House of Embers, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Rating: a very solid 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds
Relish Tray: no
Ice Cream Drinks: desserts, but no ice cream drinks that we’re aware of
Price Range: about $13 to $40 for entrees
Ambiance: quirky, lots of stained glass, glamorous, cozy, Wisconsin Dells
Just a stone’s throw away from Noah’s Ark in fabulous Wisconsin Dells, the House of Embers is a long standing supper club. We started off at the bar with drinks and an order of shrimp cocktail, taking advantage of the happy hour specials. For some reason, I eschewed my usual drink for a dry gin martini with olives. Meanwhile Jean held down the fort with a brandy old fashioned sour, with mushrooms. The shrimp cocktail was a sight to behold. It was served in a martini glass with the shrimp on the rim, and cocktail sauce nested in a lettuce leaf. The cocktail sauce was clearly homemade, a bit thicker in consistency and with plenty of horseradish. It was fantastic.
The bar area was packed with a lot of folks who seemed like they might have been there for happy hour, which was impressive because we went during the off-season for Wisconsin Dells. The bar area has a unique look – there are some contemporary touches, but not enough to overpower the retro qualities. There are stained glass windows installed in the ceiling that look like they might have been repurposed from a church, a particularly nice touch.
One of the House of Embers claims to fame is the many unique dining rooms. Most notably, there is the Omar Shariff Room, named for the Lebanese actor from such films as “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia”. It’s an intimate single-booth room shrouded by drapery that was converted from the restaurant’s original coat room. Rumor is that it’s been the site of many a marriage proposal. Other rooms include the Rudolph Valentino Room and the Humphrey Bogart Room, also actor themed rooms big enough for just a single dining party.
There are also two larger dining rooms, the Tiffany and the Ben Franklin room, and a veranda room at the front of the restaurant. We sat in the Tiffany room, a cozy dining room complete with a double sided fireplace. There are a number of fireplaces throughout the restaurant, one of many ways the House of Embers lives up to its name.
We started off our meal with salad and a bread basket. Jean ordered the garden salad with french dressing. I opted for the spinach salad which came with a warm maple pecan dressing, which was sweet and nutty with just a touch of cinnamon and clove spice. The bread basket came with three freshly baked herb rolls.
The main attraction at the House of Embers is the ribs. Lots of supper clubs offer ribs, and to tell you the truth I usually avoid them. They never quite compare to the kind of ribs you can get at a good BBQ joint, one that smokes them low and slow. The House of Embers is unique because it actually operates a smoker. The ribs are smoked over hickory logs for half an hour before finishing them in an oven for three hours. After I heard this, I had to try them, with a side of fries. Let me tell you – they did not disappoint. The smoke flavor definitely comes through, and it makes all the difference in the world. I was hesitant to order a full rack in case I got full, but boy am I glad I did. The meat slid right off the bone. I could have had two full racks, especially because Jean snuck a couple sections right off my plate. Another reason they were so tasty – the house made BBQ sauce. It was perfectly zippy, tangy and delicious.
Jean ordered a scallop special, which were seared and served with charred pineapple and asparagus, all in a delectable sweet and smoky sauce. The scallops were cooked right, and we were both surprised how many were included in the entree. Sometimes, when we order seafood like shrimp or scallops at a supper club, the portion seems a little small, especially when you look over at a full rack of ribs or a king size cut of prime rib. Here, the portion was generous – we counted a hefty 12 scallops. Jean also had a baked potato on the side. She was a happy camper.
The House of Embers really impressed both of us. Come for the ribs, stay for the scrumptious sauces. Really though, all of the sauces and dressings were incredibly high caliber and too tasty not to be homemade. Jean and I joked that an alternative name for this place could be the “House of Tangy Sauces”, which is exactly the kind of house that we like best. We insist you visit the House of Embers next time you slide down the waterslides in the Dells, or just go there for its own sake– the ribs are worth the trip.