4 Super Supper Clubs
Last Updated: 11/19/2013
By Judith Berger
Supper clubs may have started in California, but they have their roots in Wisconsin. Lawrence Frank, a Milwaukee native, is credited with opening the first supper club in Beverly Hills in the 1920s.
The classic supper club usually has a swanky bar adjacent to the dining room where a customer can order a Brandy Old Fashioned (Sweet or Sour) and socialize. Supper clubs tend to be outside of town, near a lake or resort area, with a menu of steak, chops, chicken and baked fish with the accompanying soup, salad, potato and relish tray. A supper club wouldn’t be authentic in Wisconsin if it doesn’t serve a Friday fish fry.
According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, Frank is credited with coining the term “doggie bag” – the package that went home with customers containing food served but not eaten by his all-too-full customers. So the next time you leave a restaurant with a “doggie bag,” think of the iconic supper club. Here are four that live up to the moniker.
This supper club was named to honor the hometowns – Delton and Baraboo – of the original owners. Jeff Wimmer currently owns Del-Bar, situated just 2 ½ miles south of the Wisconsin Dells. It is the prime Angus steak that draws guests to this destination spot. “All our steaks are prime grade from certified Angus beef,” Wimmer says. Entrees that include filet mignon, Midwest walleye, wild salmon and jumbo shrimp are served with freshly baked rolls; a choice of baked, mashed or hash brown potatoes or rice pilaf; and a green or spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. Friday fish fry is served.
Ray Radigan's Restaurant
“We are one of the last roadhouses – maybe in the country,” says manager Linda Bauer. “We are truly a destination spot.” Opened in 1933, this supper club makes everything from scratch – from salad dressings to pie crusts. There’s not a heat lamp or microwave on the premises. The menu includes Lake Superior whitefish either pan-fried or broiled (“people come from all over the country to have it”) as well as veal, roast duckling, dry-aged steaks and calves’ liver. Dinner includes potato or rice pilaf, soup – vegetable-beef is the restaurant’s signature soup – or salad and rolls. Desserts include banana cream pie, coconut cream pie and strawberry shortcake with homemade baking powder biscuits.
Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club
A Madison tradition since 1947, the Esquire Club was named “Best Supper Club - 2009” by Madison Magazine. Now in its third generation of Kavanaughs, its menu sparkles with great Angus steaks, lobster, seafood and nightly specials. Their traditional Friday night fish fry is served with all the trimmings, including a terrific homemade coleslaw. Seafood entrees include walleye, catfish, salmon, crab legs and cold-water lobster. Their luncheon specials always include delicious soup and sandwich combinations as well as heartier fare.
High Shores Supper Club
On the shores of Lake Wissota, this supper club offers beautiful surroundings and an extensive menu that includes stuffed filet mignon, tiger shrimp, walleye and barbecue pork ribs. Entrees come with a trip to the huge soup and salad bar that stocks warm rolls and garlic toast. Dinners also come with a choice of potato – baked, French fries, hash browns, au gratin and a la Dutch. The Dutch potato is a customer favorite, says co-owner Diane Schroeder (with husband Dennis). “It’s a kind of double-baked but served in a bowl not in the skin.” The dessert tray offers six different kinds of cheesecake. Friday fish fry and a Sunday champagne breakfast buffet are served.
Judith Berger is a freelance writer based in West Allis. Content produced in cooperation with Wisconsin Trails, www.Wisconsintrails.com.