If the bulky bag of “organic” rainbow carrots temporarily resting atop the freshly polished concrete bar top didn’t make a statement, the permanent forest green moss growing on the wall definitely does.
RAW, a new posh tavern in downtown Davenport is not the place to go for a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and a greasy burger, not that there’s anything wrong with that combo from time to time.
Instead, picture a whisky ginger mixed with top-shelf Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon and ginger vinegar, homemade tonic and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices served with a piece of crystallized ginger. To balance the booze, order a plate of their pepper and stagberry — elk flavored with blueberries and mead — salamis paired with raw, or unpasteurized, porter and blue cheeses.
That mouthful will cost you about $20 without tax or tip, but the brains behind the bar think the Quad-Cities is due for their high-end tastes.
“Whether people are really looking for this or not, when they do find it, they’re going to have a noticeable difference in how they feel later,” said Sid Rognoni, owner of RAW. “I want them to leave here comfortable and happy, not sick to their stomach.”
Following a couple soft-opening weekends, the establishment officially opens its doors on Wednesday at 136 E. 3rd Street, just west of the Adler Theatre.
'You should feel comfortable here'
Its name basically explains the mission of restaurateurs Rognoni and business partner, Chris Odendahl, who together opened Bowls: Urban Eats in 2011, just west of their new space at 3rd and Brady Streets.
The cocktail bar's rotating menu will feature a mix of raw, organic and locally-sourced ingredients, which includes fresh mint and basil plants grown on site.
The longtime friends, both Quad-City transplants who first met about a decade ago at Granite City in Davenport, think their "healthy spin" on cocktails follows a changing trend in the food and beverage industry, making their business plan here unique.
Take their "interactive" grapefruit martini, for example. The $7 drink comes complete with a broken-up Szechuan button rimmed around the edge of the glass. Coupled with unprocessed pure cane sugar, the crushed flower will make your mouth tingle and salivate.
On Friday, they’re unveiling a blood orange margarita.
In addition to the charcuterie platter, expect fresh seafood and simple fruit and nut combinations every week for appetizers.
While Bowls caters to the budget-conscience, on-the-go lunch and dinner crowd, RAW follows a completely different concept in which affordability doesn't sacrifice quality.
"It's something a little bit more quaint and upscale," said Odendahl, who mainly focuses on food, while Rognoni primarily handles the alcohol side. "We can really emphasize the ingredients and work with really high-quality stuff and people don't mind paying the price for it because it's in a great environment with great service."
However, the specials shouldn’t intimidate or scare anyone from ordering their $4 well drinks, draft beer or wine, he said.
"You should feel comfortable here in shorts and a t-shirt or a suit," Odendahl said.
Investments paid off
Rognoni had his eyes set on opening a bar in the new space since launching Bowls five years ago.
Both spots, which are leased, occupy formerly empty spaces that belong to the Adler.
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According to his 10-year lease agreement with the city of Davenport, Rognoni needed to make $70,651 in improvements to the 800-square-foot unit in exchange for subsidized rent every month.
For the first two years of the lease, the city will provide a monthly abatement of $588 from the $917 monthly rent payment. The base rent will increase in increments for the remaining years of the lease, but the abatement will remain the same.
An impressed Rick Palmer, executive director of the Adler, said he’s already checked out the digs and tested the appetizers, which he called "fantastic."
“They did an amazing job with the décor,” he said. “They’ve got it going on.”
Passing the bar's tall glass windows on 3rd Street, it's clear how much work they poured into this project. Rognoni noted remodeling costs totaled more than what the city required.
The four vertical panels of moss on the western wall were grown specifically for them in Berkeley, California. Across the room on the eastern wall, a large mural painted by Quad-City artist Regan Hatfield greets customers upon arrival.
Above the action, rows of birch wood stumps kiln-dried at a farm in Wisconsin decorate the ceiling.
As for the menu, Rognoni hopes guests will play a role in solidifying staples and sampling experimental concoctions.
"We're still playing with stuff, so it's part of the interactive process," he said. "Our tastes have changed over the years, and now, we're not interested in over-serving. We want to take care of people."