3 Mile House, Hazel Green

3 Mile House, Hazel Green, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: you betcha
Ice Cream Drinks: yes
Price Range: about $10 to about $38
Ambiance: friendly roadhouse

When you hear the name “3 Mile House,” you might be expecting a longer building than the little roadside supper club off Highway 11 in Hazel Green, WI. The name comes from the fact that it’s a mere three miles from the Illinois border, and it’s only one mile from the Iowa Bridge, making it a worthwhile destination for anyone in the Tri-State area. We wish it was a little closer to us, but I guess those poor folks in Iowa and Illinois deserve a brandy old fashioned and a basket of fried cheese curds once in a while too.

We started off with a couple of BOFs (brandy old-fashioneds) with pickled mushrooms at the bar. The bar is really a stand out, it’d be worthwhile to stop at even if you weren’t eating dinner. We loved everything about it, the decor, the drinks, and the people (both in front and behind the bar). They’ve got an impressive collection of beer signs which’ll really take you back. They’ve even got one of those Hamm’s “Scene-O-Rama” signs with the moving images of flowing rivers and waterfalls (quite the collector’s item I’m told).

The service is outstanding – the bartender was the nicest guy and had great rapport with the regulars and us newbies alike. The drinks did not disappoint either, I was even swayed by another customer to try a gin gimlet. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted it with an olive or another one of those tasty mushrooms, and the bartender let me have BOTH! He also asked me if I wanted a small, medium, or large amount of Rose’s lime juice in my gimlet. I have to admit I’ve never considered my preference on the matter, so I split the difference and went with medium. He came back with my gimlet and let me know he’d be happy to top it off with more should I need it part way through my drink. Now that’s service!

When our table was ready, we were led into the dining room, which is cozy and charming just like the bar. Another important supper club criterion was met when we saw the relish tray at our table. It’s got crinkle cut carrots, celery, radish and green pepper, along with dishes of cheese spread, ranch and liverwurst spread and a basket of crackers. 

We started off with house salads with french dressing. The salad featured iceberg lettuce, shredded red cabbage, shredded cheddar cheese and plenty of croutons. The level of service we experienced in the bar continued throughout our meal. While I was fishing around in the cracker basket from more of those little pre-packaged onion flavored breadsticks, I discovered we were out and mentioned it to Jean. Not five seconds later a server who wasn’t even ours dropped some more off at the table. Ask and you shall receive at the 3 Mile House Supper Club.

I ordered the prime rib with blue cheese crumbles broiled on top and potatoes “au gratin” on the side. They make a mean prime rib, and the au gratin was something else. It was served in one of those white ramekins creme brûlée might come in, and I gotta say the comparison doesn’t end there. I cracked open a crust of broiled cheese to reveal a layer of creamy potato goodness underneath.

Jean decided to take a walk on the wild side and ordered the “Impossible” veggie burger. We have a couple of friends who don’t eat meat, and we always think about how at most supper clubs they’d be stuck with no entrees to order. But, here at the 3 Mile House, there is something for everyone. Plus, we’d seen those Burger King commercials with the cowboys who get fooled eating an impossible whopper and think its beef. Jean loved it, both the burger and the zippy avocado poblano sauce it came with. She said it was just as good as the last beef burger she ate (which may have been from a Kwik Trip, for context). She ordered a “loaded” baked potato with her burger, and it really lived up to its name.

As we left for the evening we saw the staff and customers bid each other good night with handshakes and hugs. The place has clearly got a great reputation that brings people in and keeps them coming back. I’m sure the folks coming from outside Wisconsin don’t have a whole lot of other supper club options that can offer a comparable experience to the 3 Mile Club, but even for those coming from the Badger State, it’s worth the drive!

House of Embers, Wisconsin Dells

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.

Feil’s Supper Club, Randolph

Feil’s Supper Club, Randolph, Wisconsin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: by way of the extensive salad bar, sort of
Ice Cream Drinks: extensive list, plus seasonal specials
Price Range: most entrees are from $18 to $30
Ambiance: Bavarian, charming, with lots of history

Feil’s Supper Club is an old family run establishment, serving German specialities and traditional supper club fare as well. Located right on highway 73 in Randolph, WI, I must have driven past it a million times, always with somewhere else to be. Jean and I finally made the trip one Sunday night in October. Feil’s is a pretty big place, with a big parking lot to boot. When we arrived, there was only one other car in the parking lot. Feil’s does a popular Oktoberfest celebration every Saturday night during the month of October with a German buffet – so I would imagine Sunday nights are a little slower than usual in October.

