Jul 30 2016
Ask who is responsible for the revival of interest in Wisconsin supper clubs, and I’ll point a finger toward Ron Faiola, a multimedia entrepreneur in Greendale whose “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” film (in 2011) and book (in 2013) started the snowball of momentum.
The book is in its seventh printing, and now Ron offers “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round” (Agate Midway, $35), the second volume of this project. He identifies 50 more supper clubs, covering the state’s most remote to urbane areas.
Ron is a purist who features supper-only supper clubs, “although I still make an exception for supper clubs that also serve brunch.” He also makes room for the popular Maricque’s Bar, Green Bay, “not a traditional supper club” but open only three days a week and a crowd pleaser because of the perch fry and booyah.
Results from Ron’s impromptu, online survey of supper club lovers had 65 percent of participants favoring the relish tray over the salad bar, and cheese spread edging out liver paté (52 vs. 48 percent). Unexpected, in the book, is a fun and informative “Ode to the Doggie Bag.”
Look for Ron in conversation with Kyle Cherek, host of the “Wisconsin Foodie” TV show, at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, at 7 p.m. Aug. 8. He also signs books from 6-7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Barnes and Noble, 2500 N. Mayfair Rd., Milwaukee.
“Another Round,” although significant, isn’t the only news in the world of supper clubs.
Open since spring in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is Millie’s Supper Club, 2438 N. Lincoln Ave. Owner Brian Reynolds, who also operates the German beer hall Prost! just one block away, named his new endeavor after his grandmother. He runs with childhood memories of Wisconsin vacations that always included dinner at Mars Resort on Lake Como, near Lake Geneva.
Décor at the 100-seat Millie’s – plush, red leathery seating and Up North wall kitsch – sets a perfect supper club vibe in this former nightclub. Emlyn Thomas, general manager, still seeks a Hamm’s beer sign that shows motion (“nobody wants to give theirs up”). A semi-circular booth for 10 unofficially separates bar and dining areas.
Fair prices, an unpretentious atmosphere and friendly employees are Millie’s priorities. Wisconsin connections count, too: On staff are a bartender from Fish Creek, a former Ishnala employee, a guy whose cell has a 414 area code. And Emlyn notes that his girlfriend is from Sheboygan.
Broasted chicken and prime rib are on Millie’s menu daily. So is whitefish from Lake Superior and a vegetarian booyah. Bartenders craft six types of Old Fashioned cocktails, and Emlyn says a “build your own” option is in the works, with choices for bitters and sweetening (sugar cube, simple syrup) as well as alcohol and garnish.
My vote is to add Squirt as a mixer option because I lack enthusiasm for the cocktail with house-made sour mix that weighs in at $12. Food prices are fair, especially by Chicago standards: Most entrees are under $20 and include a house salad.
Millie’s is two blocks from the Apollo Theater and one mile from Lincoln Park Zoo. It already is undergoing transitions: The Chicago Tribune reported that the head chef left July 1 because of creative differences. millieschicago.com, 773-857-2000
Employees at Millie’s are shown the documentary “Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club” on the first night of training, says Emlyn Thomas. The filmmaker, Holly De Ruyter, continues to book screenings for her popular 2015 work.
“The Splendid Table,” a culinary program that airs on around 400 National Public Radio stations, soon features Holly in an interview about supper clubs. The episode also is accessible as a podcast, beginning Aug. 5. splendidtable.org
An Old Fashioned cocktail category is new at the Wisconsin State Fair and has 43 entrants, says Jill Albanese, director of competitive exhibits. She describes it as “just a fun contest to get new participants to enter” the fair’s culinary competitions.
