In some ways Verde—a new upscale Mexican restaurant in Bettendorf—mirrors the transformation happening downtown.

Bright, bold colors grace the quaint interior and complement a menu not afraid to try something different.

Image of octopus dish and beer from Verde
Verde offers octopus and colorful ambiance

“We wanted to bring something new and unique to the area,” Verde’s manager Bri Choitz said.

The same can be said of an area that grew up in the shadow of a sprawling sheet and plate rolling mill. Today, an urban park taking shape beneath the new Interstate 74 bridge is helping to make downtown more destination friendly, which is luring exciting, new restaurants.

“Unique, locally-owned restaurants are starting to call downtown Bettendorf home,” said Ryan Jantzi, executive director of the Downtown Bettendorf Organization. “With new development on the west side of the bridge, the completion of the new bridge and the urban park underneath her, and easy access from Illinois, new, unique restaurants will be a staple for downtown Bettendorf.”

Japanese cuisine will soon join the milieu. Jantzi announced Yoso Modern Japanese, a steakhouse and sushi restaurant, is due to open by next spring.

Visitors are already exploring a variety of tastes like Sports Fans Pizza, Riverside Grille and Trattoria Tiramisu. At least a dozen eateries have become popular draws whether it be a lunch break quick bite, a Sunday crew after a big game, or a romantic dinner.

Stacks Pancake House is catching on with the breakfast crowd. Tucked in a strip mall next to a QC Fuel coffee shop, the diner owned by Bill Abduli boasts a menu of 30 items like the Berry Bliss Pancakes, which is living up to its name.

Imagine two pancakes drizzled with vanilla and raspberry syrup and generously covered with fresh berries. If that doesn’t entice a hungry early bird, perhaps any of the omelets, skillets or crepes might.

Chef serves up Berry Bliss Pancakes at Stacks
Chef serves up Berry Bliss at Stacks

“They come back,” Abduli said. “Everyday I get even more people. Business is growing now.”

“I’ve been there myself,” Jantzi said, counting himself a Stacks fan. “It’s been very well received. It’s strictly breakfast and lunch, and it’s becoming a favorite of Bettendorfers and soon Quad Citizens.”

Abduli would also like to see more restaurants downtown and welcomes the competition. “Competition sometimes brings more business, so I would say, yes, it helps,” he said.

Property enhancements courtesy of interior and façade grants has spurred some new growth, helped existing businesses expand, and allowed property owners dress up old buildings.

Business owner Aundrea Sufficool opened Harley Corin’s six years ago at the location of the former Jay’s Wagon Wheel and Muddy Waters bars.

She borrowed the name for her bar and grill from her niece. “I put a little classy twist on Harley (as in Harley-Davidson),” she said, “but I don’t want people to think we are a biker bar. We all love motorcycles.”

Sufficool’s business doubles as a live music venue where local bands play to a variety of tastes like country, rock, and blues. “It’s a typical good old bar, comfortable, relaxing, and a fun place to hang out with friends,” she said. “Live music has its own area, so if you want to get away to talk you can come over to the bar side. It’s nice to separate it that way.”

Harley Corin's bartender prepares drinks
Harley Corin’s bartender prepares drinks before a busy night

Sufficool, who grew up in LeClaire and lives in Bettendorf, said she’s seen more foot traffic downtown since she’s opened. “People are walking down here, checking out places, stopping in here to cool off,” she said. “I get some business from that. It’s nice to see the activity down here.”

Since opening a few months ago, Verde has benefitted from word of mouth and social media.

“We opened under the radar,” Choitz said. “We wanted to do it slow and quiet, so we could get our feet underneath us. We didn’t want to go super crazy out of the gate.”

The restaurant occupies a storefront spot at The Bridges, a complex of upscale urban lofts that opened in recent years.  Customers who have found their way to Verde have discovered no shortage of fun things to try, like elotes-style cauliflower and pork shoulder “al pastor.” Chefs make regular visits to local farmers’ markets and all food including salsas, vinegars and crème sauces is made in-house.

The menu of 15 to 17 items rotates seasonally and a new dish or two may pop up each week.

“I don’t know of anyone who leaves unhappy,” Choitz said. “Everyone has been very receptive to the menu and the style of restaurant we are. We have lots of regulars already. It’s so gratifying for all of us involved.”

The owners of Verde also own Raw, a restaurant and bar in Davenport. They chose Bettendorf “to be a part of the revitalization of downtown,” Choitz said. “I know they’re trying to make downtown relevant again. It’s really incredible for us to be part of that.”

“Downtown Bettendorf is a blank slate,” Jantzi said.

Recent building projects like The Bridges, the TBK Bank, and Ascentra’s new home office as well as construction of the new bridge is attracting new inhabitants.

“The formula of people living, working, and visiting our downtown is unfolding before our eyes,” Jantzi said. “Investment in our urban core from the City of Bettendorf and private developers is leading towards our goals of creating a prosperous downtown Bettendorf where all can thrive.”