Tappa’s Steak House eyes milestone, major renovation

Cliff and Jan Tappa are getting ready for a big business anniversary and big changes to their restaurant building in west Davenport. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Tappa’s Steak House (formerly known as The Sports Page) will celebrate 40 years at its 1620 Rockingham Road location.

Jan and Cliff Tappa are shown in their rural Eldridge, Iowa, home. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

“We have gone through floods, COVID, deaths and illness. But the business has endured,” Jan Tappa recently wrote in an online message to the restaurant’s fans and supporters. “Thank you again to our hard working employees through the years and back. Thank you to the people and companies who helped (maintain) the inside and outside of the building. You kept the old girl going.”

Ms. Tappa said they will host special events and promotions during the week of Feb. 8 to celebrate their anniversary. However, she wants to keep those events pretty low key.

What won’t be low key will be the major exterior work that will take place this spring at Tappa’s Steak House. A grant program administered through the City of Davenport will provide funding for an extensive renovation including new siding, roof, doors and gutters.

“It’s going to be gorgeous… The building needs it,” said Mr. Tappa.

The project – expected to cost between $60,000 to $70,000 – is set to begin in April and last up to six weeks. Rolando Palma Company of Davenport will be the contractor.

But don’t worry, steak fans. Tappa’s is scheduled to remain open for business during the renovation.

The exterior upgrade will be just the latest chapter for a business that has a long history and has fed generations of foodie fans through the Quad Cities region and beyond.

For many years, those fans came to know the business through the long running advertising slogan: “Great steaks don’t just happen.” (That slogan had the goal of telling customers that Tappa’s great steaks take time, talent, knowledge and patience to create.)

Mr. Tappa said they had the “Great steaks” campaign for 17 years and  “it vaulted us into the stratosphere as far as business goes; it doubled our business.”

But times change and the slogan was eventually dropped. Today, the business does much of its advertising through online campaigns. Its Facebook page tells customers of Tappa’s daily specials like Tenderloin Thursdays and Steak Sammie Hump Day.

But for many foodie fans, it is those steaks that keep them coming back for more. It is dishes like the 18-ounce porterhouse, 16-ounce New York strip, 14-ounce ribeye dinner and filet mignon dinners that are the fan favorites.

Even after more than 50 years in the restaurant business, Mr. Tappa still loves to talk about what makes a great steak. “They call me the ‘Godfather of Steaks’ around here because I have been doing it since 1966. I know how to read meat,” said Mr. Tappa, who turned 74 on Feb. 4.

But the success of Tappa’s Steak House isn’t just the great food; it also centers on the loyal employees offering great customer service. Tappa’s has 10 to 11 employees.

In fact, Mr. Tappa doesn’t like to use the term “employees.” “They are family,” he added.

Mr. Tappa still enjoys working with his family at the restaurant, but hasn’t been in the business for several months because of health issues. Over the years, he has battled cancer, infections, leg and foot problems. He has been told by his doctor to stay away from work.

During a recent visit to the Tappas’ home in rural Eldridge, he told the QCBJ that he is improving and hopes to return to the restaurant at some point in the future. “I feel great. … I’m doing what I can to get better,” he said.

Ms. Tappa added that her husband’s “attitude has been great” about the health challenges over the years.

As for the future, the Tappas say their Davenport steak house will continue to do business and feed their customers because – in a phrase they use often – “We are blessed.”

“We are going to keep running it until we can’t run it anymore,” Ms. Tappa added.

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