Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Café au QC: A college student’s guide to coffee in the Quad Cities

Barista Amanda Olson prepares an order. Olson works at Theo’s Java Club, which served as the coffee shop in Augustana’s library for 11 years. Photo by Sarah Ritter.

 Barista Amanda Olson prepares an order. Olson works at Theo’s Java Club, which served as the coffee shop in Augustana’s library for 11 years. Photo by Sarah Ritter.
Barista Amanda Olson prepares an order. Olson works at Theo’s Java Club, which served as the coffee shop in Augustana’s library for 11 years.
Photo by Sarah Ritter.

On the dreary days of winter that make us question why we ever moved to the Midwest in the first place, finding an escape from the cold is a top priority. Since there are no tauntauns running around our frankly Hoth-like home, we settle for simpler solutions: heated blankets, two pairs of socks and as much coffee we can drink.
With easy access to Starbucks in most areas, local coffee shops have taken a hit in recent years. But, there are still over 50 coffee shops in the Quad Cities, according to Theo Grevas, owner of Theo’s Java Club in Rock Island. And, each of them offers something different, from the atmosphere, to the menu and way they make their coffee.
Each coffee shop, though, promises to offer something warm when it’s needed the most.
Theo’s Java Club
In downtown Rock Island sits a large coffee shop that’s become a staple of the Quad Cities. Theo’s Java Club is a coffee shop, diner and bakery all in one.
“People like our atmosphere,” Grevas said. “We have a basic deli menu and then more of a sweet side.”
Grevas said all of the baked goods are made there and served fresh.
“There’s always something different in the display case,” he added.
Grevas opened Theo’s Java Club at its current 17th Street location in 1994. One year before that, Grevas and his wife opened their first coffee shop in Davenport.
“After we had both locations, Davenport was the bakery center for us,” Grevas said. “Then, we would deliver the baked goods to Rock Island every morning and drive back and forth.”
Eventually, Grevas was able to afford an oven in the Rock Island location, and closed the shop in Davenport.
“There was a great new wave of coffee shops during that time in the ’90s,” he said. “There were great locations available and people with enthusiasm for the industry.”
When Grevas opened Theo’s Java Club, he said there were only three coffee shops in the Quad Cities.
“Within two to five years, it just took off,” Grevas explained. “We didn’t expect it.”
For 11 years, Theo’s was the coffee shop in Augustana’s old library, and Grevas said he still has the signs reading “Theo’s Java 101.”
Grevas said the Rock Island location has a typical coffee bar, but the recipe varies from other coffee shops.
“We use Ghirardelli chocolate in our cafe mochas, but the powder instead of the syrup,” Grevas explained. “I just like the taste. It’s old school– like what we did back in the ’60s.”
On some Thursday nights, bands come and perform in the back room of Theo’s Java Club.
“The experience is what you make of it,” Grevas said. “We’ve been here 20 years, so we’re doing something right. It’s really the people who work here who make the difference.”
Theo’s Java Club is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Milltown Coffee
One of the newest additions to the coffee shops in the Quad Cities is Milltown Coffee on River Drive in Moline. Milltown first opened its doors last summer, and offers an urban feel to the area.
“We knew this would be a good spot when we opened,” said manager Colin Cartee. “The river is beautiful, and we didn’t have coffee shops like this, or with the things we serve.”
Cartee said Milltown offers a traditional coffee bar, along with a variety of espresso and non-coffee drinks. The shop now also serves alcohol, and has a wide selection of craft beers.
“We differentiate ourselves by our coffee taste and value,” Cartee said. “We take pride in our coffee. We measure out each cup, and it’s all carefully calculated. It’s a science, what we do here. It’s not a regular drip coffee or latte. Everything has a process, and that’s why it tastes the way it does.”
Milltown also stands out because of its rustic-meets-urban atmosphere.
“The atmosphere is very rustic looking,” Cartee explained. “We have an entire barnyard wall. It looks very, very cool. We have rustic tables and floors, and it all goes well within the city, with an industrial feel.”
Cartee said the location of Milltown is ideal for young professionals and college students.
“Winter, fall, summer and spring, it’s the best view in the Quad Cities,” Cartee said. “There’s a bike path in front of us, so you can get a walk or run and stop in after. And, it’s a great place to study, with free wi-fi that’s very fast.”
Milltown Coffee was opened by Cartee’s mother, Cathy Cartee, and Tuvi Mendel, a surgeon and part-owner of Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport. Cartee said the group invited chef Jason Gomez to join as well, and now Milltown offers food along with coffee.
Milltown Coffee is open Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dead Poet’s Espresso Ltd.
Another Moline coffee shop, on 3rd Ave A, is Dead Poet’s Espresso Ltd., a shop unique to the Quad Cities. Dead Poet’s is different than most coffee shops, because the owners actually roast their own coffee beans.
Part-owner Thomas Lahl said he and his son, Charles Lahl, took over the coffee shop in 2012, after months of selling their beans to the shop.
“That’s how we entered business, by buying a roaster,” Lahl said. “We started roasting our own coffee beans, and by buying the shop, that business increased ten-fold.”
Lahl said the previous Dead Poet’s shop was his family’s ideal coffee shop.
“Everyone has a different idea of a coffee shop, and this was our idea,” he explained. “The location was a big part of it. Downtown Moline continues to grow.”
Lahl said he kept the same idea as the previous owners, but simplified the business.
“We kept the same theme with the dead poets on the wall,” he said. “Now, we have a stronger concentration on coffee, and increasing foot traffic and sales.”
He said they’ve retained 90 percent of the old clientele, and increased sales by 15 percent. Lahl said the shop is an upscale alternative to some of the other local and chain coffee shops.
Dead Poet’s offers four different brewed coffees every day, as well as espresso and non-coffee drinks. The shop also offers a lunch menu, with sandwiches and other deli items.
Students who show their ID will receive a 10 percent discount.
Dead Poet’s Espresso Ltd. is open Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Café au QC: A college student’s guide to coffee in the Quad Cities