The interior of the bar is dark and cozy festooned with Christmas lights and teutonic decor. One of our favorite hallmarks of a supper club are those weird little quirks that you might not see at another type of restaurant. Feil’s had these little “bar booths” all over the vast bar area, both small two-top booths, and booth-style seats that faced that large wrap around bar.

The bar area also features a large display case of Green Bay Packers memorabilia, mostly from the Brett Farve era and earlier. In case it wasn’t clear by the fact that we have a blog about Wisconsin supper clubs, Jean and I are both big Packers fans. It does add quite a bit of enjoyment to our old fashioneds when we sip them among photos of the owners with Brett Favre’s mom.

As we were enjoying the memorabilia, we noticed they had a “pull-tab” machine. Pull-tabs are like a dive bar (and supper club, apparently) version of a gas station scratch off – you pull up on tabs to reveal hidden symbols, with a few winning combinations that result in small cash prizes. It had been a while since either one of us had tried our luck, so we decided to purchase a few. Sadly, none of ours turned out to be winners, so we had to dip into our own pockets to pay for our old fashioneds.

The host called our name when our table was ready and we were led into the dining room. We sat down and ordered another round of drinks. Jean went for another brandy old-fashioned, and this time I opted for one of the house specialty cocktails, a southern peach old fashioned. It was made with whiskey, and flavored with some kind of peach syrup. It was pretty tasty, though I can’t say it completely converted me over from the classic brandy old fashioned.

Feil’s has one of the largest salad bars I’ve ever seen (15 feet according to the restaurants website.) A large ledge with a pitched roof hangs just above the salad bar. An entire miniature Bavarian village sits atop the ledge, which might be more impressive if it wasn’t dwarfed by massive salad bar. The salad bar must have at least 30 items. It has all the fixings for any kind of salad you could concoct. It also features an impressive array of deli-type salads, fruit salads, and a soup of the day.

I love a good salad bar – Jean might say ‘too much’ or ‘more than life itself’ – and I have a tendency to really go nuts and pile high a combination of salad ingredients which borders on the obscene. My salad included such strange bedfellows as pickled beets, sauerkraut, cucumber salad, olives, whipped braunschweiger, all atop a bed of spinach and floating in a pool of hot bacon dressing. I can’t be held responsible for your satisfaction if you try the exact same combination as me, but you can bet I ate every last schnibble.

By this time the dining room had filled up a little more with other patrons. The server brought a fresh loaf of rye bread to our table about the same time we came back from the salad bar. Feil’s has a reputation for their bread, as the owners come from a long line of bakers dating back to their roots in Germany. It was warm, and a bit softer than most rye bread I’ve had before.

For entrees, I selected the pork hock with roasted vegetables. I ordered some sauerkraut on the side as well. Jean ordered a sirloin steak and three fried jumbo shrimp. Her steak was cooked to her liking, and the shrimp were fried golden brown.

My pork hock was served with a flavorful, rich brown gravy. The skin and fat had been cooked in such a way that it was crispy like pork rinds. I’m not sure what they did to get it that crisp, but it was delicious. If you’re someone whose mouth salivates at the idea of crispy, pork-rind covered pork hocks, you’ll be delighted. The roasted vegetables were an excellent compliment to my meal.

“Gemütlichkeit” is one of those untranslatable mouthfuls in the German language. In general it connotes a feeling of contentedness and comfort and relaxation. It might be tough to find a word in English that would be adequate, but after eating at Feil’s, I’m sure no translation will be necessary, as you’ll be feeling it first hand. With their ample selection and reverence for tradition, it’s no surprise that they’re celebrating their 50 year anniversary. I expect they will be celebrating many more milestone anniversaries to come.

