DAVENPORT, IOWA – For a little more than two hours on Wednesday, it was a madhouse on West Locust Street in Davenport.
Hundreds of people navigated their way into and around the parking lot at Riefe’s Family Restaurant, 1417 W. Locust St., to get their last taste of home-style cooking.
The restaurant opened at 11 a.m. and began giving away free root beer, tenderloin sandwiches and french fries to customers. By noon, owners said they had about 500 tenderloins left to give away for free.
By 1:15 p.m., the restaurant had run out of 1,000 tenderloins, 1,000 root beers and 1,000 mugs, according to its recorded telephone message.
“You guys have been great,” Dan Riefe, who co-owns the eatery with his brother, Rick, said. “Have a great Christmas and a wonderful happy New Year, and again, thank you for supporting us all these years.”
After 66 years, the restaurant’s doors are closed for good.
Carol Peterson, of Rock Island, made it in time to enjoy her last Riefe’s sandwich, “a great big one,” she said. “It was delicious.”
With lines out the front and carry-out doors, servers sat strangers in booths together as customers from all corners of the Quad-City area arrived for lunch.
“Nothing wrong with that,” longtime Davenport resident Mike Dannenfeldt said. “They’re busy.”
Sitting across the table from him was Dan Morris, of Silvis.
Instead of paying for their last meal at the restaurant known for its good service, steady help and affordable prices, customers made donations to the Handicapped Development Center and Friendly House.
While they waited in the carry-out line, Tammy Burns, with the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, and Steve Stoltenberg, who owns Northwest Music Shop on Washington Street, Davenport, debated their all-time favorite Riefe’s dishes.
“I don’t know how I’m going to survive without their chocolate cake and onion rings,” said Burns, who also will miss the restaurant’s chorizo omelet.
“Well, their chicken and biscuits every Tuesday was fantastic,” Stoltenberg said.
Rushing around the dining room, sporting her uniform from 1973, Angie Tuttle said Wednesday felt “very surreal.”
“It’s the job I’ve had since 15,” said Tuttle, who has worked at Riefe’s for 43 years. “It’s been a fun ride.”