More than just sweets are in store for diners enjoying a meal at Sweet Peas Grill and Bar in Geneseo. This popular tourist attraction for cross-country road trippers and locals alike occupies an ideal location off Interstate 80, about 20 miles east of the Quad Cities.
Adam Minard, owner of Sweet Peas, has nearly 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry. In the past, he as worked as a delivery driver, dishwasher, pizza maker, manager and operating partner. “The next step would be the sole proprietor of my own restaurant,” he says.
In February 2016, that next step became a reality when he purchased Sweet Peas from its previous owners. “I purchased the restaurant with the goal of rebranding and revitalizing what I believed could be a great restaurant for the small town of Geneseo,” Minard says.
Since taking over, Minard has made it his mission to prepare food he would enjoy himself – high-quality, locally sourced meals in a relaxing atmosphere. He wants the restaurant to highlight Midwest flavors, its residents and hospitality.
Travelers staying in the nearby Best Western are mere steps from Sweet Peas’ front door. However, although popular among visitors, most diners are loyal locals. Sweet Peas attracts a variety of guests, from seniors to families to school-age kids with its casual, friendly atmosphere.
For Minard, it isn’t just about the people visiting his restaurant. It is also about family. In a way, that’s depicted right on the menu. “The Hendrix” is a half-pound Angus burger topped with applewood bacon, peanut butter and waffle fries, and served with a side of raspberry chipotle sauce. The pork tenderloin has been renamed “The Gibby.” Both sandwiches are named after his sons.
Guests can enjoy in-house dining or patio seating during nice weather. When it is too cold for the patio, there is a fireplace providing warmth inside. Sweet Peas also has a full-service bar with its own hours.
When it comes to food, Sweet Peas has a large selection of options, from appetizers and burgers to steaks and pasta to its famous chicken tenders. Those chicken tenders are famous for a reason – they are plate-sized and offered in a variety of coatings, such as beer-battered, pretzel-battered and grilled.
Tenders come with a choice of honey mustard, buffalo, garlic Parmesan, BBQ, bourbon, raspberry chipotle or Boom Boom (a sweet and spicy mayo). All sauces are made from scratch in Sweet Peas’ kitchen. For those wanting a sweeter chicken, maple syrup can be added for a chicken and waffles plate.
Another buzzworthy dish is the jalapeño popper chicken sandwich – a pretzel-battered chicken breast, applewood bacon, jalapenos, pepper jack and cream cheese with a raspberry chipotle sauce served with the fan-favorite waffle fries.
Dotting the menu are a handful of markers denoting “Sweet Peas House Favorites.” These include stuffed green pepper soup, brisket and mac, beer-battered cheese sticks, the Sweet Peas Cuban (an 8-ounce flat-iron steak), and the “Smokin’ Burger” (a half-pound Angus burger with smoked brisket, bacon and smoked Gouda topped with a bourbon glaze).
Decadent desserts like the chocolate overload cake (a triple-layer chocolate cake) or the made-from-scratch cheesecake with the choice of chocolate, strawberry, cherry or caramel topping, are also options.
Minard says the future of his restaurant has become cloudy since the COVID-19 pandemic. “Prior, I had goals of opening multiple locations. That direction has shifted more to smaller ideas of catering or having a food truck in the possible future.”
Minard was fortunate to have a supportive staff who stuck with him through the challenges during the last few years. He also thanks his community for their support. “I was so blessed to be in a small community that rallied around us and helped keep our doors open.”
During the pandemic, the business shifted to carryout orders but is once again open to diners. However, the lessons learned from the pandemic have led Sweet Peas to keep carryout as an option for diners wanting to order meals to go.
Most days, Minard can be found in the restaurant checking on every table. He strives to provide great food and great service. “I feel those two things must go hand in hand,” Minard says. “Again, I am blessed to have the community of Geneseo and all my loyal staff behind me. Without everyone, this dream of mine would never have come true.”