Toby’s Supper Club, Madison

Toby’s Supper Club, Madison, Wisconsin

Rating: 4 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: yes, plus a pickle plate
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: entrees range from about $10 to about $27
Ambiance: a dive bar meets a supper club

Toby’s Supper Club is located on the outskirts of Madison, WI. We have been there a few times before but had yet to write a review. We headed to Toby’s one Friday night in the mood for a fish fry. Toby’s is a smaller, more casual supper club; a couple steps removed from a bar and grill, but still delivers on the essential trappings of a supper club. It’s Friday night fish frys are very popular, so the place was packed when we arrived around 6pm. There is a large bar area in the middle of the whole space, it wraps all the way around in the shape of a giant rectangle. All the seats were taken, and their were several rows of  patrons behind the barstools trying to get orders in at the bar. At Toby’s you order drinks, put in for a table and even order your meal all at the bar. We ordered a couple brandy old-fashioned sours with pickled mushrooms, as well as two fish fry meals, mine with catfish and Jean’s with cod. We took our old fashioneds from the bar and found a little nook next to the entrance to stand in.

The interior of Toby’s is nice and dark. If you are a cave-dweller-type like me, whose idea of a relaxing ambiance is a wood paneled, windowless room with only the soft and warm glow of a beer sign for illumination, then Toby’s might just be your happy place.

Just as we were ready to order a second drink, two seats opened up at the bar. We sat down and ordered another round. The old fashioneds at Toby’s are solid; bitters-forward and boozy. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat at Toby’s bar like we did, you can enjoy bowls of complimentary pretzels which the bartenders are quick to refill from industrial-sized bags of pretzel twists behind the bar. As I said earlier it was busy, so we waited for a little under an hour for our table. If you know Jean and I, you know we didn’t mind, we’re more likely to be disappointed by a wait that is too short to enjoy a second (or third) old fashioned.

When it’s time to sit down for supper, the host leads you to your table complete with  a complimentary relish tray already waiting for you. In addition there was a separate platter of pickles. Our server brought out a side salad for Jean and a bowl of coleslaw for me, as well as a basket of rolls and bread sticks.

Not long after, the server brought out our fish. Jean had cod with a baked potato on the side, and I had catfish with french fries. Both types of fish were tasty, but I think I preferred Jean’s cod because the batter was just a bit more crispy. I was very happy with the fries, they were fried to golden brown perfection and had a delicious seasoning which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’d highly recommend them. Next time, we might like to try the hashbrowns, as we noticed they were quite popular, and served family-style.

It took awhile for the server to make the rounds and get back to our table to see about dessert, giving our dinners time settle and we knew we were full.

It’s always a good sign when the place you’re dining at is packed. For a small place, Toby’s does a bang-up job taking care of so many diners, not to mention the numerous fish fry take out and delivery orders we saw coming out of the kitchen. One of the tables asked if they could get some more of the complimentary pickles, and they server responded “You betcha!” and brought out a heaping bowl of them. Toby’s might be busy on Friday nights, but they’ll still take great care of you.

Pinewood Supper Club, Mosinee

Pinewood Supper Club, Mosinee, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: yes, with the most delicious veggie dip
Price Range: entrees range from about $15 to about $30
Ambiance: classic lakeside supper club

The Pinewood Supper Club is located on Half-Moon lake in Mosinee, WI. We started our experience at the Pinewood by sitting down at the bar and ordering a couple brandy old-fashioned sours with pickled mushrooms. While the exterior looks rustic, the interior of the bar area looks like it has been updated recently. Remodeling a supper club can be a little dicey, because you don’t want to lose any of the charm and history in the process. We think the Pinewood did a pretty good job doing a classy update while still maintaining the “northwoods lodge” feel that you would expect.

The bar was dark and cozy, and featured a few artificial trees decorated with string lights. There were also some framed and signed photos of Aaron Rodgers and other Green Bay Packers. We enjoyed our old-fashioneds for about a half-hour, and then were led to our table.

The Pinewood is very committed to running their supper club in an environmentally sustainable way. It makes a lot of sense for a supper club set amongst such natural beauty. One of the ways in which they follow through with this commitment is with the water glasses on the table which are made from old wine bottles which had been served at the restaurant. The restaurant also uses a Smart Car parked out front for catering services.

The dining room has a much more vintage feel than the bar, with warm toned pine wood paneling from floor to ceiling. We started off our meal with the complementary relish tray with delicious homemade dip, and we also selected a “seafood quesadilla” as an appetizer, a specialty of the restaurant. It’s a unique take on a quesadilla, served open faced with cheese, shrimp, crab, scallops, and a creamy sauce. It’s also served with a lemon wedge, which adds a bit of zest.

