Blue Cat Brew Pub still has the energy and excitement of a new restaurant after 24 strong years in downtown Rock Island.

This is no more apparent than with yet another first-prize award during the Culinary Classic at the Riverside Casino and Resort in Riverside, Iowa. Co-owner and head chef, Martha Cleaveland created a spicy sausage and goat cheese soup which helped add a trophy to her shelf for the second year in a row.

Blue Cat’s general manager Tyler Hedeen mentions, “This is pretty impressive given that she is going up against trained chefs and here she has taught herself.”

As far as inspiration for new and tasty concoctions goes, Martha doesn’t struggle to come up with new ideas. She may forage through the garden behind the restaurant to find fresh herbs to add to a recipe – most of which are in her head. Mostly, it’s finding something that she likes and building it to taste in her kitchen laboratory. While she has her favorites, the upcoming chip and dip has her excited.

“People have always come here for her soups,” says Tyler. “Tomato Blue Cheese is a favorite. We posted something on Facebook and it took off with people liking , commenting and sharing it.”

While the customers continue to line up for the soup, new menu items and specials pop up to make it even more interesting.

There’s a lot of creativity in the kitchen that both Martha and Tyler point out which helps break up the monotony that can come with day-to-day restaurant operations.

From one week to the next, they may be testing out smoking a brisket or playing with a new porchetta recipe.

The consistency and creativity of Blue Cat’s food keeps customers full and coming back. “We see a lot of familiar faces each week or when different events or shows are taking place,” says Tyler.

Martha adds, “It never gets tiresome. The people keep me going and it’s great to have a family-like feel to the place.”