• Circle Tap, 1345 W. Locust St., Davenport. 563-322-9276, https://www.facebook.com/circle.tap/

Welcome to the neighborhood. Circle Tap is an Irish Catholic tavern where locals can stop in for a beer and stay for a meal. It's been a tradition on W. Locust Street for 69 years, and little has changed in that time. It is the kind of place where you can relax and leave your troubles behind.

We went to Circle Tap years ago when we heard it had the "best ribs in the QCA." Many locals would have to agree.

In 1950, Griffen's Tap opened at this location. Jerry Kelly, a bartender at the time, bought the business from the Griffens and changed the name to Kelly's Circle Tap, in homage to the circular bar that remains there today. Jerry started the rib tradition, and the recipe has not changed.

The Fennelly family were the next owners; hence the name change to Fennelly's Circle Tap. In 2006, Deb Lundgren bought Fennelly's Circle Tap, changing the name to just Circle Tap. Deb wisely recruited Stacey Zindel as the bar manager in May 2010.

Stacy was no stranger to the hospitality and restaurant world, having worked for Holiday Inn at the corporate level and managed Sebastian's at the former Jumer's Castle Lodge. She soon became Deb's right-hand woman, taking over promotions, group reservations, and event and menu planning.

In 2018, Deb decided to retire, and Stacey was faced with a decision about her future. With her husband, Scott, on board, they decided to purchase Circle Tap and entered the bar business on Feb. 1, 2019.

The transition from manager to owner was an easy one. Everything has stayed the same, with the addition of a few new salads and wraps. Second and third generations of patrons still come in; locals are featured in pictures lining the walls; and the names carved in the bar are immortalized.

Quality and value are the things that Stacey has always strived for. There is a different special every night of the week. On Mondays, it is the grilled chicken sandwich; Tuesdays, grilled tenderloin; Wednesdays, one-third-pound burger baskets for $5; Thursdays, Mexican menu; Fridays, chicken strips; Saturdays, $4 burger baskets; and Sundays, pulled pork.

Circle Tap is known for its legendary Circle Tap ribs. It sells 180 to 270 pounds per week, depending on the season. The ribs begin with slow cooking starting at 2 a.m. and go through quite a few steps until they reach legendary status. Slow cooking is ideal for flavoring the meat all the way through. The recipe is a secret, "one of those you would have to kill to get," according to Stacey.

The pork ribs are meaty, tender, with enough texture to stand up to the bone. The sauce is what makes the ribs at Circle Tap stand out. The sweet and tangy sauce is slathered over the top. Go ahead, make a mess when you eat them! Everyone does.

The ribs range in size from a sample rack to a full rack. All ribs come with a serving of fries. The sample rack (two to three bones) costs $6 and is enough for a light meal. The quarter rack (four to five bones) costs $10 and leaves enough for leftovers, depending on the appetite. Half racks (six to seven bones) cost $15, and full racks (10 to 12 bones) cost $22 and are meant to be shared.

Both the half rack and the full rack are served on old-fashioned cafeteria trays with fries piled high on one side. Be sure to ask for the Sriracha Ketchup, a great condiment that is new on the dining scene.

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There are as many opinions on what constitutes great ribs as there are rib joints in the Quad-Cities. We really like our ribs with the barbecue sauce on top, which allows it to soak into the meat. The ones at Circle Tap are pull-apart tender, but the meat has enough texture that you can chew it off the bone. 

Stacey is deservedly proud of the other parts of the Circle Tap menu. The half-pound hamburger is served with fries for $7.25. The tenderloin sandwich begins with a hand-cut pork loin that is tenderized and breaded. The unique aspect of Circle Tap's tenderloin is its breading. It is the same breading that was used at the Dutch Inn, an iconic former Rock Island restaurant. The tenderloin was exceptionally tender, and we really liked the breading, which gave it a crispy exterior.

All of Circle Tap's salads are served on a large cafeteria tray so you can mix them up with your favorite dressing. The pulled pork salad begins with the meat from some ribs. It's pulled apart and tossed with a salad mix, tomatoes, shredded cheese and croutons. The dinner-size salads also include spicy, grilled or Oriental chicken on a bed of lettuce and veggies.

A new addition to the menu are the wraps, all of which cost $8. The most popular one is the grilled tenderloin wrap. It features the same meat as the tenderloin sandwich, sliced and smothered in melted Swiss cheese, and wrapped in a large flour tortilla with lettuce and tomato.

We tried the chicken bacon wrap. You have a choice of either grilled chicken or crispy chicken strips. The chicken is wrapped with bacon, shredded cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing. The large wrap was sliced in two, and it offered a delicious way to enjoy a salad as a sandwich.

Circle Tap offers seating on a large covered patio in back during the summer months. It also can be enjoyed in the winter, when side panels and heaters are added. It is a popular place for groups to gather and can be reserved year-round for events.

Stacey has a full catering menu for groups that rent the patio. But menu choices are not limited to the catering menu; she will tailor the choices to suit your tastes. She does not know the meaning of the word "no," and she enjoys a challenge.

Call ahead if you want to order takeout or slabs of ribs to go. Circle Tap is located on Harrison Avenue, just west of St. Ambrose University. Limited parking is available in front, along with plenty of parking spaces in the two lots in back. It is open every day from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m., with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m.

This is a great neighborhood tavern. Little has changed over the years, and it does not need to. The best part of Circle Tap is the feeling of coming home when you walk in the door.

He said: The tender and tangy ribs are what brought me here, and the specials will bring me back. I am impressed by their diverse menu and great prices.

She said: I have always enjoyed the ribs at Circle Tap. The barbecue sauce on top is worth the mess! The addition of wraps and salads to the menu caters to all tastes.

