• Riverfront Grille, 4619 34th St. Court, Rock Island. 309-788-5635, riverfrontgrilleqc.comfacebook.com/riverfrontgrilleqc/.

Riverfront Grille is located right on the Rock River along Blackhawk Road. You can look out the window and watch the water flow by.

It has been serving breakfast and lunch since it opened a year ago, and recently expanded its hours to include dinner. The dinner menu features many of its popular lunch items, with the addition of several new entrees.

Owning a restaurant has always been a goal for Jerry Bergheger, who owns Riverfront Grille along with his wife, Agnieszka. He has worked in the restaurant business for 32 years, beginning in high school. He first learned to love food at his grandmother's table. Her pancakes were his favorite, and "Going to Grandma's" is a section on his breakfast menu.

Jerry is familiar with all aspects of the restaurant business. He started as a busboy and line cook at pizza places in high school, and he moved on to work at the former Charles Michel restaurant in Moline. Realizing he would need training to go with his experience, he attended Washburne Culinary and Hospitality Institute in Chicago. After graduating, he went on to the New York Culinary Institute.

His culinary career included stints at high-end restaurants in Chicago and New York. A connection led him to Imola, Italy, to pursue his passion in Italian food in the Emila-Romagna region.

While working in Imola, he met Agnieszka, who was was on vacation in Italy from Poland, and he found that man could not live on food alone. When he returned to the United States, they carried on an international relationship. After their marriage, they settled in New York City, where Jerry worked in the restaurant industry.

After the birth of their daughter, they moved back to the Quad-Cities, and Jerry opened Atlante Trattoria restaurant in downtown Rock Island. In 2013, he sold Atlante and opened Jake O's (named after Jerry and Agnieszka and their two children, Karolina and Ethan) in the old O'Melia's location in 2013. On Jan. 30, 2017, Jake O's was destroyed by a fire.

A customer from Jake O's alerted Jerry that the former Martini's on the Rock restaurant on Blackhawk Road was available. After an extensive remodel, he opened Riverfront Grille in July 2018. 

The soup and salad bar at Riverfront Grille, which can be ordered as an entree, is a big draw. Jerry makes all of his own salads and most of the dressings. His potato salad had a nice zing of added horseradish. The star of the bar are his homemade soups, three of which are featured every day.

The night we were there he had chili, stuffed green pepper and a cheesey chicken pasta. All were very good. The chili was thick enough to stand up to a spoon, with enough spice to carry the chili name. The stuffed green pepper soup tasted just as it sounds. The de-constructed stuffed pepper was served in a delicious broth. The cheesey chicken pasta was also very good. Chicken breast and macaroni pasta were imbedded in a rich, creamy cheese base.

The menu has a great Shareables section of appetizers, and we were told Smoked Brisket Nachos is the most popular.

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After the soup and salad bar, we decided to move on to the Handhelds section of the menu. Jerry brines his own corned beef, and the Always St. Patty's is a popular choice.

We decided to try the Hot Sicilian, which showcases Jerry's hand-selected Italian meats and his perfected marinara sauce. He makes his own meatballs and layers them in a hoagie bun with Italian sausage, ham, salami, capicola, provolone and mozzarella cheese. The marinara is served on the side for dipping and dredging. It was delicious, and we wish he had more entrees that featured his Italian talents.

All of the sandwiches are served with a choice of side dishes: Mediterranean pasta, cottage cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, french fries or tots.

We are always on the lookout for ordinary ingredients combined in extraordinary ways. The Riverfront Grille's Gyro Melt begins with a pita that is smeared with hummus, then layered with gyro meat, toasted with mozzarella, and topped with pickled cucumbers and onions, tzatziki sauce, and tangy feta cheese. It was yummy, and the flavors blended well together.

With the addition of dinner hours, Jerry expanded his bar. One of the first things he did was to bring back his former talented bartender from Jake O's, Jeremy. There are 10 beers on tap, along with a full bar.

Jeremy makes an excellent bourbon old fashioned with just the right amount of orange rind. If you name the liquor, Jeremy can make you a drink. We gave him the gin challenge, and he served us a pomegranate slo gin martini with a lemon twist.

Riverfront Grille has expanded banquet facilities with seating for over 200 in a glass-walled room overlooking the river. This location is a safe way to enjoy one of the beautiful rivers in the Quad-Cities without getting wet. The restaurant's convenient location, right off of Blackhawk Road, includes plenty of parking spaces.

The restaurant opens every day at 7 a.m. and closes at 8:30 p.m. during the week, 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Down by the river is the place to be on a hot summer day.

He said: The homemade potato salad is very good. The zip of horseradish was a great addition. The Hot Sicilian sandwich, with five kinds of meat, two cheeses and homemade marinara, was my kind of sandwich.

She said: I love soups year-round. Having three homemade soups on the soup and salad bar was a real plus. I really enjoyed the stuffed green pepper soup. The Gyro Melt, with hummus and pickled cucumbers, was a great handheld meal.


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