During last week’s polar vortex, several of my friends and family members who don’t live in the Midwest reached out to ask, “What does one do when it’s that cold?”
My (rather straightforward) response? Stay inside.
The temperatures are higher this week, but I think we can all agree it’s still cold. So, my advice has changed, just like the weather.
I suggest venturing out of our homes and offices, when it’s safe, for an important reason: Eating and drinking things that warm us up.
There are plenty of food and beverages at area establishments that will allow us to momentarily forget it’s winter. Here are a few:
Let’s talk about coffee. If it’s cold outside, as in if I need a coat, then I’ll probably want to get a cup of coffee to have something warm in my hands.
For to-go coffee, my favorite is a vanilla latte from Redband Coffee Company, 329 E. 4th St., Davenport. If I have a minute to sit down, I’m probably going to Milltown in Moline, Coolbeanz Coffee House in Rock Island or 392 Caffe, the coffee shop that opened in early January at 502 W. 3rd St., Davenport. For something cozy, owner Jay Sanders recommends a salted caramel latte, which 392 is “absolutely famous for,” he said. For non-coffee lovers, try the caramello, which Sanders said is basically a “pimped out hot chocolate.”
The Key at Union Arcade, 229 Brady St., Davenport, also has a strong coffee menu. Plus, the cafe can add Baileys Irish Cream to your drink for an extra jolt.
Grilled cheese sandwiches and more carbs
Fresh Deli, the farm-to-table restaurant inside the Freight House, has a sandwich called the adult grilled cheese, which involves a lot of cheese (including some grilled atop each piece of bread) and can be served with bacon or vegetables. Add a cup of soup, made with seasonal ingredients, and you won’t be saying “burr” anymore. 392 Caffe also has the option to build your own grilled cheese sandwich, so you can get plenty creative.
For more melt-in-your-mouth paninis and soups, check out Bayside Bistro in the Village of East Davenport. Maybe order the caprese sandwich and soup of the day and soak in the cafe’s tropical vibe, which may just send you to a warmer state of mind.
If you want to load up on carbs, then head to Baked Beer & Bread Company in the Village of East Davenport. The restaurant/bakery/brewery has a dedicated “Carbs” section of their menu and owner Stephanie Sellers recommends ordering “anything” under that section this time of year. Options include macaroni and cheese in a bread bowl and the “Brie-Yonce” grilled cheese sandwich. There’s also the Beer Mac Jack, one of Baked’s signature takes on macaroni and cheese.
“Who doesn't want a warm grilled cheese when it's negative 50 degrees out?” Sellers said in an interview last week. I think her words also apply to higher, yet, still freezing, temperatures. “It's the ultimate comfort food for sure.”
I can’t talk about mac ‘n’ cheese without mentioning the Cheesy Cow Mac and Cheesery, which opened in December at the intersection of Middle and Forest Grove roads in Bettendorf, near the TBK Bank Sports Complex. Consider cuddling up with mac ‘n’ cheese topped with pulled pork or slices of baked potato, bacon, scallions and sour cream.
If you’d prefer something on the sweeter side, let me send you back to Baked for a chocolate chip cookie. As Sellers said, “They are addictive and delicious.” I believe the same could be said for the over-sized and oh-so-fluffy cinnamon rolls at The Key in downtown Davenport.
Whiskey and other booze
At the end of the day, whiskey offers a special kind of warmth. Check out the Ned Ryerson, a cocktail inspired by an old fashioned, or a peanut butter-infused Irish coffee at Roam. The restaurant at 210 E River Drive, Davenport, also recently launched its coffee shop, which is open until 2 p.m. daily.
If the weather allows, make a trip to the Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire for a wide selection of craft cocktails. In the mood for something sweet and not fancy? Sip on an ounce or two of the distillery’s honey whiskey. On the subject of other booze, warm up with a few rare stouts on tap at Armored Gardens, 315 Pershing Ave., Davenport, such as Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Goose Island's Bourbon County.
Wake Brewing in Rock Island is tapping a raspberry milk stout on Feb. 14 and, if you can wait, Great River Brewery, 332 E. 2nd St., Davenport, is tapping its Dry Irish Stout on March 16.
Back at Baked, Sellers suggests a spiked cocktail such as an Apple Cider Hot Toddy. The business also offers half-priced glasses of wine on Wednesdays, so that would be a good opportunity to try a glass of red wine.