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Dart into Skeeters for burgers

COAL VALLEY -- While Skeeter's Bar & Grille is named after the petite woman who co-owns it, the Skeeter Burgers she serves are big enough to satisfy a robust appetite.

Dispatch/Argus photo by John Greenwood

Skeeter's co-owner Rita Moreland visits with customers at her bar and grill on 1st Avenue in Coal Valley. The establishment is a popular spot for pics, or darts, night, as well as watching sporting events on large-screen televisions.

Rita Moreland and her husband, Dick, of Moline opened the casual spot at 102 E. 1st Ave., Coal Valley, in August 1995.

``We'd looked at lots of places, but when we walked in here, I liked it because it's kind of homey,'' Ms. Moreland said recently. ``We've got really good customers. Everyone's easygoing, and they're real friendly. It's kind of like a family.''

Among Skeeter's bestsellers are its Skeeter Burgers, Ms. Moreland said. Besides a hand-formed and seasoned beef patty, they include Swiss and American cheeses and grilled mushrooms and onions. They sell for $2.45.

For the same price, customers also order Jerry Burgers, which consist of a Skeeter Burger plus red hot peppers mixed in with the beef.

``We named it after a customer who always asked us to put peppers on his burger,'' Ms. Moreland said.

The full-service bar also is known for its Summer Hummers, which customers order all year-round. They are made with vodka, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice and a splash of 7-UP.

Among the menu's other items are tenderloins, chicken, catfish, pork chops, grilled cheese, appetizers and early this year will feature steak strips. Daily specials and carryouts also are available.

Mr. Moreland owned the Shell service station in Kennedy Square for 18 years, then sold it about a year ago to devote more time to Skeeter's. Ms. Moreland, who has spent years working in bars and restaurants, said she finally realized, ``Hey, we could do this ourselves.''

The energetic woman said she spends more than 100 hours a week between Skeeter's and her other job as administrative assistant at a Rock Island metal company. On Saturday mornings, she comes to Skeeter's to spice hamburger meat, hand-cut French fries and get the place ready to open.

When the Snowmobile Club stops by, Ms. Moreland often serves chili. Birthdays and football game days also mean special food.

``We're a neighborhood bar that gets people from Orion, Sherrard and Moline, too,'' Ms. Moreland said. ``When our house burned down March 1, our customers took good care of us. We had a total loss, but when I looked in the back room here, it was filled with bags and bags and bags of clothes.''

Renovating that back room and adding it to the bar and restaurant area are among the Moreland's plans to expand the business. Meanwhile, customers seem happy to play darts, MegaTouch video and the jukebox and to eat popcorn in the space available.

Ms. Moreland said she maintains her fast pace, which includes driving three children to various events, by not letting herself stop to think about being tired.

``You just go,'' she said. ``If I sit down, though, I'm done. It might be a lot of work, but it's worth it.''

Skeeter's hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight Sunday.

-- By Carol Loretz (January 26, 1998)

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