Bummer City founder Dan Bush is no stranger to Chicago. He lived in the city in his early 20s before returning to the Quad Cities. For newcomers, those are Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in northwestern Illinois. (Yeah, we know that’s five cities.) In the last decade, he’s opened Analog Arcade Bar, Analog Pizza & Arcade, Armored Gardens and Devon’s Complaint Dept. Earlier this year, his brand, Bummer City, put out the first edition of Look QC, a publication highlighting the Quad Cities. There may be no better former Chicagoan to recommend where to stay, eat, drink and what to do in the QC.
“Obviously, there’s a ton to do in Chicago, but you can’t do anything affordably,” Bush says. “This is a place where you can own a home — I don’t know how anyone owns a home in Chicago without generational wealth. This is a place where you can actually have a yard. And everything is close, so the quality of life is great. I can get anything I need and anywhere I need within 15 minutes, most of which is six to eight minutes away.”
Before you begin looking at real estate listings, you may just want to visit. Here’s everything to do in the Quad Cities, according to Bush.
Where to Stay
Bush recommended a couple of spots in downtown Davenport. “Definitely stay at the Hotel Blackhawk, which is basically an old, classic, kind of Art Deco hotel,” he says. “It was redone maybe a decade ago. The same company owns another hotel downtown called The Current, which is a little bit hipper. They have a nice rooftop bar.”
Chicago’s Best New Restaurants Include a Stunning Space Atop the St. RegisAlso on the books: a public restaurant in a private club, cocktails galore and more
Where to Eat
We asked Bush where to consume calories at all hours. His breakfast recommendations are good for both the blue-collar diner and the white-tablecloth connoisseur. “Quad City Coffee and Pancake House in Rock Island is phenomenal,” Bush says. “It’s one of those places where the owner is the chef, and he touches every plate. Everything is always good, and the portion sizes are great. You’re going to wait 45 minutes to an hour, especially on the weekend, but I’m more than willing to do that because the food is so good. Get the cinnamon roll pancakes.”
If you’re looking for more fine dining, Bush likes Links in Davenport. “It’s more of a farm-to-table-ish place,” he says. “It has a more curated menu. Very clean, minimalist interior. Order the root vegetable hash.”
Similar to his breakfast picks, Bush gives us some disparate options for a midday meal. “LemonGrass in Moline is a Thai restaurant — very small, run by a crew that’s been there forever,” he says. “If you go once and come back a year later, they’ll probably remember you. The food is just absolutely to die for. Probably plate for plate, they’re putting out the best food in the Quad Cities.”
If you prefer something American in the middle of America, check out Bummer City’s Armored Gardens. “We’re kind of known as the place to go in downtown Davenport, especially in summer,” Bush says. “We have more than 100 beers on draft, a giant patio and serve classics. We’re kind of known as a burger place.”
“The Kitchen Brigade is kind of Euro inspired,” Busy says of his first dinner pick. “It’s inside Stompbox Brewing in downtown Davenport. It’s one of those restaurants-in-a-brewery situations. Their wings and cakes are what you want to try — kind of a riff on chicken and waffles. The place has a ’90s rock aesthetic and soundtrack, great beer and awesome food.”
The vibe at Bush’s final restaurant pick is a bit different. “Me & Billy is a downtown Davenport staple,” he says. “It’s not fine dining, it’s not bar food — it’s kinda that in-between. You can go there in jeans and a T-shirt and feel fine, or go there on a date or business meeting and feel comfortable. They have the most amazing cheese curds.”
Where to Drink
When we asked Bush where to enjoy a drink, he instantly recommended Wake Brewing in Rock Island. “There are almost 20 breweries in the Quad Cities, and Wake has separated themselves as standout,” he says. “Fantastic from top to bottom. Their flagship is a stout, Hand of Doom, that’s immaculate.”
We’d be remiss to not mention Bummer City’s cocktail bar, Devon’s Complaint Dept.
What to Do
During a two-day visit to the Quad Cities, Bush recommends a few outdoor activities. It seems like summer may be the best time to come. “Every Friday in the summertime, we have a festival, Mercado on Fifth — it’s basically a big neighborhood block party that’s Mexican inspired,” he says. “Mexican food trucks, Mexican music, etc.”
If you want to stay outside, stay outside. “Our Saturday and Sunday morning farmer’s market in downtown Davenport attracts [around] 8,000 people,” Bush says. “It’s crazy. It’s consistently packed every weekend.”
If you want to stay outside but maybe when it is closer to evening, there’s always minor league baseball. “We have the best minor league stadium in the country (at least according to USA Today): Modern Woodmen Park, home of the River Bandits, the single-A Minor League affiliate for the Royals,” Bush says. “The environment is a mix of Minor League game and a carnival. There’s a Ferris wheel. There are rides. It’s like a family-friendly country fair. I just went and tickets were $15 for a few rows behind home plate.”
For the indoor sports enthusiast, there’s the TBK Bank Sports Complex in Bettendorf. “They put a giant sports complex in uncharted territory — they’re basically building a city around it,” Bush says. “They have a Top Golf-type place going in called Iron Tee, they have bowling alleys and arcades and escape rooms. It’s this massive monstrosity of a complex.”
Finally, if you’re still not sold, there’s one more Bummer City location that should sell you on at least a return visit: Analog Arcade Bar.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.