Next was the salad and freshly baked rolls. I selected blue cheese dressing and Jean had hers with French. We were offered fresh ground pepper on our salad by our server, which we accepted. The salad was with a mix of greens, homemade croutons and homemade dressing. The rolls were served warm, and had an herb flavor.

For our entrees, I selected prime rib with sauteed mushrooms, and Jean selected the shrimp carbonara. My prime was excellent. Jean’s shrimp carbonara came with a creamy sauce that reminded me  more of alfredo than carbonara, but it was still delicious. My prime rib came with a choice of potato, and I selected a “cheese puff”. A cheese puff is a breaded and deep fried ball of cheesy mashed potatoes with a gooey melted cheese center. Jean was jealous of my cheese puff, so I convinced her to give me about half of her pasta for the rest of the puff after I had a few bites. 

We were too stuffed for desert. Our server gave us a generous handful of after dinner mints “for the road”, some of which remain as of today in the pocket of the cardigan sweater I wore to dinner that night. If you ever find yourself in the greater Wausau area without dinner plans, do yourself a favor and try the Pinewood Supper Club. 

Elias Inn Supper Club, Watertown

Elias Inn Supper Club, Watertown, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: glorious, lazy susan relish tray
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: entrees range from about $14 to $34
Ambiance: cozy German beer hall

Jean and I were in the mood for fish fry one recent Friday night. So I pulled down our copy of “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” by the preeminent expert in the field, Ron Faiola. We’ve got our own map of supper clubs of course, but sometimes I need a little visual information to help along the decision of where to dine. That’s when I flipped a page and saw a sight that nearly took my breath away: A fish fry with all the fixins, served atop a wooden lazy susan. The good people at the Elias Inn located in Watertown were behind this marvel. We were sold.

When we first arrived we were surprised to see that the Elias Inn was established in 1987. A spring chicken in Supper Club years. Stepping inside we were greeted with all the warmth and charm of a supper club that had been operating for half a century. 

After putting in a request for a table with the host, we sauntered up to the bar and ordered our usual old fashioneds, mine with pickled mushrooms and Jean’s with fruit. We sat and talked and I pretended not to be watching the brewers game on the bar TV. After finishing our second round of old fashioneds, we were led into the dining room. 

Fridays are synonymous with fish fry in Wisconsin. But the Elias Inn takes that commitment to a whole other level. Elias Inn eschews all other menu items on Friday nights to churn out their family style fish frys. Our server came out and asked us if we’d ever been here for fish fry before, and we told her it was our first time at Elias Inn. She explained how everything worked, that the Fish fry was the only thing being served tonight. She encouraged us to come back and try the full menu on another night – more on that to come.

She brought out the lazy susan first, which contained all the sides you’d expect at a fish fry and some you wouldn’t: rye and pumpernickel bread, German and American style potato salad, and baked beans and a heaping bowl of tartar sauce. The coleslaw added an unexpected but not unwelcome touch of asian fusion to our meal: it was the kind made with rice vinegar and ramen noodles. In the center of the tray was a heaping bowl of tartar sauce. Nothing spoils an otherwise solid fish fry than running out of tartar sauce before your last piece of fish, but I knew I did not have to worry about that tonight.

We tore into our sides as soon as they came out, but it was not more than five minutes before the rest of our meal was brought out. The meal came with both fried and broiled cod. We ordered fries for our choice of potato. And of course the most essential accoutrement to any Wisconsin fish fry… fried chicken! Of the two types of fish, I would say the broiled was superior to the fried. The batter on the fried fish was not quite light and crisp enough for me – but nothing an extra dollop of tartar sauce couldn’t fix. Believe it or not, the chicken was the star of the show. For all that the fish batter lacked, the breading on the chicken totally redeemed the fry cook. It was crispy, perfect golden brown and seasoned to perfection.

As we were finishing up our meal, we decided to take our server’s advice seriously, and we made plans to come back to Elias Inn next Saturday. Which brings us to part two of this review:

Our second visit to Elias Inn started in much the same way that our first did: old fashioneds at the bar and a brief wait for our table. Reservations are highly recommended if you come in on Saturday night, a fact that we were unaware of until we arrived, despite our visit the previous week. We were lucky that because of a cancellation they were able to squeeze us in.

