Dorf Haus Supper Club, Roxbury, Wisconsin
Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds, one of our all time favorite supper clubs.
Relish Tray: no, but relish tray type foods at the salad bar
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: entrees vary from about $15 to about $27
Ambiance: a perfect, German-style supper club
Owen grew up in Milwaukee, and that city’s German heritage has colored his identity quite a bit. He loves a good spaetzle, he thinks sauerkraut can cure a cold, and even he claims his first solid food was liverwurst. Despite a stronger German lineage, I’m not one to seek out German foods, aside from a nice bratwurst at the game. When Owen first suggested we try the Dorf Haus, I was ambivalent to say the least. The German ambiance and foods did not call my name at all, but I knew how much he would love it. What I didn’t expect was for it to become one of my all-time favorite supper clubs.
I love the interior of the Dorf Haus. Maybe it’s because our last visit was on a dreary rainy day, but everything about it feels like an invitation for a cozy, comfortable meal, down to the heavy front door. It’s dark inside, dripping with nods to Germany. Sure, there are beer steins and stuffed pheasants galore but it doesn’t end there. One of my many, many favorite things about the Dorf Haus is the murals. Quite a few murals grace the walls of the bar area and the dining rooms and they are perfectly wonky and delightful. They add charm to the Dorf Haus similar to how a blue ceiling with puffy white clouds adds charm to a child’s bedroom. In some, the images aren’t perfect, but that just adds to their charisma.
In the past, when visiting the Dorf Haus, we’ve had to wait quite a while for a table, so we arrived nice and early this time. Of course, we don’t mind waiting for a table at all, and if anything we were a bit disappointed that we got ushered to our table at 5pm on the nose.
Everything at the Dorf Haus feels friendly. As we were getting settled at our table, we overheard a server tell a family how she loved when kids come to the Dorf Haus because she remembered coming with her parents. People greeted each other from other tables. Even the coat rack in the hallway full of rain coats felt friendly. Not enough restaurants have coat racks these days. There’s something so specific to the culture of a supper club that requires an area reserved for your coat – it says “stay a while“.
Because we love the Dorf Haus so much, we really wanted to do it right – appetizers and all. I let Owen pick whatever appetizer he wanted, and of course, his first choice was the pickled gizzard. He just loves an unusual (read: gross) pickled meat. To my delight, the server wouldn’t let us order them, because, wouldn’t you know, they were already included in the salad bar. In a panic, he ordered the “Hollerin’ Jalapeño Pretzel”. I’m not sure that I would use the word hollerin’ to describe it, because we didn’t find it to be particularly spicy, but it was a cheese-filled pretzel, and mighty delicious.
Our entrees both came with a visit to the salad bar. I love a good salad bar (who doesn’t) and the Dorf Haus has a particularly nice one. Before the main section of the salad bar, there’s a little crock pot with warm bacon dressing and some spinach to go with. The salad bar has everything you would want to make your own side salad and relish tray, plus some fun extras, like bean salad and of course, Owen was able to get his fill of pickled gizzards. Owen tried the warm bacon dressing, and compared it to “German potato salad juice”, sweet and warm and bacony. I had cottage cheese and french dressing on my salad. It wouldn’t be hard to make a similar salad at my own house, but I just don’t.
As if that weren’t enough, the meal also comes with soup. We tried the cheesy potato and ham soup, which was lovely with a sprinkle of parsley.
The Dorf Haus has a couple sections on their menu: “American Favorites” (think steak and seafood), “Senior Citizen”, “Evening Sandwiches” (not like those other, daytime sandwiches), and “Speisekarte” (AKA German Specialties). Each time we’ve gone, we’ve both stuck to the German Specialties. Each time we’ve tried a German Speciality, its been so good I can’t imagine ordering anything else. I’m sure all their food is wonderful, but the German specialties are really, well, special.
For his meal, Owen tried the German Sausage Platter, described as “the best of the wurst and a hock”. It came with knackwurst, weisswurst, a smoked pork hock, plus German potato salad and red cabbage. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him happier than when he ate that meal. I could hear audible “mmms” across the table as he tried his various sausages. He didn’t know that the meal would come with different mustards, and his joy rivaled a child on Christmas morning. At one point he said, more to himself than to me, “Everything on my plate is so delicious”. Even the red cabbage shines. It’s nice and tart, like a more mild variation of sauerkraut, a perfect compliment to a heavy meal.
For my part, I revisited an old favorite from the Dorf Haus menu, the rouladen. For the uninitiated, a rouladen is sirloin beef rolled with bacon and onion around a pickle, served with gravy. The gravy at the Dorf Haus is rich and beefy, with big chunks of mushrooms, and to my delight, there is plenty of it. My mouth is watering thinking about it – it’s that delicious. Mixed with the crispy spaetzle, it was a divine pile of little schnibbles.
When we started to slow down, the server said “You guys got dinner tmmorrow!” and brought us doggy bags, even a separate little container for the red cabbage.
German food isn’t necessarily posh, with the meats and potatoes and gravies, it’s more like an edible blanket. A supper club is good context for German food, because supper clubs aren’t necessarily posh, and there’s plenty of room on the menu for comfort food. Just make sure to wear your stretchy pants!