Spend Sunday in LeClaire and you can sip on whiskey, red wine hot chocolate and try a crab rangoon pizza. 

Yes, you read that right. 

The town is launching its inaugural "Taste of LeClaire," featuring free samples and restaurant specials from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday along the Cody Road strip. 

The afternoon of eating coincides with the "Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard" initiative by the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.

And according to Cindy Bruhn, LeClaire tourism manager, it's a celebration of how much the food and drink landscape has grown in LeClaire.

"We've seen tons of growth over the past five years," she said. "There's more food options, more restaurants, more variety and more of everything."

One point of celebration is "Libation Lane," the block of downtown LeClaire where you can visit Mississippi River Distilling Co., Wide River Winery and Green Tree Brewery within a very short walk. 

"There is nowhere else in Iowa and maybe the midwest where you can go to a winery, brewery and distillery in one block," said Ryan Burchett, co-owner of Mississippi River Distilling Co. "It is a small town, but the quality of food and drink here is world class."

Along with hourly distillery tours, Burchett and his team plan on offering samples of the Hot Iowish Cream cocktail, which is one of the distillery's most popular drinks. In February, they plan to unveil a bourbon infused with maple syrup.

"People assume that after Christmas, there's nothing going on here, but things are always happening in LeClaire. If you haven't been here in a couple of years, you'll notice some new things. Things are always evolving." 

Burchett said this weekend, with bald eagle watching in full effect, has been a busy one in the past. And, now with "Taste of LeClaire," there's a chance to capitalize on the crowds. 

"This is the weekend where everyone is catching their breath and tired of sitting at home on the couch and starts looking for something to do," he said. "And it's a weekend that LeClaire is really hustling and bustling."

Holly Schmidt, owner of Big Dave and Holly's Dairy Sweet, expects more visitors than normal, too. She's serving up sweet apple pork sliders.

"Something like this gets people out around the downtown and trying different things," she said. 

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Schmidt and her husband have owned the eatery, which specializes in "tenderloins, ice cream and more," for about 12 years.

"We all have our unique things... in one small town, you have some of the best popcorn, chocolate and pizza,' she said. "Every place is different with a different view."

Bruhn hopes that visitors from LeClaire, the metro Quad-Cities and beyond make the first "Taste of LeClaire" an event worth continuing in the future. 

"We're trying to bring people out in the winter when it's a little colder and they need that push," Bruhn said. "There are a lot of specialty foods and gourmet foods you wouldn't expect from such a small place." 

"Wings and Things"

Also on tap Sunday is a wildlife presentation called "Wings and Things." Check out a bald eagle photo and video presentation by wildlife photographer Burt Gearhart at 2 p.m. at the LeClaire Civic Center, 127 S. Cody Road. In the presentation, catch photos of eagles diving for fish, eating while flying and flying with icicles on their toes. You'll learn how best to view and photograph the annual winter gathering of bald eagles along the Mississippi River north and south of LeClaire.


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).