It happens about 120 times per day at Tap 22 in Silvis, Illinois.
The order comes in and someone in the kitchen yells, “Tin Can!” A chef grabs a plate and stainless steel tin can (without a top or bottom) and piles in layers of homemade tortilla chips, cheese and smoked brisket and toppings such as cilantro, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. Less than three minutes later, the almost-overflowing order’s up.
That’s when the fun begins.
The plate carefully arrives and its handler just as cautiously lifts off the tin to reveal a mountain (or sometimes an avalanche) of nachos held together by queso, a special “22” sauce and two types of melted shredded cheese.
Though eating the Tin Can Nachos presents a Jenga-like experience, the appetizer is by far the most popular item at Tap 22, which opened in February off of 1st Street in the building formerly housed by restaurants such as Olympic Flame and PK Dugan’s.
And, according to owner, Mitch Kadriu, the dish’s draw has spread well beyond the town of Silvis, which has a population of about 7,500. In the 25-year-old’s words, it has “blown up” on social media.
“It gets people talking,” Kadiru said. “It’s something trendy. It’s something everyone takes photos of and posts on Instagram.”
When the eatery opened, Tin Can Nachos were ordered about 30 times per day. That number has quadrupled in just six months.
“When people order it, they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Kadriu said. “And then they see how big it is … and they realize they might be taking some home with them."
This kind of buzz, which regularly brings visitors from the metro Quad-Cities and further away to Tap 22, is exactly what Kadriu hoped for when planning his first-ever restaurant.
Kadriu, whose family moved from Albania to Alaska when he was 3, has worked in restaurants since he was 13, including several years at the Welcome Inn, the Milan, Illinois, restaurant his family has owned since moving to the Quad-City area in 2009.
When his father bought the Tap 22 building, Kadriu saw an opportunity to bring a new concept to Silvis. He and a small crew of family and friends spent seven months remodeling.
“I wanted a restaurant that I would proud to bring my friends to,” he said. “Just something different and unique.”
To use one word, Kadriu said, his concept is all about quality.
And that applies to the whole menu at Tap 22.
Appetizers besides the Tin Can Nachos, for example, are not an afterthought.
Make room for cheese logs, the restaurant’s take on mozzarella sticks, fried corn and a trio of sliders topped with beef brisket, spicy chicken and pulled pork.
Main dishes range from hand-tossed pizzas to a selection of eight burgers (which are adorned with a Tap 22 stamp atop the bun) to a Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese sandwich.
Oh, and then there’s the restaurant’s namesake: A bar with 22 beer taps.
The selection of craft brews changes every day, and on a recent day it represented breweries from Sawyer, Michigan, to Boulder, Colorado, to Atlanta to Milton, Delaware. Options included the Kentucky Vanilla Barrel Cream Ale, made in Lexington, Kentucky, Great River Brewery's Dirty Blonde and an IPA called I Before Y from Triptych Brewing in Savoy, Illinois.
"It's literally never the same," Kadriu said. "We want to keep that really different."
There's one beer that's typically available, though, called the Tap 22 Brew, a lager made at Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin, that's on draft in place of something like a Coors Light, Kadriu said.
Patrons can keep up with Tap 22's brews by visiting its Facebook page or untappd.com, where a description of each beer is listed.
Something worth noting about that ever-changing beer list? Most brews pair well with a pile of Tin Can Nachos.