Some Wisconsin supper club operators are “lone rangers” who quietly do business under the radar. Sometimes they don’t advertise, or they’re overshadowed by restaurants in larger cities nearby. That makes the discovery of small-town or rural and remote places all the more fun, and each is big in personality and perfect for quality time with your favorite people. Head off the beaten path to explore these unforgettable supper clubs.
Owners Bob and Geri Guyette were both employees at the Black Otter when they married in 1998. Five years later, they bought the restaurant that means so much to them. And now, under their loving leadership, the Black Otter continues to be a local favorite. Visit for a petite cut of tenderloin, or arrive ravenous to tackle a ten-pound slab of prime rib. Eat all of that “extreme cut,” and the reward is a T-shirt, gift certificate and Wall of Fame induction.
What began as a blacksmith’s shop in the late 1800’s is now a favorite spot for Friday fish fry, good company and all-you-can-eat steak in central Wisconsin. At the Buck-A-Neer Supper Club, classic supper fare reigns supreme — meaning delicious prime rib and seafood, starting with a hand-muddled old fashioned and ending with a towering ice cream drink. The building’s original neon sign still reads “Buck-aneer,” an early owner’s reference to deer hunting that took place in the area.
“Generous portions at reasonable prices” is the motto at Cedar Lodge Supper Club, located on the quiet (east) side of Lake Winnebago and owned since 1988 by the same family, who takes pride in from-scratch cooking. All the meals here begin with their beloved cinnamon-spiced apple fritters.
Count the six-ounce, French-fried turkey breast — dipped into a sweetened batter before browning — as an unusual specialty at Dreamland, six miles east of Superior. The supper club’s history is lively: bands on the balcony and a speakeasy during Prohibition. What began as more of a stop for drinks in the 1920s is now a year-round destination for four-course dinners in good company.
When ordering at Donny's Girl, prepare to be tempted by the daily specials: cheese-blanketed lasagna, sauerbraten with gingersnap gravy, thin-sliced corned beef and cabbage among others. Add slow-roasted lamb shank or pork loin, salmon with an orange marmalade glaze, family-style servings of fish and chicken on Friday. Then save room for Chocolate Angel Pie. It’s the perfect spot for time spent with family — the club has some family history itself: Donny and Sue Bartlett owned the supper club, then named “Donny’s,” for 22 years. Now, their daughter Jaci owns it — she’s “Donny’s Girl” — along with her husband Lorn, and you’ll probably see their kids helping out at the restaurant too.
Just east of Appleton is a burg whose dining made the map decades ago and still earns rave reviews. Van Abel’s opened in 1848 as a saloon and rest stop for cattle-driving farmers en route to Green Bay. Now a fourth generation welcomes tables for two and wedding receptions for 500. On the menu: time-honored recipes for green beans and bean salad, chicken booyah and roasted chicken with dressing. Start with an Old Fashioned or Bloody Mary; each comes in a 16-ounce canning jar.