For over 75 years, Ross’s Restaurant has been a familiar fixture in downtown Bettendorf, serving not only local residents, but drawing customers from throughout the Quad City region and beyond. But that changes next year.
As part of the new I-74 bridge construction project, Ross’s Restaurant will be acquired by the State of Iowa and demolished, along with more than forty other properties in the bridge’s path.
Ron and Cynthia Freidoff and their daughter, Melissa, are the restaurant’s owners. Cynthia’s father and mother Harold and Sylvia “June” Ross originally conceived and founded the business. Harold passed away in 1980.
The Freidhofs have been on a well publicized journey, trying to find a new location for their restaurant. They researched locations in Davenport, Moline and Bettendorf, but found nothing suitable yet. The State takes possession of the property in August 2015, though the restaurant will remain open to that time or until a new building has been acquired or built.
Two factors complicate the search process. First, the Freidhofs want to remain as close as possible to the I-74 corridor. Their customers come almost evenly from Iowa and Illinois communities. Secondly, a new restaurant will cost around $2.5 million and they need to avoid taking on excessive debt. Retaining their customers and keeping debt low remain their priorities. They have had many sleepless nights trying to resolve these issues.
Recently, the Freidhofs were cheered to learn they received the American’s Best Restaurant Families’ Grand Prize. This national and highly competitive award recognizes the unique contribution the Freidhofs have made to the restaurant industry.
This is not the first time Ross’s Restaurant attracted national attention. Many residents recall both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, during campaign trips to Iowa, had meals at the diner. Luminaries, such as Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Bette Midler, Johnny Cash, NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, have also stopped by. Television news programs from both the Netherlands and Argentina featured the diner on their channels.
When President Obama came to town, he ordered the best known item on Ross’s menu, The Magic Mountain. The Magic Mountain is made with grilled Texas toast, homemade hash browns or french fries, 100% Iowa beef, a homemade cheddar cheese sauce and chopped onions. Customer sometime request the Magic Mountain Volcano which features Ross’s spicy chili poured down the cheese covered slopes.
The Freidhof’s daughter, Melissa, points out other menu items now feature organically grown ingredients. Gluten free, vegetarian and low carb food, along with a double chocolate vegan cake, can also be ordered.
The Freidhofs treat customers and employees as family. Many years ago Ray Kroc, the founder of the MacDonald’s Restaurant chain, offered Harold Ross the chance to become the franchisee for the Quad City region. Ross refused the offer, remaining committed to the small restaurant ideal. Interestingly, the lyric from the “Cheers” television series could be applied to the ambiance Harold encouraged for his restaurants.
Be glad there’s one place in the world Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
That’s Ross’s Restaurant.