My favorite thing about Elias Inn is their commitment to keeping the lazy susan alive. This time, the lazy susan was adorned with delightful relish tray options. There were four different cracker spreads, including cheese, vegetable spread, spinach dip and fresh braunschweiger. It also featured cheese and summer sausage, pickles, crudités, two pasta salads, and best of all: pickled herring. Pickled herring is one of my favorite snacks, but unfortunately it is not as popular these days. That’s why I was tickled pink to see it served as a complimentary item at Elias Inn.

We received a basket of bread with two types of warm rolls, three types of crackers and crostini, and each had a cup of creamy chicken soup. The soup was piping hot and very creamy. We also tried some of the cheese spread on our crackers. It was sweet and vinegary, with a subtle cheese flavor.

The salad was served on those glass plates that look like lettuce leaves, always a plus. Besides the standard salad features it also had green peas, shredded cheddar cheese and what appeared to be home-made croutons.

For entrees, Jean ordered prime rib with a side of broiled shrimp. I ordered liver and onions with bacon. I’m not exactly sure why I opted for that over prime rib, but it might have had something to with the pickled herring getting me in the mood for under-appreciated meats. Our server must have thought she didn’t hear me right when I ordered it, because she asked me to repeat my order twice. Once I had made it clear that I actually wanted to order liver, I got quite the eyebrow raise. When she brought our entrees out, she confessed that she hated liver as a kid because people would try to pass it off as steak. I can understand how someone might be turned off to liver, but I still think it is delicious. One thing I love about eating liver and onions is that I dump an entire bottle of steak sauce on it and not feel guilty like I would if it was a well seasoned prime cut of steak. The steak sauce combined with a pile of sautéed onions and whole strips of bacon, and you’ve got good eating – at least in my opinion.

Jean’s prime rib was excellent, as were the shrimp. The prime rib was served with a delicious horseradish cream sauce, though Jean said that as good as it was, it kind of overpowered the prime rib. We also ordered baked potatoes. We appreciated that the baked potatoes were small in size, given the overall amount of food we were served.

Somehow, we had room for an ice cream drink. We ordered a pink squirrel, which is flavored with creme de noyaux, which tastes like almond. It was delicious, it tastes exactly like blue moon ice cream. We’re so glad we came back for the full menu at Elias Inn. We highly recommend it. 

The Edgewater, Jefferson

The Edgewater, Jefferson, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds *we might be a little biased because the Edgewater is the first supper club that we truly loved, and a big part of our personal supper club history.*

Relish Tray: yes, sadly with no dipping sauce
Side Salad: dinners include a choice of soup or salad
Ambiance: dark, riverside, perfectly and wonderfully quirky

It’s safe to say that Jean and I owe a lot to the Edgewater supper club in Jefferson, WI. A few years ago, we stopped at the Edgewater and had such a wonderful experience it sparked our interest to visit more supper clubs throughout the state. Without the Edgewater, we would probably not have this blog, or spent so many afternoons traveling all over this state (read more about that here). Given that the Edgewater played such an important role in inspiring our little hobby, it seemed like an issue that we hadn’t actually reviewed it yet. So we hopped in the car and visited the Edgewater for a second time. 

From the outside, the Edgewater supper club looks like many of the roadside taverns one finds in rural Wisconsin, resembling a mid-size, single story home but with a square, illuminated Pabst Blue Ribbon sign out front. Venture inside however, and you’ll be transported somewhere – or sometime – else. The front door leads you to the bar area, which is cozy and dark, with low ceilings. I was hit with an icy blast of air-conditioning as I pulled up to a bar stool and ordered two brandy old-fashioned sours with pickled mushrooms for Jean and me. Most of the time when we order our old fashioneds with pickled mushrooms, they are still muddled with a cherry. At the Edgewater, our bartender actually muddled it with a pickled mushroom and orange slice too, a touch we appreciated. After we ordered our drinks the bartender asked if we were looking to get a table, which we were, of course. He brought us a menu to look over and was kind enough to put in our names with the host so we could enjoy our drinks until our table was ready.

