Not far from our house is a restaurant right on the Mississippi River. Over the years, it's been a number of things - a Cajun restaurant, a somewhat upscale eatery, and a sort of bar/restaurant have been in the space over the past 20 plus years. Earlier this year, new ownership took over the restaurant, cleaned the place up, did some internal refurbishing, and changed the name. We've been to the Driftwood a couple of times since they opened in May and I decided to write about the place after a recent visit. (see map)
When I first ate in the building nearly 25 years ago, it was a pretty good Cajun restaurant. That place went out of business before another restaurant came in. That place didn't last long and it sat empty until Jim Sweet - the former owner of The Captain's Table in Moline - bought the property and turned it into The Boat House, a somewhat upscale restaurant that was one of our favorites for a long time. (Click here to see the entry on The Boat House.)
After Jim Sweet passed away, his son kept the business going for a few years before closing down about five years ago. It was replaced by a place that sold bar food called The Waterbar. My wife hated the name of the place - and she didn't care for the food or service that much either. I thought they had pretty good burgers, but their service was much to be desired. The Waterbar closed late last year.
Andrew Hammes was driving by the location one day and noticed that it was available on the market. To Hammes, it was a no-brainer. He had been in the restaurant industry his whole adult life working in places owned by his parents in Wisconsin. Andrew immediately saw an opportunity to open a restaurant in the spot, and he recruited his half-brother, realtor Chris Adams, to join him in the venture. The two took over the property earlier late last year.
Originally built in the 1960's as a club house for the local sailing club, the building was in dire need of a facelift when Hammes and Adams took possession. They found a barn in Southeast Iowa where the owner was willing to allow them to repurpose the barn board if they helped tear it down. Meticulously, the pair salvaged the boards from the barn to use inside the restaurant. It took time, but they were able to get enough wood to remake the interior of the restaurant. The walls, window sills, ceilings and even the cross beams above the main dining room that looks out over the Mississippi River are adorned in repurposed barn boards. The walls and ceilings were painted, but the sills and the beams have the exposed weathered barn board.
The view of the river from the outside deck is one of the best in the Quad Cities. This is part of the longest east-west stretch on the Mississippi, so you can get a good view of Lock and Dam 15, a good view of the Rock Island Arsenal across the river, and an upriver view that includes the large homes on the bluff overlooking the river on the Iowa side, all the way up to the Interstate 74 bridge.
Because of the great view during the summer months, outdoor seating is seemingly always full. On this visit, it was no exception. It was going to be a 30 minute wait to sit outside - on a SUNDAY night! We decided to sit inside at one of the window tables that looked out over the river.
The menu at the Driftwood isn't all that extensive. We've been told that they hope to expand the menu at some point, but they're doing the right thing by making it a short menu while they get their feet planted in the building. On my first visit (my wife has been there at least three times) I got the "Build-Your-Own-Burger". There are a plethora of choices for different cheeses, toppings and sauces and I felt the burger I had was very good. The only problem I had was the service wasn't that good. However, we also broke our standing rule of eating at a new restaurant within 90 days of opening, waiting for them to get the kinks worked out in the kitchen and with the wait staff.
On this visit - still less than 90 days since they opened - we had a young lady whose service was also below par. She was friendly enough, but she got caught up doing other things when we really needed her to check back with us. My wife remarked that when she was there with a couple of our neighbor ladies a couple of weeks prior, the service was also suffering that evening.
After ordering up a couple of drinks, I took a look at the menu. The chicken Kiev - a family recipe that was devised by Andrew Hammes' mother - has caught my eye on both of the visits. It is topped with a mushroom sauce that sounds delicious. They have garlic-infused beef tenderloin medallions, a ribeye entree, as well as pork chops and seafood entrees, including a seared salmon dinner served with a whiskey gastrique sauce. A number of appetizers and salads also are on the menu.
This time, I got the grilled fish tacos. (Battered fish tacos are also available.) They weren't all that big and the tortillas were sort of hard and had the consistency of cardboard. The strips of fish were small, as well, but it was topped with an avocado cream sauce and a cilantro/tomato pico. Other than the tortilla shells being hard and chewy, the tacos weren't bad.
My wife went with the ribeye steak sandwich - it was served open-faced and it came with a creamy horseradish sauce as well as a fresh sliced onion, a sliced tomato and a lettuce green. She also got a side of the pasta salad with the steak sandwich. She seemed to like what she ordered - the steak was cooked to a medium with a slightly pink middle. She offered me a bite of both the steak and the pasta salad after I made short work of the fish tacos and I thought both tasted fine. Not spectacular, but good.
Once again, the service at the Driftwood was a little less than desirable. Our server was slow to check back with us and she completely disappeared when were done with our meal. We sat for over five minutes with our table bussed and waiting on the check before the girl finally appeared, saw our table and did a 180 back to the kitchen to get our check. The food on our visits have been good - not great - but we haven't gotten much of any other than burgers, fish tacos, appetizers or the steak sandwich. But you can't beat the view the Driftwood offers, especially in the summer months. While it is a little expensive, it's good enough to visit again. The Driftwood has been a welcome - and popular - addition to the restaurant landscape of the Quad Cities.