There was big news on the restaurant scene here in the Quad Cities over the past 48 hours. Due to a new bridge that will take Interstate 74 across the Mississippi River, the owners of the venerable Ross' Restaurant in downtown Bettendorf have known for quite sometime that they were going to have to evacuate their building that has stood there for nearly 50 years and move to a new location. A couple days ago, the Freidhof family - the owners of Ross' - announced that they would be moving to the old Frank's Pizza location near the corner of 18th St. and 53rd Ave. in Bettendorf. (see map)
For the past couple of years, speculation ran rampant as to where Ross' would relocate. Cynthia Freidhof, the daughter of Harold and June Ross (the original owners of Ross'), her husband Ron, and their daughter Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers (pictured at right - courtesy QC Times/Bettendorf News) looked at a number of options in the Quad Cities including a move across the river to Rock Island or Moline, taking a look at existing buildings in Davenport, or building a new location in Bettendorf. When Frank's Pizza closed in early January, that building suddenly became available. A little over three weeks later, the Freidhof's made their announcement this past Thursday afternoon that they would be moving into the old Frank's Pizza.
Work on the span of the new I-74 bridge across the Mississippi isn't expected to begin until 2017, but the Iowa Department of Transportation has been buying up land parcels and businesses to make way for a new interchange on the Iowa side of the river. Many of the businesses - about 40 in total - that had accepted buy-outs by the Iowa D.O.T. to make way for the new bridge have closed and many buildings have been torn down. But Ross' Restaurant - with their iconic sign next to Interstate 74 as you drive into Iowa - stood as the final hold-out hoping to get the most money for their property and for relocation expenses.
My wife and I were in Ross' last summer and we happened to talk to Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers about their plans. Melissa told us that they had been looking at a property just up the road near the Kimberly Road exit off of Interstate 74, but that deal had fallen through. She wouldn't say where it was, but we speculated it was the old Bob Evans building as that restaurant had been closed for a couple three years. Then we heard that they were possibly looking at the old Chef's Hat restaurant in Bettendorf on Lincoln Ave., but that evidently went nowhere. It only made sense that they would take over the old Frank's Pizza building, which isn't that old of a building.
The interesting aspect is that the Freidhof's will apply for a liquor license and offer a full bar at the new Ross'. That's right - along with the famous Magic Mountain's that they serve at Ross', you can get a drink or a beer to go along with it. Thanks to a bigger kitchen area they'll also feature healthier choices (they've been going that way with their menu at the original Ross') including gluten-free, vegan and Paleo diet selections. Ross' will also continue to support local farmers with more farm-to-fork menu items.
The other interesting thing is that the Freidhof family is planning on continuing their tradition of 24 hour dining at the new Ross'. This will be somewhat fascinating to see how this works out. The property that Ross' new building is on abuts up to some high dollar houses on Bettendorf's north end. There could be some residents of that neighborhood who could voice their displeasure with Ross' moving in next door, especially with their reputation for catering to the after-hour bar crowds - which can be somewhat rowdy.
Other traditions at Ross' - their core menu, the horseshoe shaped counter, the wait staff ladies who have been there for years, even the big sign - will make the trek to the north side of Bettendorf. Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers believes they will have to shut down for about a week later this summer to make the move to the new building. But they hope to be in the new place and up and running by mid-July. She also notes that they are looking at the future possibility of having "Ross' Express" locations around the Quad Cities on both sides of the river.
Until then, it will be business as usual at Ross' current location in Bettendorf. I'm sure they'll see an uptick in business over the next few months as people go get a Rossburger, a cup of their good chili, or a Ross' "Favorite" breakfast one last time at the only location for Ross' they've ever known. I'm sure I'll be there more than one time between now and July.
(To read Road Tips entry on Ross', click here.)