Supper Club?

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 

A supper club.  I've been asked multiple times in conversation after mentioning a supper club, "what is a supper club."  I always look back with a "what do you mean what is a supper club?" type of expression.  I try to explain, after I realize it is definitely an upper MidWest thing, "you know, a supper club.  A restaurant that serves American cuisine, has a bar...a supper club." 

And the blank stare continues...

A supper club is circa 1950's, maybe a little before or maybe even a bit later.  You frequent the social club atmosphere by having a cocktail before dinner (this is a must in Wisconsin) then indulging in steak, prime rib, fish, pasta, etc. at an affordable price.  This meal is usually served with dinner rolls, choice of potato (unless you get pasta, but by all means, I'm not judging carb lovers.  Twice baked and baked potatoes are always a guaranteed option) and of course, the salad and soup bar.  Supper clubs are the places that after dinner, you head back to the bar for an after dinner drink.  And not just any drink, but maybe a Grasshopper (made with ice cream, not cream) or White Cadillac (once again, with ice cream.  Make that bartender get her/his arm workout!) 

All that in one establishment.  A supper club.

Back in the day they were social clubs for people to get out of the city for a drive, have cocktails, listen to live bands, indulge in some surf and turf, have a few more drinks with friends and then head home for the evening.  So yes, a restaurant, but with flair.  Maybe even prohibition esque, who knows.

I understand outside of Wisconsin (and maybe Michigan and Minnesota,) supper clubs are an anomaly.  But, I grew up with these and frequented them with my parents.  When I visit the big W state, I continue to visit these establishments.  This week I've already dined at Eve's (had a great mediterranean wrap with pub chips, and of course, beer battered onion rings as an appetizer to share with the group) and just last night, my dad and I made our way to the outskirts of Shawano for the Cotton Patch.

Ahh, circa 1960's signage

My father is a member of a few Corvette clubs in Wisconsin.  Last night, he invited me to join him as his date for the Corvettes of the Bay May run.  I absolutely look forward to poppa time, so we hopped into his yellow Corvette and enjoyed driving to Shawano (about 30 minutes outside of GBC) with about 17 other "vettes" on our way for some great food.  If you haven't seen a plethora of Corvettes driving together, it is a sight to see.  Just sayin'...

I also learned the average age of a Corvette owner is 55.  I brought that average down last night, let me tell you.

Just a few of the cars - the yellow one in the back is my poppa's.

At the Cotton Patch (with my hair all messed up, forgot to tie back the hair with the car top down) we all sat at the bar and ordered a drink.  My dad is a lover of gin martini's.  I myself ordered a dirty martini, extra dirty, with olives (though I was sad that no bleu cheese was in my glass, it was still mighty tasty.)  This is another thing about W that other people do not usually experience outside of the state: the beverage "old fashioned" and Kessler's whiskey.  The 30+ that were sitting with us were mostly drinking that. No beer before dinner, another unspoken rule of supper clubs.

We made our way to dinner, where I ordered wild mushroom stuffed ravioli with duck confit, drizzled with a bourbon cream sauce and balsamic vinager.  Dad - he ordered himself some Jack Daniel's ribs with a baked potato.  We were then encouraged to indulge in the simple, yet satisfying, salad and soup bar.

The soup, labeled "Cheesy Potatoe" (yes, potatoe, not potato) was fantastic. Homemade of course, it was creamy and indulgent as cheddar soup should be, seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. The potatoes, with skin still on, were chunky but sized for easy chomping. And of course, topped with more shredded cheddar...this is the big W after all.

The salad is your basic salad bar, and when I say basic, I mean it.  You have some iceburg lettuce (my dear friend SB, the up and coming registered dietician, would frown on this water based, nutrient lacking green) and simple accompanients.  Your choices are the dressings, ranging from your standard ranch to (if you are lucky) hot bacon.  Both my dad and I are lovers of hot bacon dressing, so we opted for some bacon love and finished it off with croutons.  Simple, but hey, you aren't there for the salad. 

Main course - this is what you are there for.  I was going to order the Macadamia encrusted mahi mahi, but was informed people "keep returning for the duck confit."  Who am I to say no to a firm suggestion?

You wouldn't expect this from a "supper club" would you?

The server was right - the duck confit was fantastic.  The bourbon cream sauce over the wild mushroom ravioli was beautiful and oh so tasty.  Though heavy, the creamy base complimented the al dente pasta.  The wild mushrooms were great, but masked a bit due to the heavy sauce.  The balsamic vinegar finished the tender duck confit like it should - deliciously.

Of course, we wrapped up the dinner and after dinner drink.  My dad and I broke the rules and had a beer, while those around us enjoyed their Grasshopper's. 

Now, for all of you non Wisconsinites - you want to dine at a Supper Club, don't you?

Thanks for a great evening dad (and I know you are reading this...)