After nearly three years of coping with COVID, Jon Keim is finally reopening his beloved 30-year-old downtown Rock Island restaurant to indoor dining.
The Original Huckleberry’s Great Pizza and Calzones, 223 18th St., was back in business Wednesday afternoon inside for the first time since March 2020. A confluence of personal challenges, staffing issues, shifting state regulations and health concerns kept the business focused on carryout business only after 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, owner Keim said Wednesday.
After the initial 2020 shutdowns, the Huckleberry’s staff was down to five people, and they grew to nine by early 2022, he said. The restaurant — specializing in hand-tossed pizzas, calzones, bistro-style salads and desserts — relied on curbside pickup or carryout from customers coming to the counter, which has been solid for three years, Keim said.
He’s back up to 15 employees as of this week and continues to accept applications. Keim has not restarted lunch service since 2020.
“We tried to be available to offer our great pizza, calzones and other delicious food with consistent great service, while trying to stay in business and balance our life,” Keim said Wednesday. “These changing hours and service allowed us flexibility during challenging times.”
Keim, 60, and his customers are very much looking forward to full service inside the restaurant, which he opened in 1992 after working in the restaurant business since he was 16, including with Happy Joe’s.
“We are excited to start the reopening of dine-in service, to see our great customers, meet new customers and help our staff grow and succeed in our restaurant industry,” he said. “We will adjust and bring back banquet facilities and look forward to outside patio cafe service in the future.”
Among the unique and popular specialties at Huckleberry’s are:
- Spaghetti Deep Dish: An old Rock Island-style deep dish crust, piled high with spaghetti and red gravy.
- Mississippi: Since the restaurant was named in part for Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the river tribute pie includes pepperoni, ground Italian sausage, salami, ground beef, mushrooms, onions, green bell peppers and mozzarella.
- Huckleberry’s Special: Seasoned white chicken, fresh spinach, sliced red onion and mozzarella.
For the “Big Game” Sunday, Feb. 12, the restaurant is offering a special — Buy two 10″ or 14″ pizzas and get one “Tomato Pie” pizza of equal size FREE, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call for curbside pickup at 309-786-1122.
Regular business hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday; and 4-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 309-786-1122 or visit the Huckleberry’s website HERE.