We sat and talked, and ordered another round of old fashioneds. While at the bar we overheard several people raving about the vegetable of the day: carrots roasted in duck fat. This peaked my interest. Within a half hour or so the host came by the bar to let us know our table was ready. We were led to the main dining area which is filled with knick knacks of every sort.

If you ever dine at the Edgewater, when you first sit down at your table, you may feel a little out of sorts, like the room is starting to turn sideways. No, it’s not the old-fashioneds, the dining room floor is actually slanted. We learned during our first visit there that the dining room had been converted from a porch, which had a floor that was pitched like a roof to allow rainwater to run off the edge. The dining room also offers a view of the Rock River.

We began our meal with a modest relish tray and a bread basket with fresh baked bread. The relish tray featured carrot and celery sticks, along with thick cut pickle slices and halved radishes. The bread is baked with red pepper flakes, which lent it a surprising kick.

Our salads came next. We both had them with french dressing, mine with an addition of blue cheese on the side. The salad was topped with grated carrot and cabbage, shredded cheese, chives, and toasted pepitas (very posh)

I ordered a Saturday evening supper club classic: prime rib. It came with a generous pool of au jus and a side of the duck fat carrots. Surprisingly, the angle of our dining table proved quite useful in the enjoyment of my steak. In any other restaurant, the au jus would have spread out in a thin, even layer on the bottom of my platter, making the task of dipping bites of of prime rib into it as I cut up my steak quite cumbersome. The angle of the table meant all the au jus pooled to one side of the plate. The prime rib was outstanding; cooked to a perfect medium rare, with a peppery crust and well-rendered bits of fat. I also ordered a side of blue cheese and creamy horseradish. The horse radish was excellent, according to the menu it was locally grown. The blue cheese was served in its own gravy boat in what appeared to be a small lake’s worth of melted butter.

Jean ordered the fried shrimp with a “loaded” baked potato. The shrimp had a crispy breading and came with a generous side of cocktail sauce. The baked potato was truly “loaded” with bacon, grilled onions, and sauteed mushrooms.

Our second visit to the Edgewater was every bit as good as our first. The food is truly excellent, with locally sourced ingredients. The atmosphere is perfect for us: riverside, retro and just a bit quirkier-than-most, from the tilted floor to the woodland knick-knacks and even the beehives out back. It may be awhile before we make it back for our third visit, but only because we’ve got a long list of supper clubs to visit. We highly recommend you stop-in next time you’re in Jefferson county, or anywhere near.

Jake’s Supper Club, Menomonie

Jake’s Supper Club, Menomonie

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds (just need a relish tray for that 5)

Relish Tray: No
Salad: Choice of soup or salad with meal
Ambiance: Lakeside, extensive outdoor bar, dark northwoods interior – pretty much spot on.

Jake’s Supper Club on Tainter Lake boasts a large outdoor deck overlooking the channel between the upper and lower section of the lake, complete with a tiki bar and docks for boat-in diners. Jake’s also has one of the best Friday night fish fries in the greater Menomonie area, and an atmosphere that strikes the perfect balance between a cool, dark northwoods lodge and sunny views of the beautiful surroundings through its large windows in almost every square inch of the dining room. They might have had the “best food I’ve ever eaten at a supper club” (though Jean is quick to point out that I’ve said that at most of the supper clubs we’ve eaten at) and they definitely have the most interesting brandy old fashioned sour I’ve ever tasted. Given that there is no shortage of things to brag about at Jake’s, you’ve got to respect the humility of a restaurant whose tagline is just a reminder that they are “Closed on Tuesdays”.

Before walking into the restaurant, Jean and I surveyed the outdoor area. It was still very early in the summer, but you could tell the patio would be a popular spot to spend a Friday or Saturday night once the summer got into full swing. We sat down at the bar and ordered two brandy old fashioned sours, Jean’s with the traditional fruit garnish and mine with a pickled mushroom. When you order an old fashioned “sour” at Jake’s, they take the sour part seriously. At most supper clubs, “sweet” vs “sour” old fashioneds are a distinction without much of a difference – “sweet” calls for 7up as a mixer, where “sour” calls for another citrus-flavored soda: Squirt. While both are primarily just corn syrup and carbonated water, Squirt’s claim to fame is that it contains “less than 1% grapefruit juice.” At Jake’s, they use sour mix, which really delivers on the tart flavor.

