Special to TravelWisconsin.com
We expect Friday fish fry and Saturday prime rib specials at Wisconsin supper clubs, but beyond all the luscious steaks and succulent seafood is wiggle room for unique signature foods, authentic ethnic cooking, creative dishes that address dietary concerns and gourmet flair that resembles fine dining.
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Time to get acquainted with Alfredo, Rossini, linguini and fettuccini. Home cooking includes Italian sauces, pastas, sausage and meatballs at this Florence County supper club that the Fontecchio family began in 1959.
A taste of Capistrano doesn’t mean sacrificing thick chops, golden-brown fish or other traditional supper club fare. But expect spaghetti or gnocchi as side choices in addition to baked potatoes and fries. Save room for house-made tiramisu at the third-generation business.
Uncommon, outside of Door County in Wisconsin, are fish boils – an open-fire stew of fish, red potatoes and onions – but an exception is Fitzgerald’s near the Illinois border. That’s where an all-you-can-eat fish boil is served all year, whenever the supper club is open.
Add honey-barbecue chicken or ribs from the grill, coleslaw and rye bread to round out the meal. For dessert: frosted apple squares. All is served inside a classy Victorian octagon house downtown.
We deep-fry cheese curds, mushrooms, onion rings and lots more in Wisconsin, but rare is this offering: deep-fried turtle, lightly battered. Look for it under the seafood part of the menu, served on Wednesday and Thursday whenever available.
About that “3 mile” reference: The roadhouse is just three miles from the Wisconsin-Iowa-Illinois border. The supper club’s creamy cheese spread is so popular that batches are packaged and sold in Iowa and Wisconsin grocery stores.
Vegetarians get far more than a salad and baked potato as dining choices, thanks to chef-owner Gabe Lagalo, whose cooking includes baked polenta with Asiago cheese and garlic mushrooms, plus grilled seitan slathered with house-made barbecue sauce.
Lagalo smokes his own meats. Culinary surprises begin with the appetizer course, where crispy duck wings are dunked into a sweet chili sauce, a from-scratch onion dip arrives with sea-salted potato chips and calamari is breaded by hand before fried.
The names refer to two German families who immigrated to Wisconsin and met through sausage making. Descendants stay true to proud German recipes and traditions, in addition to customary supper club offerings.
The attached neighborhood tavern serves breakfast, but supper diners move into the spacious Steinhaus, where polka bands perform occasionally. Rouladen, schnitzels, pork hocks and other German specialties rule, as do braised red cabbage, Germany potato salad, potato dumplings and spaetzel.
Think wild, as in boar sirloin wrapped in bacon, or boar chops with peppercorn sauce. These might be daily specials, influenced by the late Harry Copiskey, the owner who introduced exotic meats to the menu.
Cooks continue some of this culinary excitement today. Orders of octopus swim in vodka-marina sauce, a strawberry-basil reduction accompanies sautéed scallops and grilled (sushi-grade) tuna might be paired with maple-bacon Brussels spouts.
Up for some scenic supper club dining? Check out these Wisconsin supper clubs with gorgeous lake views!