The oldest bar in the state of Iowa happens to be Breitbach's in Balltown (click here to read the Road Tips entry on Breitbach's). After a recent renovation of a long-time bar on Davenport's west end, I learned the second oldest bar in the state is in the Quad Cities - Frick's Tap. We had heard that the new owners had done a wonderful job renovating the building that has housed the bar since the late 1880's, and on a snowy Saturday afternoon we decided to go down and take a look for ourselves.
The west end of Davenport in the late 19th century was a neighborhood influenced by German immigrants who settled in the area. There were a number of breweries in downtown Davenport and in 1888 Charles Frick opened his eponymous tavern - in what was originally a bakery - with the credo of "Good Beer Served Properly". With meat packing plants in the immediate area, Frick's served countless plant workers well into the 20th century. When Prohibition took effect in 1919, Frick's stayed open as a root beer and ice cream joint. (I was told by an elderly neighbor years ago that Frick's operated a grain alcohol still in the back of the place during Prohibition.) In 1924, Charles Frick passed away and his son Edwin "Ed" Frick took over ownership of Frick's.
Surviving Prohibition, Frick's began to sell beer again in 1933 and became a landmark watering hole for local politicians and community leaders in Davenport. In 1942, Ed Frick ran for mayor of Davenport and won. Ed Frick turned over his interest in the bar to his son, Edwin "Ross" Frick. Ed Frick served only one term at mayor of Davenport - I'm not certain but it appears that he may have passed away in 1944.
Pictured right - the second and third generation of Frick's ownership. Edwin "Ed" Frick and his son, Edwin "Ross" Frick.
In the subsequent years, Ross Frick continued to host many of the city's movers and shakers at his long, narrow tavern on the west end. Ross Frick also tried his hand at politics twice running as the Republican candidate for mayor of Davenport, but he lost both times.
Ross Frick and his wife, Floy, lived in the apartment above the tavern. It was said that Floy Frick kept an immaculate garden in the area behind the tavern for many years. When Ross Frick died in 1986, Floy sold Frick's to Chuck Fogle.
Chuck Fogle ran Frick's for six years until he passed away from a heart attack in 1992. Fogle's wife Betty -who was a devout Baptist and an avowed teetotaler - suddenly had a tavern with monthly bank payments on her hands. She didn't want anything to do with the over 100-year-old tavern and ended up leasing it out to the first of what turned out to be five different people who ran the place for the next 22 years. When the person who was running Frick's in 2014 didn't have his liquor license renewed, Frick's Tap ceased to be.
The building sat vacant for well over a year before an investment group headed by Nathan Sharp bought the property from Betty Fogle. Sharp and the two other investors were Davenport "west-enders" who grew up watching Frick's and the surrounding area along W. 3rd St. slowly decay. The building that housed Frick's was listed in 1974 on the National Register of Historic Places, and Sharp and his fellow investors wanted to bring back the glory days of Frick's Tap.
They started out gutting the two floors of the nearly 5,000 square foot building and updating the electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling in the place. They upgraded the infrastructure tearing out walls to expose the original brick, put in new flooring and expanded the lower floor for more seating. Construction crews spent over seven months restoring and rehabbing the building, and in late August of last year the new Frick's Tap opened its doors. (Still a devout abstainer well into her 80's, Betty Fogle was quoted in the local paper as saying that while she was happy for the work that was done to the building that houses Frick's, she had no plans to go see the renovations.)
We parked on W. 3rd just west of Fillmore where Frick's stands on the northwest corner. (see map) What we found was a very nice place with a lot of new stone masonry mixed in with the original brick on the wall near the bar. While they did a good job of integrating new features in the place - such as nearly two dozen televisions hung on walls throughout the bar - they also kept the architectural integrity of the original building that was built over 135 years ago. A vintage neon sign that says, "Good Beer Served Properly" hangs above the door at Frick's. (I don't know if it's the original neon sign that used to hang in the front window, but it might be.) Interestingly enough, there was an multi-colored LED panel that hung on the wall opposite the bar above a chalk board that scrolled the current stock prices of Quad City-based companies.
There was a small dining area off to the side of the bar up front. It was well lit with the large front windows letting in natural light. A smaller room behind a stone wall had some extra tables in that area.
Upstairs, they tore out the apartment that housed the Frick family for years and made the space an overflow bar area/party room. There was a small deck off the back of the space that would be open in warmer months. Reclaimed barn boards hide the support columns around he rectangular bar that features corrugated tin underneath.
We were getting more than a few looks from some of the local regulars as we walked in and proceeded to a table in the back of the bar. Even after we sat at a high four-seat table in the back near the back door that went out to the parking lot behind the building there were people leaning back to get a glimpse of the two new visitors to Frick's.
One of the ladies from behind the bar came over to greet us and to see if we were going to eat. At the time we were there, the kitchen was still not 100% completed and they were selling only appetizers and some barbecued items that were made on a smoker that was sitting behind the building. They had a number of craft beers on tap including local beers from Great River Brewery, Bent River Brewing Company and Green Tree Brewery. We ended up ordering a couple of beers on tap while we looked through the abbreviated menu.
Most of the main entrees were barbecued meats such as brisket with a mustard-based dry rub; chopped pork shoulder seasoned with their house-made "None of Your Frick'n Business" dry rub; baby back pork ribs with a similar dry rub; and half of a smoked chicken. Appetizers included wings - boneless and bone-in; chili with smoked beef included; potato wedges topped with a Monterey Jack cheese; and something they called the "Frick'n Heart Attack" - 1/2 pound of in-house cured, smoked and sliced bacon with barbecue sauce.
We thought about getting the meat sampler appetizer - a choice of three different types of smoked meats served with three different types of sauces and sweet rolls. But we ended up getting two other appetizers - the "Frickles" - fried pickles covered with panko bread crumbles - and the brisket nachos - tortilla chips covered with chopped brisket, cheese, barbecue sauce and Frick's house-made baked beans.
The fried pickles were actually pretty good. They came with a side of ranch dressing and the taste of the panko bread crumbs was a nice touch to the crisp warm pickle inside. They were some of the better fried pickles we've tried.
The brisket nachos - and I'll use a term that was first coined by my fellow blogger, The Slakingfool - was a glorious mess. The brisket chunks were large, but tender and flavorful. The sweet barbecue sauce had a bit of a spicy back taste, but was very good. Along with the cheese and the tasty baked beans mixed in, we thought this was a great appetizer. Both appetizers were more than enough for us as the portions were good-sized and generous.
We're going to get back to Frick's once they get their full kitchen up and running and they've expanded their menu. The neighborhood around Frick's can still be a little "iffy", especially at night, but they've done a wonderful job rehabilitating the old building and breathing life into what is called the second oldest bar in the state of Iowa. The appetizers we had were tasty, the service wasn't bad, they had a good craft beer selection, and we certainly liked the homey, neighborhood atmosphere (even though some of the regulars kept checking out who the two "strangers" were). Frick's Tap has injected a bit of fresh air into what has been a stale part of Davenport for a number of years.