By Mary Bergin
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Supper club owners know the drill: Friday fish fry, Saturday prime rib and maybe a fat brunch of soups, salads, meats and desserts on Sunday. Supper club lovers expect and embrace this, but lots of these restaurateurs also find way to experiment and add a contemporary spin to menus.
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Chef Susan Birkey is a certified dietary manager, so mention special dietary concerns when making a dinner reservation and watch her cook up a creative culinary storm.
From-scratch recipes pay homage to the Northwoods’ love of hunting (think slow-roasted duck with a sauce of plum wine, ginger, star anise and more) and slight twists on tradition (like pork prime rib). Add a daily veal special, piccata to osso bucco.
The exterior looks like a dive bar, but inside farm-to-table dining with a Rock River view is taken way seriously.
Owners Vicki and Bill Millis raise organic veggies, chickens and pheasants at their Under the Oaks Farm. They also seek ingredients from other farmers in the region, make their own sausage and sell sauerkraut to kombucha by the pint.
Leave with leftovers from a meal, or frozen poultry to prepare at home on another day.
Customers were skittish when the restaurant group Food Fight in 2015 overhauled The Avenue, a traditional supper club that was much loved for decades by politicians to academics.
The new Avenue is sleeker in appearance and more spontaneous in menu but stays devoted to the spirit of supper club dining. Look for the hits, plus veggie fricassee, BBQ brisket mac and cheese, fried chicken sliders and more.
Much about the white-linen setting and meals is delectable and traditional, but few supper clubs also offer a late-night menu. Downtown clubbers in this college town can dine from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on steak or salmon sandwiches, poached scallops over mashed potatoes, escargot or cheese curds.
The abbreviated menu is served in The Corral, a snazzy bar-lounge below the supper club.
The Bartolotta Restaurants, home to James Beard Award winners, stays true to the supper club experience and sticks to classic preparations on this supper club’s menu.
Results are exceptional because Chef Andrew Ruiz and his culinary crew make almost every meal element in-house. They also add little surprises, like calf’s liver served with a sauce of currants and pearl onions. Meats sear in our 800-degree, Woodstone Josper charcoal broiler.