Davenport’s New Restaurant Verde A Spicy Good Place For Taco Tuesday
Un-ironically, I spent a Taco Tuesday at Verde a contemporary Mexican restaurant located off the foot of the Iowa side of the New 74 bridge. Verde opened close enough to 2 years ago. The dream child of Chef Connor Larson, has been growing legs and learning how to not crawl but run in this shaky economy.
While other restaurants have been forced to shutter doors, take days off, and change business models. Verde seems right at home, offering a smaller more intimate relationship with its customers; seriously customers? I question my use of the word here, customer. No I’m not breaking a 4th wall, I genuinely don’t feel comfortable calling myself or you my readers a customer, going to Verde. Let’s put a pin in this and return to it in a paragraph or so. (Maybe I am breaking the 4th wall here.)
Daily you may find Chef Connor, preparing fresh ground masa tortilla, to serve up his Carnitas Tacos. Or cooking house made hot sauce that alone could be bottle and sold for a million dollars in my opinion. The a-maze-ing thing to consider here, (cornyness intended) a truly gluten free, locally sourced dining experience and kitchen is dancing a seductive Salsa right here in Bettendorf. While everyone else is saving time and money Verde has found its way with returning to the basics of “Cooking” instead of unwrapping and cutting plastic bags open from the freezer.
Chef Larson, mentored his way through his culinary arts. Learning from Chef’s that intrusted the “dish boy” to learn a few things. This alone deserves a modicum of respect with what is produced daily. Starting his early years cooking on a rotating menu of 60 dishes with unwritten recipes for a retirement community, he’s had his good days and bad days, compliments and complaints. You could say he has done his time and earned his title amongst his peers in the QC food scene.
Carnitas Tacos served with house made hot sauce. Don’t ask for Tabasco or Cholula you will be escorted to the door by a burly guy named Big Mike. I joke. Or maybe not. Just trust me on this. If you think of that first bite of amazing food as a sexual experience, this wouldn’t be a first kiss kinda deal. This plate is more like a Ex Russian Gymnast named Katarina, who you met in Mexico City on the run from the cartel and she threw a Scorpion, two eggo waffles, and a bottle of tequila under the blankets. God I miss my time in the Peace Corp, type of experience. These tacos are made of dreams come true and probably ingredients you’d find in a kitchen like Verde.
Cauliflower in the style of elote. Charred cauliflower with sauce made from cauliflower, chipotle, and carmalized whey, fermented mole salt, cotja and herbs. If you asked me 25 years ago if I’d be excited to sit down for a plate of cauliflower, I’d get my mouth smacked by my folks for my response to you. That is however what this plate has done to me. Smacked me in the mouth. I can’t describe in words how amazing this dish taste. So I’ll just stare off in the distance for the next 30 seconds in disbelief.
30 seconds has passed. Back to it.. When you go, order this. Do it for me. As I sit and listen to this man, I can feel the emotion in his voice. Like many of us, Chef Connor has had a rough time. He found his way out of the darkness with a light bulb click of a moment. Sitting in his R&D kitchen, working out this dish. Cauliflower in the style of elote, it brought him back and gave him purpose and joy. Is this dish his magnum opus? I guess we will all have to wait and see what’s next to be served.
Back to our 4th wall break. As I sit at the bar here sipping on a house cocktail (a Cafe Con Leche) specially crafted by the wonderful Bri, Connor’s better half. I ask him how he feels knowing at least 20 cars have passed us outside the window on State St., in the last 5 paragraphs going to Micky Ds or Taco Hell to buy a 1.29 burger or ground beef Taco. “I’m okay with it. I want people to come in here to have an experience, not a meal.”
That’s where we wrap this up. If other restaurants are Cavemen drawing on the walls after clubbing unsuspecting seals, Chef Connor and his team at Verde are painting the Sistine Chapel and carefully concocting morsels of beauty for your mouth. You’re not customers to him, you are food tourist there to admire his crafted creations on a plate.
Verde prides itself on a more intimate style sitting. Calling for reservations is appreciated. Worried about your pocket book? Don’t this is affordable and worth every penny of your allowance.
My Restaurant score for Verde. 9.3 out of 10
Your friend in food,