After delivering our drinks, the bartender placed a little blue chip in front of each of us. Since we both love frequenting “locals only” establishments, we didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that we had no idea what the chips meant. Much to our delight, we later realized that we were in for a treat – two for one drinks. Not a bad start to the evening.

Dinner began with a bread basket that exemplified the golden ratio of butter to bread in Wisconsin. Our basket featured two freshly baked rolls and six packets of butter. Rest assured, dear reader, that none of it went to waste. This meticulous attention to detail with respect to quantity continued into the salad course. Atop a bed of mixed greens, each salad contained two cherry tomatoes, two cucumber slices, and three segments of red onion. I ordered my salad with blue cheese dressing, Jean’s with her standard french dressing.

For the main course, I selected Jake’s Monday night special: beef stroganoff. The stroganoff featured beef tenderloin tips and grilled onions served over egg noodles with a rich lemony cream sauce. A dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon zest elevated the dish and ensured I would never truly enjoy it’s Hamburger Helper counterpart again. Jean selected broiled shrimp with a side of wild rice risotto. The shrimp was served with fresh lemon and a kale garnish, a reminder of kale’s former sideline status before it became a “superfood.” Jean loved the shrimp, but the lemony risotto was truly the star of the entree.

Jean and I will have to get back to Jake’s when tiki bar season is in full swing and extend our next visit to include after dinner drinks and live music at the outdoor stage. Even without all that, we had a great time. I’d highly recommend Jake’s Supper Club. Just don’t forget: they’re closed on Tuesdays.

Sullivan’s, Trempealeau

Sullivan’s Supper Club, Trempealeau, Wisconsin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: no relish tray, but ample relish tray-type goodies at the salad bar
Salad: very generous salad bar, including soup, bread, and pudding
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Ambiance: Incredible view, unremarkable interior

Sullivan’s Supper Club is located in Trempealeau, Wisconsin. Just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River, Sullivan’s location is truly one of the most scenic of all the supper clubs we’ve visited. Trempealeau is part of what is known as the “driftless region,” an area which was spared glacial erosion during the last ice age, thereby preserving the diverse topography of the prehistoric midwestern landscape. We arrived a few minutes before the restaurant opened, and the parking lot was already full of cars, many with Minnesota license plates. This was unsurprising once we learned that Winona, Minnesota is just a short ride away.

Jean and I usually make it a point not to make reservations at supper clubs, as we enjoy sitting at the bar for an hour or so and having a couple old-fashioneds while waiting for a table. In retrospect, Sullivan’s should have warranted an exception from this policy. The main dining room features beautiful views of the river (hence the slogan “a view to ‘dine’ for”) but as the parking lot indicated, all these tables were already taken by folks who knew to make reservations in advance.

We waited for about an hour at the bar and ordered the usual, two brandy old-fashioned sours with pickled mushrooms. They were delicious. The interior is dimly lit, with most of the lighting coming from the neon lights and the large windows opposite the bar in the dining room. The decor is reminiscent of an Irish pub, a nod to the Irish heritage of it’s founder, Ed Sullivan (no, not that Ed Sullivan.) It was a warm early spring day, so we took our second round of old-fashioneds out to the deck and looked out at the river view.

When we came back in we were seated at a small table next to the bar. Jean and I both ordered the “Brad’s Sampler” combination platter, which featured tenderloin tips, fried or broiled shrimp, and ribs. Our dinners came with soup and salad bar as well as choice of potato (we chose baked.) Sullivan’s doesn’t offer a relish tray, but it does boast an impressive salad bar which comes about as close to making up for that shortcoming as possible in my book. In addition to all the usual salad bar fixings, there was soup, which was a rich and savory beef and barley, and several bread options were available. We tried the Irish brown bread, a hearty and flavorful Sullivan’s specialty. There were also several other items on the salad bar, coleslaw, marinated vegetables, three bean salad, and several pasta and potato salads as well.

By the time our sampler platters arrived, we were pretty much full. You have to understand that salad bar was massive, and we couldn’t possibly try all of it in one trip. Fortunately for you, dear reader, our second round of old-fashioneds gave us the courage to go for a second round at the salad bar, allowing us to provide a more thorough review.