Maple Street Grille, 303 10th Ave., Orion. 309-626-2087, https://www.facebook.com/maplestreetgrilleinc/.

Comfort food with a twist. The creative menu at Maple Street Grille combines the ordinary with the interesting. The talented chef/owner has crafted a unique menu that melds grandma's kitchen and pub fare, at this family friendly restaurant.

Maple Street Grille has been a great addition to downtown Orion. The food reflects the creative talents of its Executive chef, and owner, JR Greenwood. Like many chefs, Greenwood realized at an early age that good food creates good memories. He learned both the comfort of cooking a good meal, and the excitement of dining out. Greenwood knew the food industry was his calling. He began working at a local restaurant in High School, then moved up to the President Riverboat, where he was mentored by the Executive Chef. Upon graduation in 1996, JR attended Scott Community College earning a culinary degree. At the President Riverboat he worked his way up from a production chef to first Executive Chef. He continued to work in various aspects of the food business before settling in as the Executive Chef at Jumer's Casino & Hotel for six years.

The Factory, a supper club in Orion since 1969, quietly closed its doors in April 2015. Greenwood had always wanted to own a restaurant and saw an opportunity in Orion, where he and is family had lived for eight years. Along with his wife, Michelle, he purchased the former restaurant, and after an extensive updating and remodel, opened Maple Street Grille on October 16, 2015. According to an old plat book, at one time, Maple Street was the name of the street directly behind the restaurant.

Greenwood filled a void in town for a casual, sit-down, affordable restaurant, where families are welcome. Maple Street Grille has a full bar service, and an excellent menu, that reflects his many years of experience in the food industry. Developing the menu was the easy part, he knew what he didn't want - white tablecloths and formal dining - and we he wanted - good food that everyone could enjoy eating without going broke.

The diverse menu is designed to please every diner - including Greenwood. He only serves the kind of food that he loves. We were impressed how he takes ordinary food and turns it into extraordinary. In his "Just Gettin' Started" section there are no fried run of the mill appetizers. He offers Tator Tot Nachos instead of your everyday variety. The large portion, for $5.99, begins with tator tots and is covered with taco meat, shredded Jack cheese, tomatoes, olives, and cilantro. We had to take some of the large portion home for breakfast the next day. One of our favorites was their BBQ Pork Flatbread. The crispy crust was covered in homemade BBQ sauce, topped with lots of pulled pork, onion straws and red onion. Instead of sweet potato fries he has Maple Bacon Fries, where sweet potato wedges are covered with maple syrup, crushed bacon and scallions.

"Grandma's Kitchen" section, pays homage to the kind of comfort food his grandmother would cook, with his signature touch. Every entree is served with his maple bacon biscuits. For only $6.99 his Chicken & "Dumplins" begins with roasted chicken and ends with his homemade "dumplins". His menu also includes double fried Honey Fried Chicken, Blackened Salmon, Maple Street Ribs and Cajun Pasta. This is not your "Gramma's" pasta! It had Cavatappi pasta, chicken, andouille sausage, white wine sauce, red onion, and bell pepper. The sauce was delicious and we really enjoyed the Cajun flavors.

For those in the mood for steak, the "Stockyard Maple Street Grille" section offers a bone in 16 oz Ribeye, a 12 oz New York Strip, 8 oz Filet, and a 9 oz Flat Iron. In addition, they offer homemade soups, side salads, dinner size salads, and a children's menu. Greenwood makes his own Ranch dressing. It is so good that patrons have asked if they could buy it by the gallon.

What really sets Maple Street Grille apart is their sandwiches in the "Grillin' It" section. Greenwood makes his own tomato jam, pickles, and sauces for the sandwiches. He uses locally raised beef and hand forms his half pound burgers. The Maple Street Burger, his top seller, is topped with candied bacon, house BBQ sauce, onions straws, chipotle mayo, and Pepperjack cheese.

In homage to The Factory's french onion soup, Greenwood designed a French Onion Burger that has caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese and croutons. You can also construct a BYOB (Build Your Own Burger), with either beef or chicken, and can choose between nine extras. The Carolina has pulled pork, Greenwood's homemade coleslaw - pickles and BBQ sauce.

The standout sandwich, that still has us dreaming for more is the Smoked Meatloaf Burger. The ultimate comfort food in our book is meatloaf, and having it as a burger elevated it to heavenly. The smoked meatloaf was moist, tender, and juicy. Served on Texas Toast it was covered with grilled onions and his homemade tomato jam. The thick jam is a slow cooked process that really brings out the flavors of the sweet tomatoes. We could easily buy it by the gallon!

Greenwood has a passion for our community of growers. He was chosen by the Education Committee, for the Henry County Farm Bureau, as the chef for their Farm to Fork dinner held on a local farm in August. He finds the value in a locally sourced meal, doesn't buy into a label, and understands that the United States has the safest food supply in the world.

Maple Street Grille is located in the heart of downtown Orion. We really enjoyed the atmosphere, and unique menu items, and look forward to returning. It is open at 11 am for lunch, and closes at 8 pm T - Th, 9 pm on the weekends and at 7 p.m. on Sundays, closed on Mondays. Enjoy the countryside as you take a short drive to Orion, for Greenwood's favorites created with pride.

He Said: A meatloaf day, is always a good day. Greenwood's Smoked Meatloaf Burger was a great rendition of perfect meatloaf - juicy and tender. Layered in a bun, with tomato jam, was my kind of meal.

She Said: The menu at Maple Street Grille reflect Greenwood's creative instincts. The wine sauce for the Cajun Pasta was delicious. It complemented the, Cavatappi pasta, chicken, andouille sausage, red onion, and bell pepper. Delicious!


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