It was a beautiful Friday night recently and Cindy wanted to go somewhere for dinner where we could sit outside and enjoy the evening. She suggested a place that we hadn't been to over on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River called It's on the River, or simply known as "It's" for the locals. We had met some friends over there about six years ago and we thought the food and the views were good, so we decided to head back over that particular evening to give it another try.
It's on the River is owned by a group that calls themselves Quatro Banditos, LLC. The managing partner is Cindy Bawden, a member of a somewhat famous family in the Quad Cities. Her family owned Bawden Printing for a number of years located in Eldridge, a small town north of the Quad Cities, before merging with Von Hoffman Press in St. Louis back in 1999. (Von Hoffman sold the business to RR Donnelley, the huge Chicago-based printing company, in 2007. RR Donnelley subsequently shut down the Bawden Printing facility in 2009.) Bawden and her then-husband, Pat Delashmutt, opened It's on the River in 2007. But after the couple divorced in 2011, Cindy took over as the Managing Partner.
It's on the River is one of those places where boaters, motorcyclists, or bikers converge in the summer months. A bike path goes right by the place, and there's a dock with picnic tables for boaters to pull up to. The Great River Road on the Illinois side of the river is well traveled by motorcyclists and people just out for day rides up and down the river. It's on the River is less than 50 yards from the Mississippi River offering some stunning views from their deck patio.
We got into the place around 7 p.m. that particular evening. It was sort of windy and we thought about sitting inside the restaurant because, well, even if it's 75 degrees (like it was that day), my wife gets cold. The patio runs the length of the restaurant and features an overhead heating system that will take the chill out of the air for people seated outside.
The inside area is nice, as well. While it's not large, it features large windows that look out onto the river. High tables with high chairs are featured in the dining room. A small bar area is off to the side. It's on the River is the kind of place where it would be nice to go to even on a cold winter's day.
We decided to sit outside after Cindy went back out to the car to get a light coat she had brought with her. We were given a couple of menus by one girl who said the other lady working the deck with her would be our server. But she did take our drink order while we took a look through the menu.
The menu was, well, it was very different from what we remembered from our initial visit about six years before. I remembered a pretty full menu that featured sandwiches and a handful of entrees. But this menu was, well, pretty lean. First of all, they only feature four appetizers on the menu at It's on the River - and they're not cheap. 6 boneless chicken wings and dipping sauce for $7.00 is a little steep to me. And fried green beans don't appeal to me all that much.
I remember getting a pretty good reuben the first time we had dinner there, but they had no sandwiches on the menu. They had burgers, chicken sandwiches and wraps along with fish and chips, pizza and salads on the menu. And that was it. Quite actually, nothing looked too appealing to either Cindy or me. We contemplated just having a drink and heading to some other place.
Our server for the evening came over to greet us. She was a blonde woman who looked slightly familiar to us. We later found out that she was the server who waited on us previously at the Black Ram Restaurant in Rock Island with the unique name - Donai. We asked her if she was still at the Black Ram (we haven't been back since the infamous pizza episode I wrote about in this entry) and she said, "Oh, gosh, no. I just live up the hill here and the commute is much better!"
We continued to hem and haw about getting food there before Cindy said that she could get the fish and chips - deep fried cod with fries. I wasn't certain I wanted a burger, but there wasn't anything else that was jumping out at me. I almost went with the "Henhouse Salad" where they add your choice of a grilled or breaded chicken breast to a salad. But I ended up getting the basic burger, but added Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and bacon. I got my choice of a side and since Cindy was getting fries, I thought I'd get cottage cheese to go with my burger.
The food came out about 15 minutes or so after we ordered. The fish and chips were, well... We sort of laughed that they had the audacity to charge $8.00 bucks for basically two small deep-fried filets and a basket of fries. Cindy said, "You've GOT to be kidding me..." A small tub of tartar sauce came with the fish. She said the fish was just "all right". She called it more of an appetizer than a meal.
My burger looked promising with a square ciabatta bun. The only initial problem appeared to be that they gave me fries instead of cottage cheese. Aw, that was all right with me. I was going to concentrate on the burger.
But after taking the bun top off the burger to add some pickles, onions and condiments, I was somewhat horrified to find a thin, processed grilled beef patty that appeared to be overcooked. There were only a few sauteed mushroom slices on the burger, and a couple small strips of bacon. This was an $11.00 burger from It's on the River.
The first bite of the burger confirmed my fears - the burger WAS overcooked. The ciabatta bun was a nice touch, but the burger patty was hard and most of the life was cooked out of it. Even the bacon, Swiss cheese and the small amount of mushrooms - along with the good ciabatta bun - couldn't help the overall taste of the burger. It was highly disappointing.
Our total bill came to $30.75 with a couple beers and a drink for Cindy. (Taxes are included in the menu prices.) We decided that was way too expensive for what is nothing but boring bar food. But It's on the River has that dazzling view of the Mississippi, so we figured that has to be included in the menu prices. We decided that if we did come back to visit It's on the River at some point, we'd come out for drinks and the view and get food somewhere else.
(Update - Almost as soon as this entry was posted, I was informed by a buddy that It's on the River will close on August 17 and the fixtures will be sold at auction.)