Supper club lovers cherish the traditional, from a relish tray or salad bar to golden fish filets and steaks that sizzle. Chefs know customer expectations and sometimes add culinary surprises as seasons change.
Autumn is the time of year to take more comfort in the steaming soups, stews and more that use seasonal ingredients and soothe during brisk weather. See for yourself and enjoy the drive, especially as maple, oak, birch and ash trees do their brilliant change of leaf color in Wisconsin.
Inside a century-old building on the Rock River, menu specials pay attention to major community events all year. That means spaetzle with schnitzel or sauerbraten during Gemuetlichkeit Days in September, sautéed frog legs and freaky cocktail garnishes (fake eyeballs, anyone?) during Harry Potter Festival USA in October.
Long-loved and from-scratch comfort foods – mac and cheese, casseroles, pies – magically appear as temperatures dip. The restaurant owners also are farmers, and they go whole hog – literally – by making it their priority to cook with locally grown ingredients and Wisconsin products.
Within five miles of pure wilderness and the border with Michigan is an under-the-radar supper club whose entrée specials cater to foodies. That includes mahi mahi with a sweet potato wrap and duck confit in a peach Drambuie sauce during autumn. Match short ribs or sirloin with mashed cauliflower. Add a steak sauce of bourbon peppercorn, a salad dressing of lemon vinaigrette, relish trays with a tapenade and flavored butters.
“Old-time dining with new style food” is how one online reviewer favorably describes the culinary experience. Across the highway from Lanny’s, called the Bluegill Tearoom (wink, wink) during Prohibition, are lakeside cottages.
One sure sign of fall is the arrival of hearty Pork Osso Bucco. The braised, fall-off-the-shank meat with savory sauce is paired with mashed potatoes and other veggies. Hickory smoked barbecue ribs are a special all year.
At the helm at Indianhead is an executive chef with fine dining experience in New York City and Minneapolis. His soups are a nod to the season’s bounty, be it roasted tomato or pureed squash. Add apple cobbler for dessert and savor the setting, a sturdy lodge with fireplaces, built in just 36 days during 1939.
It is not unusual for cranberries and wild rice to make the menu during the autumn harvest in Wisconsin. An exception is Norwood Pines, nestled within red pines at Patricia Lake, which showcases the two ingredients all year.
Diners begin their meal with complimentary cranberry salsa and crispy, light tortilla chips. When owners tried to offer clam chowder with wild rice on just Fridays, customer demand turned it into a daily delight. Key ingredients come from Ocean Spray and the area’s farmers, known for their hefty cranberry production, and Chieftain Wild Rice Company, headquartered two hours west.
As winter nears, expect details about five-course meal nights with wine pairings. The fixed-price dinner theme might involve an ethnic cuisine (Asian, Spanish) or unusual meats (such as smoked wild boar ribs, for a wild game dinner).
This out-of-town supper club, known all year for its expansive wine selection, began as a simple beer and burger stop for fishermen long ago. Now a mix of gourmet and traditional fare, in a cozy setting that doubles as fine dining, it’s business as usual in Wisconsin’s beautifully remote Northwoods.