When I first moved to the Quad Cities over 20 years ago, one of the more popular places to get a pizza was a place called Beaver's East in Bettendorf. Beaver's East had a style of pizza that was more Chicago-style than the horrid Quad City-style of pizza that is found in the vast majority of pizza places in the area. Beaver's East decided to move to a new building near the corner of 53rd Ave. and 18th St. in Bettendorf over a dozen years ago. Since then, there have been no less than three restaurants/bars that have opened - and failed - at the old Beaver's East location. Many of the locals viewed the location as a culinary "black hole" that was bad luck for the people who put an eatery in the building. (Ironically, the "new" Beaver's East didn't last long and that building, too, has seen its share of restaurant comings and goings ever since.) However, last summer a new place opened in the old Beaver's East - Hall of Fame Pizza and Wings. We gave it a couple tries over a two week period not long ago.
Jason Harper comes from a restaurant background and opened the first Hall of Fame Pizza about six years ago in DeWitt, IA - about a half hour drive north of the Quad Cities. Along with his wife, LaShell, the two started out slow in the business. Jason kept his day job of owning a landscaping business, and LaShell continued to work at the Rock Island Arsenal. But the two built up quite a following in the DeWitt area before opening a small take-out place in Park View, about a 15 minute drive north of Davenport. A couple years ago Jason sold his landscaping business and focused on running the restaurants full time. He closed up the Park View location and moved into the Bettendorf location along State Street in 2013. (see map)
We had new neighbors move in across the street from us in early 2013. It turned out that the wife, Shontel, is the sister of LaShell Harper and worked for her sister and brother-in-law on a part-time basis at the Hall of Fame Pizza in DeWitt. When they opened the Bettendorf location, she moved down there. Our neighbors told us that the pizza at Hall of Fame was not the Quad City-style that we detest, but more of a traditional style with varying thicknesses of crust.
On a Friday evening, we went down to Hall of Fame in Bettendorf to give their pizza a try. We got a medium (14") thin crust sausage, pepperoni and mushroom on our first visit. It was very good - much better than the Quad City-style pizza. We couldn't wait to tell our friends about the place. (I didn't take my phone in on that visit, but we knew we'd be back at some point.)
One couple we told about Hall of Fame went there for their lunch buffet earlier this year and my friend called me from the place and said, "This pizza is awesome! This buffet is awesome! Pizza, salad bar and pop all for $8.95! I can't stop eating the pizza!"
It was a Saturday night and we were out with our friends, Scott and Marcia, having a few drinks at a local watering hole. Around 7:30, the women decided that we needed to go get something to eat. Cindy said, "Hey, maybe we should go out to Hall of Fame in Bettendorf!" Our friends were very enthusiastic with the prospect of giving the place a try.
After being open a few months, it turns out that Hall of Fame is a very popular place. We got in around 8 p.m. and the place was packed. There were a few people hanging around the small bar waiting for a place to be seated. But seated at one of the long tables in the dining room was my neighbor, Dave, his father-in-law (Shontel and LaShell's father) and his two young kids. There were four seats open next to them and Dave said, "Hey, neighbor! You guys can have the seats next to us here!" Sometimes it pays to know the right people.
Hall of Fame Pizza and Wings in Bettendorf is not all that large, but it has a lot going on. Flat screen televisions hang from the walls and booths in the back have their own small flat screen televisions. A number of games are found in the backroom, popular with people of all ages.
They feature a number of beers on tap and in bottles. Even though they do have a bar, they don't have mixed drinks - much to the consternation of my wife who rarely drinks beer. (That's all right - I more than make up for her!) We also noted that they have a nice patio off to the side that is open in the summer months.
In addition to pizza and, of course, wings (with over 20 different types of sauces), Hall of Fame also has calzones and pasta dishes, burgers and sandwiches, and a number of appetizers and salads. The menu also features ribs and shrimp tacos.
My wife and I like our pizza crust to be as thin as possible without it being cracker-thin, while Scott and Marcia like their crust to be a little more thick and chewy. Hall of Fame Pizza gives you a choice of thin, hand-tossed or their original (thicker) crust pizza - sort of the thickness of a Quad City-style pizza. We both ordered pizzas - ours was a thin crust sausage and pepperoni, while Scott and Marcia went with the 14" original crust sausage and mushroom.
My wife and I decided to get a salad to tide us over before our pizza showed up. The salad bar at Hall of Fame isn't large, but sufficient enough for a small salad before dinner. The lettuce - even at that time of night -was very fresh and they had an adequate amount of toppings to liven up the salad.
Our pizzas came out and they smelled wonderful. Our pizza looked similar to the one we had before, the sausage was not the big chucks as we normally like, but it wasn't finely ground like you find with with most Quad City-style pizza. The sauce is tangy, not too sweet, and it heightens the taste sensation of the pizza. Hall of Fame covers their pizza with a lot of mozzarella and the oven gives the cheese a nice caramelization on top. The crust is thin enough to not make the pizza overly doughy, but holds up well when you're biting into it.
Scott and Marcia were also very impressed with the pizza they got at Hall of Fame. They liked the thickness of the crust and the fresh flavor of the toppings. "This is really good pizza," Marcia said.
After our first visit, my neighbor, Dave, had heard we were down there to give the pizza a try. (Shontel was working there the first night we came in.) He asked me what I thought and I told him that it was very good. When we were finishing up on our second visit, Dave - still seated at the table with his father-in-law and Jason Harper - asked me if the pizza was still good. Even if Jason wasn't seated there, I would have said the same thing I'm telling you now, "The pizza is awesome, Dave. It may be our new 'go-to' place for pizza in the Quad Cities." The pizza is very good to excellent, in my opinion. And the service, even though it was sort of chaotic in there that evening, was very good, as well. Our biggest fear is that Hall of Fame Pizza and Wings will get so popular that it will be tough to get in there on a whim. But that's a problem that Jason and LaShell would gladly love to have.