. Dave is an electrician and he helped wire and place lighting fixtures in the building when it was rehabbed into the Corner Grill about two years ago. He said, "I was in that place working for a couple weeks, but I've never eaten there." We had wanted to try the place out, as well, as we like going to Jeff's Market just across the street from time to time to get meat from their butcher counter. (see map) (Photo courtesy Quad City Times)
The Corner Grill is owned by Joe and Roseanne Sampson who happen to live in Blue Grass. The Sampsons, who are involved with their own family construction business, bought the building in the fall of 2009 after it sat empty for a while. Given that there were no full service family restaurants in Blue Grass, a combination bedroom community and agricultural-based town of about 1500 people located 10 miles west of Davenport, the Sampsons decided to rehab the building and put a bar/restaurant in the place.
The building in which the Corner Grill sits is over 100 years old and has been a bar and/or restaurant for all those years. The original owners of the building, Joe and Kate Mohr, opened their tavern in 1900 and ran it until 1918. After that it was owned by a number of people over the years before it closed in the early part of 2009. Joe Sampson, who along with his brothers in the family construction business, has extensive remodeling experience for both restaurants and houses in the Quad City area. Linda Sampson brought some restaurant know-how as her father and uncle owned a number of McDonald's franchises. After extensive remodeling, they opened the restaurant in April of 2010.
The orginal building was around 1500 square feet and an additional 1500 square feet were added in the 1940's. There is a room in the back of the Corner Grill that can be used for private parties or overflow on busy nights. The high tin plated ceilings have a number of antique-like light fixtures hanging from them. "Those are heavy bastards," Dave told us. "They were a bitch to hang!" The Sampsons did a good job in making the building look like it may have 100 years ago without taking away the modern conveniences.
The large bar is "L"-shaped and features a number of televisions high on the wall behind the bar. The day after we at at the Corner Grill I was telling my friend, Scott, that we needed to go out there to meet our friend, Tom Kakert from Hawkeye Report, for lunch sometime. Tom lives on the south side of Blue Grass and he always comes in to Davenport to have lunch with us from time to time. I told Scott that we needed to reciprocate on going out to Blue Grass sometime so Tom didn't have so far to travel.
It was just past 7:30 when we got into the Corner Grill and there was a good crowd on hand. We were seated by a young hostess in a corner booth in the front part of the restaurant. As we were seated, I decided that I needed to go to the restroom to clean my hands after handling all the plants. I walked into the restroom and the first thing I noticed was a two-way mirror with a flat panel television in the middle of it. I tried to take a picture of it, but it didn't come out all that well with the reflection in the mirrow. Now, I've seen mirrors with televisions in them before, but mainly in higher-end houses where dealers that I work with have put in extensive whole house audio and video systems. But I'd never seen one in a bar/restaurant before. It was actually kind of a nice little touch. A guy I encountered in the restroom later in the evening said, "This is great! I can just bring my beer in here and watch the game on the TV and wouldn't have to miss any of the action if I had to get up and go pee!" He certainly had a point.
I went back to the table and we started to go through the menu. The menu at the Corner Grill is your basic pub fare food with burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and a few entrees including chicken, pork and steak. I was thinking about trying their breaded pork tenderloin until I glanced at the booth across from us where a young lady had half a burger sitting on her plate. It looked big, thick and juicy. I was torn between the two, but decided upon getting the burger.
Dave was telling us stories of working the place as we waited to give our orders. After about 10 minutes, I turned to Cindy and said, "Notice anything about this place?"
She said, "Yeah, we haven't been waited on." She was correct. After the girl dropped off the menus, no one came over to even greet us after that. In fact, a couple seated at the booth behind us had came in after we were seated, were greeted by a young waitress, got their drinks AND placed their food order in that 10 minutes span.
I told them that I'd wait another five minutes. Dave asked, "Then do what? Get up and walk out?"
Cindy said, "We've been known to do that!"
Another five minutes went by and I noticed that a couple waitresses were just hanging up by the front hostess stand jabbering away with the young hostess. What appeared to be a manager walked up and was talking to them, and when he turned around in our direction I waved him over. He said, "How can I help you, sir?"
I said, "We've been sitting here for 15 minutes, at least, and no one has waited on us. And I could use a beer." He apologized profusely and went over to one of the waitresses standing there and told her to go over and take our drink order. A waitress came over and it was obvious she had an attitudinal problem with waiting on us. Her posture, tone and cold look on her face told us she would rather be anywhere else than right there at that moment. She said, "You guys need drinks?"
I shot back, "Well, yeah, for about the last 15 minutes." She took our drink orders and left to go get them. Steve said, "What was her problem? She really had an attitude, didn't she? I won't stand for that if she's our waitress the rest of the evening."
