What pairs well with an eclectic whiskey bar and performance venue?
If you ask Davenport-based entrepreneur Dan Bush, co-owner of Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, the answer is simple: A barbecue restaurant, bar and beer garden — the plans for a new business, coined Armored Gardens, at 315 Pershing Ave.
Directly north of Triple Crown, Armored Gardens marks Bush’s third development in downtown Davenport. He also co-owns Analog Arcade Bar, which opened at 3rd and Brady streets in October 2015.
"If Analog is your friend with the cool basement, then I think Armored Gardens is going to be your friend with the cool backyard," Bush, 33, said this week, sitting next to his father-in-law and business partner, Rich Cooksey.
The 57-year-old retired UPS driver completed the buildouts for Analog and Triple Crown.
Totaling almost 10,000 square feet — 4,800 square feet inside and 5,000 square feet outside — the project is the biggest one he has ever pursued, Cooksey said.
Along with the assistance of Quad-City-area subcontractors, the duo hopes to open Armored Gardens this fall.
"It beats working for a living," Cooksey said with a smile, noting the busy summer ahead.
Although the menu is not set, the restaurant will feature Carolina-style barbecue, known for dry-rubbed meats and vinegar-infused sauce and coleslaw.
Similar to Arthur's Deli in Rock Island, for example, customers will grab a tray and wait in line to order their meal, a fast-casual service model Bush predicts will draw downtown event-goers.
“People appreciate speed,” said Bush, who operated a chain of five Quad-City-area Jimmy John's restaurants with his family from 2008-16. “We thought this would be a really great way for people to have a good, quick meal downtown.”
Although he formerly made grilled cheese sandwiches out of his now-defunct food truck, Static Melt, Bush does not claim to be an expert cook. So, he solicited the expertise of a friend who works as a chef in New York City to create the restaurant's recipes.
At the 36-foot-long bar, beer drinkers will have 100 different drafts to choose from, variety inspired by El Bait Shop in Des Moines, which has 222 tap handles in house.
Based on popularity, the bar will routinely rotate the bottom 10 percent of beers, said Bush, whose spot next door offers about 140 different whiskeys.
"We just think they've done it right," Bush said, referring to El Bait Shop and downtown Des Moines as a whole. "We're interested in bringing different concepts here that have worked somewhere else, and when we mention 100 draft lines, people's eyes light up, so we might be on to something."
Following the renovation of the building, the restaurant/bar will be open for dinner on weekdays at first, and all day on weekends with a bloody mary bar on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Although Bush and Cooksey said they have an idea for their third building on the triangle block, north of the beer garden at 308 E. 3rd St., they did not want to disclose any specifics at this point.
Immediately adjacent to Triple Crown and the future BBQ restaurant, the developers plan to transform the vacant outdoor lot there into a "quiet oasis in the city," Bush said.
The space will offer a mix of recreation and leisure activities, including a theater, putting green, beer pong tables, actual pingpong tables and a giant chess set.
On the south side of the property, a crew will install an eight-foot-tall privacy fence to block out traffic noise from East 3rd Street.
Their neighbor to the east, Andrew Dasso, the owner and principal architect of [design] [build] by architects, said his digital designs do not do the full scope of Bush's "masterpiece" any justice.
"Renderings are fun, but it will far exceed the renderings when it’s all done," said Dasso, whose office is at 318 E. 3rd St. "He’s (Bush) really trying to create a campus of fun stuff to do."
The Downtown Davenport Partnership, an arm of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, awarded the project $15,000 through its facade grant program.
Within the past year, the program has funded close to $70,000 for developments throughout downtown, said Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, who called the outdoor element of Armored Gardens "amazing."
Bush said their location, across the street from Hotel Blackhawk in the heart of downtown Davenport, gives them "creative freedom to do things a little bit different."
"We feel like this has been a dark block for both of our lifetimes," he said, "and we're really excited to get foot traffic through here."
Meanwhile, a crew broke ground this week on the outdoor patio at Triple Crown, an addition they expect to unveil in mid-June.
"These places are never done for us," Cooksey said. "There's always a project, and I think that’s what drives us."