How to Eat Your Way at Wisconsin’s Best Supper Clubs

Supper clubs originated in London in the 1880s, as late-night members-only establishments where the theatrical community went for food, drink and dancing after the performance. The idea took root in truck stops and speakeasy in the United States during Prohibition, and then as more stylish iterations, which flourished across the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

The History of Wisconsin Supper Clubsby Ron Faiola, covers the state’s love for these nostalgic restaurants.

Ron Faiola

“Everyone knew a ‘supper club’ meant steak, seafood and great cocktails,” says Ron Faiola, author and filmmaker who produced a documentary on the supper clubs of Wisconsin and is working on his fourth book about them, Wisconsin Supper Clubs, Second Editionwhich is due out in December 2023. “There were dinner parties and dances, and you were spending the whole evening there.”

The popularity of American supper clubs faded in the 1970s and 1980s, but they remained staunchly popular in Wisconsin, where vacationers came to hike, fish, kayak and stock up on steaks, seafood and chops. Over the past decade, these supper clubs have experienced a resurgence among diners drawn to the nostalgic vibe of generally affordable family restaurants.

Dancing has mostly fallen by the wayside, along with the once-ubiquitous platter of relish, pickles, black olives and sliced ​​vegetables that supper clubs were known to serve, but many still offer a fish fry Friday night, a special Saturday prime rib, and roast chicken and ribs on Sunday.

“It’s comfort food and it’s a community-friendly place,” says Faiola, who was introduced to supper clubs during fishing trips to Wisconsin with his grandfather. “You get to meet people you know, it’s relaxing, you have a big prime rib or your favorite steak and potato, and you always come home with a doggy bag.” Another eve of a supper club? Craft cocktails, usually old-fashioned made with brandy, as well as ice cream drinks like grasshoppers and pink squirrels.

Today, nearly 300 supper clubs still operate in Wisconsin. Here are several not to be missed.

Ishnala is a cornerstone of Wisconsin supper clubs, serving roast duck and old-fashioned fare right on Mirror Lake.

Ron Faiola

Ishala

Lake Delton, Wisconsin

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