After a bit, another waitress came over with our drinks and she introduced herself as Rachel. Steve asked her, "Are you going to be our waitress?" She said she would be. Steve said, "Good. We didn't care for the other girl's attitude. That was uncalled for."
Rachel said, "I'm sorry about her, you guys. I didn't know she was getting off at 8 and this was supposed to be her table. But then she told me that she was leaving and she wanted me to take it over." Rachel was lively, bubbly and fun. We all immediately liked her.
Since we'd been sitting there for better part of 20 minutes, we were all ready to order our food. Cindy ordered what she thought was going to be the lemon-pepper cod dinner entree. She got a choice of side with that which included the usual fries, cole slaw, cottage cheese, veggies or something called "rabbit food". Cindy said, "All right, I have to ask. What's rabbit food?"
Rachel said, "Oh, that's just carrots and cauliflower and we serve them with ranch dressing. We call it rabbit food to make it fun."
Cindy said, "Oh, I'll just take the cole slaw." Then she stopped and asked, "Is your cole slaw good?"
Rachel replied, "I think it's pretty good. I like it. It's creamy and has a good taste to it. It isn't too vinegary, though."
I ordered the mushroom/Swiss cheese burger and for a dollar extra I got bacon slices. I got fries as my side. Dave ordered the Corner Grill Special which was an Italian beef sandwich served on a hoagie bun and topped with grilled onions and green peppers.
Steve was still trying to figure out what he wanted (even after all this time) and he finally ordered the Henny Penny chicken. Henny Penny is an Ohio company that makes rotisserie pressure cookers and chicken friers for restaurants. I want to also say that they provide the chicken for "Henny Penny" chicken, as well. I believe I've seen Henny Penny chicken restaurants here and there in my travels, but I may be mistaken. For his sides, mashed potatoes and gravy came with the chicken and Steve ordered the vegetable for that evening which was green beans. Since Cindy ordered cole slaw, Steve thought that sounded good and he asked Rachel if he could also get some cole slaw. She said there would be an upcharge, but Steve said it was all right.
About 25 minutes after we ordered - a little longer than we all anticipated getting our food since much of the restaurant had cleared out from the earlier dinner rush - Rachel and another girl showed up with our food. Cindy's cod was actually on a hoagie bun (below left). She said, "I didn't know it was a sandwich. I'm not going to eat the bread."
I said, "I thought you ordered the lemon pepper cod entree. She must have gotten you the cod sandwich instead." Cindy said that she'd eat it like that.
Steve's chicken consisted of two pieces of dark meat like he ordered, a scoop of mashed potatoes slathered with a brown gravy and some limp looking green beans. The cole slaw was in a bowl. Actually, the chicken looked pretty good.
Dave's Corner Grill Special sandwich also looked pretty good (below left). It had mounds of tender Italian roast beef on the hoagie bun. A large pile of fries accompanied the sandwich.
She sort of looked down at it, scowled and then said, "Oh! Look under the hamburger." Sure enough, there was the bacon. Aha! Usually, the bacon is draped across the top, but not so at the Corner Grill. The bun was a nice fluffy kaiser roll bun. The burger, itself, didn't look as thick as the one the girl who was seated across from us had. In fact, it was a little overcooked. Actually, a lot overcooked. I didn't tell Rachel how I wanted it cooked because she didn't ask. If I get a burger there next time, I'll have to make sure they don't overcook it. Nonetheless, the burger was pretty good, the bun helped out a lot. But for $9.95, I thought it was pretty pricey for what it was. The fries were your typical krinkle cut fries that you find at any nondescript restaurant. Although the burger was big, I didn't think it was that great of a value.
Cindy said the cod was "pretty good". When I asked how the cole slaw was and she said, "Eh!" She said she could take it or leave it.
We were eating and making conversation when Dave said out of the blue, "This sandwich is damn good." It looked damn good. I don't care for grilled onions or peppers. I like the taste, but they don't like me during the digestion period. Dave was overly happy with his sandwich.
Steve plowed through the chicken. He said it was also very good. He also didn't think much of the cole slaw, however. And he didn't think the potatoes tasted like they were real. "I'm guessing they are, but it's like they're too dry or something." And he said the green beans were as lifeless in taste as they were looking on his plate.
For our first trip to the Corner Grill I'd have to say that it was just all right and nothing special. I certainly didn't think the food was all that much of a good value and wondered if they'd be able to sustain a restaurant with these types of prices in a small town like Blue Grass. But given the number of people that were in there for dinner that evening, I'm sure they do pretty well. Other than the hiccup of not being waited on for the first 15 minutes while we were there, I have to say that Rachel more than made up for it with her work that evening. She got a nice tip from us all. As I said, I'll probably go back out there at some point to have lunch with my buddy, Tom. But I doubt if we'll purposely drive out to Blue Grass for dinner again, unless we were also going to stop at Jeff's Market and get some meat.