The Packing House, 900 E. Layton Ave., Milwaukee, is the contest sponsor. The longtime supper club, within view of General Mitchell International Airport, is known for its banana cream pie as well as supper club fare. packinghousemke.com, 414-483-5054
Cocktail judging is 3:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at the fair’s Horticulture, Craft and Culinary Pavilion. The one-pint Mason jar entries are rated on taste, appearance and creativity/originality. The winner gets $150, second place is $75 and third is $50. wistatefair.com
Picture this: orange pound cake, cream cheese filling with brandy and maraschino cherries. Coat slices with batter and deep fry. Top with orange caramel and bitters reduction whipped cream. Garnish with a cherry and slice of orange.
That’s the Deep Fried Ol’ Fashioned, which made its debut at Summerfest this year, thanks to Trinity Three Irish Pubs. The State Fair provides another opportunity to taste it, at the Water Street Brewery booth. Both restaurants are owned by the same company. waterstreetbrewery.com, 414-272-1195
You say you’re a fan of the Old Fashioned? Now you can share the love with an emoji via an app by OnMilwaukee.com. The spot-on image is one of more than 50 Wisconsin-centric emoji stickers that can be installed at locamoji.me.
Stamm House, 6625 Century Ave., Middleton, temporarily closed July 8 because owners want to revisit what they began in this 1847 building about one year ago. The restaurant is expected to return to its supper club roots in some way.
“When we reopen in several weeks you will notice a whole new dining experience and focus,” says a Facebook note from owners Troy Rost and Jim Hagstrom. “To all who return and try us out again you will enjoy a completely new menu featuring foods that you recognize and truly love.”
Longtime fans rave about the chicken and dumplings, on the menu for generations, but the newest restaurant owners touted specialties like ahi tuna flatbread with ratatouille. Stay tuned. 1847stammhouse.com, 608-203-9430
New owners at Buck-A-Neer Supper Club, D1891 Hwy. C, Stratford, tease fans on Facebook with promises to keep longtime favorites and introduce an updated interior. Owners Tom and Ann Seubert and Roy and Jeannie Seubert retired in June after the family’s 43 years of business.
“We’ll keep a rustic look, keep it familiar and keep the same (menu) traditions,” says Dave Jasruda, a new co-owner with wife Judy, daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Gavin Love.
Gone is the New York Giants paraphernalia, which the Seuberts took with them because son Rich played with the team for 10 years. Staying is the salad bar and Ann’s wide collection of dessert recipes; assortments filled a table during Sunday brunches.
Menu changes will happen, but gradually, Dave says. Buttermilk fried chicken, spinach and mushroom stuffed chicken and sun-dried tomato and basil stuffed chicken – when floated on Facebook – got a thumb’s up from the Buck-A-Neer’s attentive fans.
A reopening is expected by early September. facebook.com/buckaneersupperclub, 715-384-2629
Red Mill Supper Club, 1222 County HH West, Stevens Point, which opened as the Tip Top bar and grill in 1937, is under new ownership. Chef Matt Carlyle is a Le Cordon Bleu grad who renamed the business Old 10 Bistro, expanded the martini menu, from-scratch pasta choices and introduced farm-to-table fare such as ginger molasses pork lettuce wraps and tempura fried asparagus.
Don and Melissa Thompson owned the Red Mill for 15 years, until selling to Matt earlier this year. old10bistro.org, 715-341-7714
Even upscale Kohler chefs are acknowledging supper club fever. The new Chef’s Table Dinner Series on Tuesdays in August features chef Amanda Weber’s celebration of supper clubs from 6-8 p.m. Aug 23.
On the three-course menu is a relish tray and oysters Rockefeller; Filet Oskar, asparagus and baked potato; and schaum torte.
The price is $60, or $79 with wine pairings at the Demonstration Kitchen, 725 Woodlake Rd. kohlerathome.com (see “special events”), 855-444-2838
Last: I keep writing about supper clubs for TravelWisconsin.com, the state tourism department’s website. Three upcoming topics are unusual entrée specialties, exquisite/unusual dessert cocktails and supper clubs located along scenic autumn drives. Put your favorites on my radar, and I would love to visit places new to me.