Half Nelson, new restaurant opening in Davenport in March

The Half Nelson
The Half Nelson is expected to open in early March at 312 E. 2nd St., Davenport.

by:  Amanda Hancock

The view of what’s inside may be hidden from passersby on East 2nd Street in downtown Davenport, but the paper coverings show something: The face — well, half of it — of country singer Willie Nelson.

His black-and-white profile is accompanied by this messaging: “Even half a nelson can be recognized as a country legend. Half Nelson. A new restaurant. Legendary. Soon.”

The sign is hinting at the eatery — called The Half Nelson — expected to open in early March, said co-owner Matthew Osborn.

“Our goal in opening this is to bring something a little bit more contemporary than other offerings in the Quad-Cities,” he said. “You go to Des Moines or Chicago and the restaurants are serving more of the moment food styles and trends, and less meat and potatoes.”

The idea surfaced several years ago for Osborn, a 28-year-old Davenport native who has long had a role in his family’s restaurant business. His parents, Mike and Carla Osborn, own Miss Mamie’s Catfish House in Moline and Mo Brady’s Steakhouse on Brady Street in Davenport.

“This business is basically all I know,” Osborn said. “When it gets in your blood, it can be the most exciting work you can do.”

He’s especially excited about opening The Half Nelson.

“This restaurant will be different from those in every way,” he said, comparing it to his family’s other restaurants.

After landing on the location, Osborn said inspiration struck — for the design, menu and name — of the restaurant, which will also feature an outdoor dining area.

The 4,000-square-foot Half Nelson takes up the east half of the historic building at 321 E. 2nd St., Davenport. It was built in 1922 by the N.O. Nelson Manufacturing Co., a Missouri-based manufacturer of plumbing and heating systems.

“One of the jumping off points was the history of the building,” he said. “It was built in the 1920s. A lot of inspiration came from that time frame of the first half of the century.”

The menu, which includes lunch and dinner and a unique bar program, draws influence from regional trends and ethnic cuisine as well as seasonality of ingredients. Osborn said the restaurant will serve plenty of vegetarian options, “beyond just big salads.”

“We’re inspired by old-school things like a beef wellington and figuring out a way to make it more interesting,” he said.

Osborn said he was set on opening the restaurant in downtown Davenport. When it opens, The Half Nelson, which is across the street from Great River Brewery, will be the latest in a string of developments in downtown Davenport over the last few years.

“We’ve seen it transform slowly over the past 10 years and then really pick up pace in the last year or two,” Osborn said. “It seemed like a good opportunity to be part of something that was trending in the right direction.”

“As you can see, a lot of people feel the same way,” Osborn added, as he looked out the window of his restaurant. “When we started looking three years ago, there were at least a dozen options downtown. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find buildings available.”

The Half Nelson’s next-door neighbor, Bootleg Hill Honey Meads, opened in November and Roam, a coffee-shop/restaurant/cocktail bar, opened nearby on East River Drive in late December.

Other relatively recent additions to the area include Abernathy’s, the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar and Raccoon Motel, Armored Gardens and Ruby’s Beers, Bikes & Brats.

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