The Duck Inn, Delavan, Wisconsin
Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds – a perfect Wisconsin Supper Club
Relish Tray: yes, costs $1.25
Ice Cream Drinks: abundant and indulgant
Ambiance: Ducks for days
The Duck Inn, in Delavan, Wisconsin is everything you could ever want out of a Wisconsin Supper Club. The name comes from the prohibition era, when patrons could secretly “duck in” for a drink. A sign over the entrance says “Welcome to The Duck Inn, Waddle Out”, which is just the start of the duck decor. There are ducks everywhere – duck curtains cover duck wallpaper, on walls that have duck artwork and duck figurines, all lit by duck covered lampshades. An embroidered pillow says “Shut the duck up” and behind the bar there’s a magnificent diorama featuring taxidermy ducks above a real fish tank. Together, it’s the perfect balance of quirky, woodsy and all-around charming.
We visited on a Friday night, and it was busy with fish fry seekers. I can’t think of a better place to wait for a table, sitting at the bar in front of the duck diorama, sipping excellent old fashioneds and taking in the duck decor.
When it was time to eat, we were led to the main dining room, right in front of a large fireplace. The dining room is warm and inviting, 100% wood paneled, and shaped a bit like an upside-down canoe. The Duck Inn has a relish tray available for $1.25 – a price we were happy to pay, especially after we tried the tangy, homemade buttermilk ranch dipping sauce. I’m sure it would rub some supper-club-frequenters the wrong way to have to pay for something that is often complimentary, but Owen and I both love a crinkle carrot so much, we don’t mind the extra fee. A little research taught us that the owners decided to charge $1.25 for a relish tray, rather than raise the prices on their menu, which we appreciated.
While the duck entrees were particularly tempting to Owen, we both went with the all-you-can-eat fish fry. Since the fish fry is a special, it does not come with the normal sides (choice of soup, juice, tossed salad or spinach salad, choice of potato or rice, bread, crackers and cheese), but instead fries or potato pancakes, coleslaw, applesauce and rye bread. I caught a glance of a bread basket at another table, and it looked starchy and respectable. We opted to start with a spinach salad, and quite enjoyed the sweet and smoky dressing.
When Owen’s plate of smelt arrived, he delightedly said “I’m going to eat so many of these little fish! How many times have you eaten 20 animals in one sitting?” His “fish fries” (his term) had a thick batter and went well with the ample tartar sauce. My cod was flaky and moist, but I only had eyes for the potato pancakes. One thing to know about me – I love a good potato. Mashed, fried, stick em in a pancake – I can’t get enough. These potato pancakes were divine, the interior had shredded potato mixed with a chive-y mashed potato, all lightly fried. Per tradition, it was served with applesauce, but not just Mott’s. The chunky applesauce and sour cream complimented the dreamy potato pancakes perfectly. If everything else about the evening had been a disaster, this potato pancake might have made up for it (for me at least).
In the time we were there, it was hard to miss the ice cream drinks. Most tables seemed to finish their meal with a towering mountain of an ice cream drink. We overheard our server tell another table they could order a half-sized grasshopper, and decided to do the same. Even “half” size, the two of us struggled to finish it. From afar, it appeared to be served in a green glass, but on closer inspection, it was just covered in green syrup.
All in all, Owen and I spent about three hours at the Duck Inn, not to mention the hour or so drive each way. The slow, relaxed pace of the evening really added to our experience. This is one reason why Owen and I like supper clubs so much – it’s not just about going out to dinner, but a destination. And we certainly did waddle out.