If you haven't visited Davenport's Hilltop Campus Village in awhile, the number of eateries may surprise you.
Fourteen eateries — from chains such as The Village Inn to local spots like Mary Sue's All American Cafe and Zeke's Island Cafe — exist in the Hilltop area and are coming together to participate in a statewide event called Main Street Iowa Restaurant Week.
The Hilltop, which has the distinction of being a a Main Street Iowa district, is one of 28 communities participating in Main Street Iowa Restaurant Week, which is "aimed at acquainting Iowa with different parts of the state, and generating foot traffic to the benefit of Main Street stores throughout the state," according to a press release.
Before hearing about the promotional Restaurant Week — kicking off Friday and running through Sunday, Sept. 23 — I probably could've only named a handful of places to eat in the Hilltop Campus Village.
And I'm not the only one, according to Scott Tunnicliff, director of Hilltop.
"Practically speaking," he said. "When people are driving down Harrison Street or up Brady Street, they are less inclined to look left and right. And this week is about encouraging people to stop and look around."
Jason Stewart, who owns Zeke's Island Cafe on Harrison Street, said, restaurant-wise, the Hilltop has "kind of been off the grid."
"People might not realize what all is here," he said. "Restaurant Week answers the question, 'Is this really a place we can hang out and spend an afternoon?''
Stewart is quick to say yes.
The 46-year-old chef has been in the restaurant business for 30 years and Zeke's, serving cuisine inspired by the Pacific Islands, is his first solo endeavor.
"I decided I wanted to have fun with a restaurant," he said. "There's a lot of culture that people in the Midwest miss out on. I wanted to open people's minds up a little bit and give them a different food experience."
After initially opening on Kimberly Road, Stewart moved Zeke's to the Hilltop area on Harrison Street about three years ago. He and his wife also moved into an apartment in the neighborhood.
"The idea was that Hilltop had some incredible potential," he said. "I know there was years of work being done to get to this point. And it was a painful and slow process for those involved. But we're starting to see momentum in the right direction."
Zeke's — which is most known for its Hawaiian pulled pork nachos and unique tacos — attracts new customers and regulars daily who walk in saying, "I've been thinking about your food all day."
Stewart has also experienced a step backward during his time on the Hilltop. His second Hilltop restaurant across the street from Zeke's — Rico's Tropical Cantina — closed earlier this year, within its first year of being open. Stewart said he hopes either Rico's will re-open or another restaurant will take its place soon.
By adding a few more eateries, Stewart said the Hilltop could be the Quad-City area's "next cuisine corridor."
"It seems like more people are stopping in, as opposed to just driving right by," he said. "They're saying, 'Oh, I didn't know all of this was here.'"
For Tunnicliff, the goal of Iowa Restaurant Week is to get more people to discover offerings in the district, generally defined as the area encompassing the St. Ambrose University and Palmer College of Chiropractic campuses.
"This is kind of a big deal for us," he said. "In the past, we never had the critical mass to attempt something like this. Now, we're giving it a try."
One of the newer additions to the neighborhood is The Brewed Book, a used books shop/coffee shop owned by Tony Fuhs and his son, Trevor. It opened in January.
The Brewed Book is lined with hundreds of books for perusing or purchase and offers a "relaxed, quiet and welcoming," environment, said Tony Fuhs.
"We wanted to give people more than one reason to come into our shop," he said.
Fuhs hopes to host book clubs and readings at the shop, which is already a second home for college students and professors.
And he expects his calendar of events and his clientele to grow as the Hilltop grows.
"The Hilltop location almost called out to us," he said. "It has so much potential."