A place that has suddenly turned into a favorite of mine for a good burger in the Quad Cities is the Barrel House. For a long time I was sort of ambivalent toward the restaurant with locations in downtown Davenport, downtown Moline, and on Utica Ridge on the far Northeast side of Davenport. But I've sort of grown fond of their flat grilled burgers, their great beer selections and their good service. This is an entry on our recent visit to the Utica Ridge location. (see map)
Michael DeWitte grew up in Cedar Rapids, the son of Ron DeWitte - a well-known guitarist in the Eastern Iowa area and who is also a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. The young DeWitte had a lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant and after working in various places over the years, he became the general manager of Granite City in Davenport.
A space in the old Knostman Building in downtown Davenport - the building was built in 1908 - opened up in late 2010 and Michael DeWitte saw his lifelong plan come to fruition. He teamed with the owner of a local landscaping company, Jimmy Holt, to come up with the Barrel House concept. They decided to call it Barrel House as a homage to the old breweries - or "barrel houses" - that dotted the downtown Davenport area before Prohibition. They opened the first Barrel House location in late July 2011 calling it Barrel House 211 because its address is 211 E. 2nd St. in downtown Davenport. (see map) They seem to just go by plain ol' Barrel House these days.
Pictured right - Michael DeWitte and Jimmy Holt. Photo courtesy Quad City Times.
DeWitte (who is also involved with Brix, a pizza place in downtown Moline) and Holt opened their second Barrel House location in downtown Moline in 2013. In early 2015, they took over the spot of the former 100 Montaditos, a Spanish-based restaurant that serves tapas-sized sandwiches that didn't last much more than a year in Davenport. Prior to 100 Montaditos, the space had been a wine and cheese store for a few years.
Along with the opening of a third Barrel House on the northeast side of Davenport, DeWitte and Holt looked at opening a fourth location in LeClaire, IA along the Mississippi river just north of the Quad Cities. I understand, however, that they weren't able to get the building they wanted to house the restaurant built to their specifications, so that location appears to be dead. However, they announced late last year that they would be opening a fourth location in Silvis, IL on the far southeast side of the Quad Cities. That location should be open by May of this year.
Like the other two Barrel House locations we've been to over the past couple three years, the one on Utica Ridge is sports-centric. There are a number of flat panel televisions interspersed throughout the restaurant. The "L"-shaped restaurant features a bar up front with a number of high-top tables near the bar and shorter tables toward the back. And as we've experienced a couple of timse, this Barrel House location can get very loud when there's a lot of people in the place.
Michela was our server on this particular visit. She dropped off a couple menus and asked what we would like to drink. I ordered a bloody Mary and she said, "Uh, well, we're out of bloody Mary mix at the moment." I was sort of incredulous that a place like this could be out of bloody Mary mix. She said that their manager was out getting some from the HyVee store that is just down the street. Crestfallen - just a bit - I ended up ordering an Exile Ruthie, a gold lager from the Exile Brewing Company in Des Moines, that's part of the extensive beer selections they have at the Barrel House.
They have much more than burgers at the Barrel House. I also like their tacos - especially their Surf City Tacos that feature grilled haddock that is seasoned with Cajun blackening spices, and topped with a cabbage and onion slaw along with a mixture of black beans, sweet corn kernels and cilantro. They have a number of good sandwiches, too, including the Beef, Bacon and Mushroom melt topped with Swiss cheese and served on a ciabatta bun. They also have a number of salads, wraps and flat bread pizzas.
They have specialty burgers on the menu at the Barrel House. I like their Burgundy Mushroom and Swiss cheese burger - two 1/4 lb. beef patties topped with Swiss cheese and mushrooms that are sauteed in a burgundy wine sauce. I like to have them thrown some bacon on top for extra flavor. And that's what I got that particular day. I always get their burgers with the onion bun option. And I also like to get a side of their excellent onion straws - they aren't on the menu, but they've always been able to accommodate me on my requests.
Cindy went with the "burger bar" option on this visit. You choose either 1 (Firkin), 2 (Hogshead), or 3 (Big Butt) 1/4 pound patties, then you pick out the type of bun which includes a brioche bun, the aforementioned onion bun, a pretzel bun, or a ciabatta bun. They also have a gluten free bun on the menu. From there, you get a choice of six different types of cheese, then you finish out you build-your-own burger with a number of choices of toppings for 50 cents each - toppings such as fried jalapenos, an onion ring, Sriracha slaw, avocado, stout beer and mustard sauteed onions, and pico de gallo. She got the Firken cheddar cheese burger on a brioche bun. She got the cole slaw to go along with it.
Now, I just can't quite put a finger on what makes me so enamored with the Mushroom, Swiss, Bacon burger that I like to get at the Barrel House. I don't know if it's the burgundy wine sauteed mushrooms, the soft and tasty onion bun, the flavorful Swiss cheese that is slathered over the top of the double burgers, or the crispy bacon that seems to tie everything together. There's a lot of taste sensations that are going on with this particular burger. I can't call it the best burger I've ever had, but I still find myself getting a hankering for a good Barrel House burger more often than not.
My wife enjoys the burgers at Barrel House, as well. She doesn't get them as often as I do, but she said that the cheddar Firkin burger was a spot-hitter for her that particular day. She's usually picky about her sides and she seems to like the cole slaw that they serve at the Barrel House.
I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the Barrel House locations in the Quad Cities. I've warmed up to their food over the past two or three years and I'm enamored with their burgers. Their beer selection is top notch and we've always had good service on our visits to any of the three (and soon to be four) locations. It's a great place to catch a game and they have a diverse menu that is definitely a notch above most sports bar-type places I've been to. Geez, I'm hungry for one of their burgers right now!