Nevertheless, we soldiered on through our meals. The tenderloin tips came with sautéed mushrooms, and since they were just tips rather than a finer cut, I felt no shame in dumping half a bottle of A1 on it. I ordered my shrimp fried, and Jean’s were broiled. Both versions were tasty. I’m not always a huge fan of ribs at supper clubs as compared to their BBQ smokehouse counterparts. Like most supper clubs, Sullivan’s likely boils ribs and then finishes them off in the broiler, which is fine as long as they don’t get too dried out. Sullivan’s ribs were tender and fell right off the bone. The BBQ sauce they were served with was tangy and some of the meat drippings ran into the sauce giving it a rich flavor.

We made it about halfway through our entrees before giving up and asking for a box. Unfortunately, this meant that despite the tempting ice cream drink offerings, we simply had no room for dessert. Sullivan’s is wonderful place, which honestly had some of the best food we’ve had at a supper club. We would highly recommend it, not least of all for its beautiful location.

Arthur’s Supper Club, Spring Green

Arthur’s Supper Club, Spring Green, Wisconsin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: no relish tray, but the salad bar provided some relish-tray type fixings
Salad Situation: “all you can eat” salad bar with plenty of extras like cole slaw and two types of soup
Ice Cream Drinks: yes
Ambience: loosely “King Arthur” themed complete with digital photo frames and an indoor waterfall

The exterior of Arthur’s Supper Club features a prominent roadside sign claiming to be “the place for seafood and steaks” and and that “if your glass is empty, let us fill it.” Our glasses would not be the only thing to be filled that evening. The front facade of the entrance displays the restaurant’s name in backlit, medieval script, and a full suit of knight’s armor at the crest of the facade.

We entered the restaurant and found ourselves in front of the host stand. I informed the host that we had a reservation and she anticipated that we were the “Owen” party of two. On the way to our table we passed an impressive salad and soup bar. Arthur’s boasts a number of dining rooms, the first of which features a stunning waterfall faux rock formation with an artificial glowing flame and a recreation of the fabled sword in the stone from the legend of King Arthur. The back wall of this dining room features a floor-to-ceiling mural of the rolling green hills of an english countryside with a castle nestled near the horizon.

At first glance the room in which we were seated is treated with more subtle decor, though more unique than the first. The knights of the round table theme continues with wood panels and yellow ochre walls, ornamented with tapestries and knight’s shields. Our table was nested between two wooden partitions, creating a sense of intimacy while still allowing for a view of the rest of the dining room. Each “booth” featured its own digital picture frame featuring a slideshow of nature and vaguely medieval scenes. These screens were echoed by a larger digital picture frame set against the back wall displaying images of flora and fauna from across the globe. Our server greeted us with a basket of warm bread nestled in a brown paper towel that was suspiciously similar to the ones available in the gentleman’s washroom. The bread was served with a whipped cinnamon butter described by our server as “a little sweet for ya.”

A warm bread basket greeted us soon after we took our seats. We each tried a piece of bread with the cinnamon butter, which was tasty but perhaps a tad too sweet for a palate that leans toward a preference for savory flavors. Traditional butter continentals were available at the table. Our server inquired if we would like to start our meal off with something to drink. I ordered a brandy old fashioned sour with pickled mushrooms, and Jean ordered a pressed brandy old fashioned with fruit. The drinks did not disappoint. Jean and I both selected the two piece Friday night fish fry with a cheese and spring onion hash brown. Our meal also came with an all-you-can-eat salad and soup bar. Our server took our menus and invited us to help ourselves to the salad bar. The salad bar featured a full selection of vegetables and pickles. Also available were six dressings, two soups of the day (a hearty Atlantic seafood chowder and a “creamy” chicken soup, which could have been a little creamier) croutons and garlic toast.

As we were eating, we overheard our server relaying a story about the photo display on the large digital picture frame. When she first began working at Arthur’s, some senior staff told her that the slideshow consisted of photos of Wisconsin wildlife. Without paying much attention to the photos herself, she proceeded to pass this information onto guests. She continued until one day, someone responded “I didn’t know there were baboons in Wisconsin!” We finished our meal with a Brandy Alexander. I award Arthur’s four and a half out of five stars for unique ambiance, quality food, and excellent service. One half star is deducted for lack of a relish tray. This would normally be a full star deduction but a bonus half star is awarded for unlimited soup and salad bar.