"Wait a minute," a friend said into his phone during a recent chat we were having. "You've never been to the QC Pancake House in Rock Island?" I told him, once again, that, no, I had not been there. "And you have a food blog," he admonished me in return. "Best breakfast in the Quad Cities," he said. "Hands down." Another friend also told me that he was a big fan of what is officially named the QC Coffee and Pancake House in Rock Island, so much so that he would routinely drive 25 minutes from his home north of Davenport to go have breakfast there. On a recent Saturday morning, I had my wife grab her coat so we could make the trek to downtown Rock Island to have breakfast at the QC Coffee and Pancake House.
As a teenager, Jose Zepeda started out as a dishwasher at the Windmill Restaurant in East Moline. Jose - who spoke very little English growing up - started to work his way up the ladder at the Windmill Restaurant eventually working in the kitchen doing prep work. Wishing to better his skills in the kitchen, Jose graduated from the culinary program at Scott Community College in 2000 and soon became the executive chef at the Windmill. It was also at the Windmill where he met his now-wife Sarah. The two continued to work at the Windmill before eventually becoming co-owners of the restaurant along with long-time owners Miltos and Cathy Diakogeorgiou.
In 2013, the Zepeda's sold their shares of the Windmill back to the Diakogeorgiou's and took on a new venture in what was the former Koffee Korner restaurant in downtown Rock Island. Bringing many of the recipes that he used at the Windmill, Jose and Sarah opened the QC Coffee and Pancake House in July of 2013.
The Zepeda's continued to serve food items that not only included standard American breakfast and lunch foods, but Mexican and Greek-style plates at their restaurant. But they may be most famous for their Cinnamon Roll pancakes.
Pictured at right - Jose Zepeda and a plate of his famous Cinnamon Roll pancakes. Picture courtesy Quad City Times.
What started out as a weekend special for the Zepeda's, they soon found a following for their Cinnamon Roll pancakes that feature four pancakes topped with cinnamon sticks and a creme cheese frosting. (We were told by a friend who just happened to be dining in the QC Coffee and Pancake House the day we were there that they were heavenly decadent.) Zepeda said that on average they still have at least one or two orders for the Cinnamon Roll pancakes each day.
The QC Coffee and Pancake House is located at the corner of 18th St. and 3rd Ave. in downtown Rock Island. (see map) The building - which dates back to the late 30's when it was originally a pharmacy - housed Gus' Koffee Break restaurant for a number of years before the Zepeda's bought it in 2013. In fact, the original "Koffee Break" sign is still on the outside of the building above the front door.
We got into the restaurant around 8 a.m. and it was already packed. We had to park on 18th St. about a half block away from the restaurant so we knew going in that we would probably have a wait. We were told that it would be a 20 minute wait, but there was only one couple in front of us and people were already getting up from their tables. While we waited to get seated, a guy came in and was greeted by his first name and given a cup of coffee while he waited for a spot to open. Right after he entered, another couple came in and walked up to the hostess counter. The hostess didn't have to ask as she immediately wrote down their names with "2" next to it. This place has a loyal following of regulars it appears.
The dining area was sort of cozy, but well lit. A number of booths and tables were interspersed throughout the dining area. There was a small breakfast bar that seated five or six people that was full, as well. After less than a 10 minute wait, we were finally seated in a tight booth along a low wall and given menus to look over.
Each weekend, the QC Coffee and Pancake House has a number of specials that they feature. This particular Saturday morning, they had prime rib and hash browns for $13.95; they also had a three-berry (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) waffle on the specials list, as well as a Boston creme French Toast special.
The menu reflects mostly breakfast and lunch items as the restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. As I said, while most of the menu features traditional American breakfast items, they do have Mexican and Greek-influenced items on the menu. For lunch, they feature soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches. Most - if not all - of the menu items are made from scratch daily.
My wife had been suffering from a cold and thought that maybe the Mexican skillet would be good for her. Our server said that it was a little spicy which gave my wife pause. "Hmm...," she said. "I may have to rethink my choice." When I told her that it wouldn't be "burn-your-face-off" spicy, she said that the Mexican skillet would be fine. She had a choice of toast or a couple small pancakes and she really wanted to try their pancakes.
Our server brought her Mexican skillet out to her first. She got it with scrambled egg whites (for a slight upcharge) and the food was piled on her plate. Now, my friends had both told me that the portions at the QC Coffee and Pancake House were more than generous and I'd have to say that was an understatement with the amount of food on her plate. It was a combination of scrambled egg whites on top of seasoned potato fries, sliced jalapeños, tomatoes, sautéed green and yellow peppers, fried onions and ground chorizo. Guacamole - as in REAL guacamole - came on the side of the plate with tubs of salsa and sour cream.
She proclaimed her breakfast as "delicious". There was a lot going on as far as different tastes on her skillet and she said that the chorizo wasn't greasy like you'd find most chorizo dishes. She said it was a little spicy, but nothing she couldn't handle. I tried a bite of the chorizo and I found that she was spot on with her description. It was very good ground chorizo without a hint of a greasy taste.
My wife made a dent into her skillet before she proclaimed that she was full. There was probably still another full meal left on her plate when she was done. She got a to-go box and had the rest of it the next morning for breakfast.
I ended up getting the corned beef hash and two eggs over easy with whole wheat toast. Now, this was REAL corned beef hash, not the crap that most restaurants get out of a can. It featured large chunks of corned beef mixed in with cubed potatoes that tasted like they were possibly baked for awhile, then finished in a skillet with the corned beef. It was a lot of food for $7.95. But I was able to pretty much finish up everything on my plate.
Since they have "pancakes" in their name, we really wanted to try the pancakes at the QC Coffee and Pancake House. Now, my wife is a pancake snob - and she should be. She makes some of the best pancakes in the world at home. She can tell from the first bite if she doesn't like pancakes at a restaurant, but from the first bite she had of the pancakes at the QC Coffee and Pancake House she said they were "wonderful". I tried a couple three bites of the pancakes and while I didn't think they were as good as hers, they were still very good for restaurant-style pancakes. They were light and a little fluffy, but they weren't thick and full of that batter taste.
If you're a regular reader of Road Tips you'll know that our gold standard for breakfast places around the Quad Cities is Jimmy's Pancake House in Bettendorf. (Click here to see the Road Tips entry on Jimmy's.) But I'll have to say that if Jimmy's is Number 1 in our book, the QC Coffee and Pancake House would be 1A. This was a superb breakfast all the way around. The service was very good, quick and friendly. The food was outstanding and we didn't wait long for our meals after we ordered. You could easily tell that what we had was made from scratch and that the level of ingredients they use is very high. My friends were absolutely right about the QC Coffee and Pancake House. It is one of the best places we've found for breakfast around the Quad Cities.