Green Acres, Sauk City, *Takeout Edition*

Green Acres Supper Club, Sauk City

Read our previous review of Green Acres, from before the pandemic.

Of the things we’ve missed most during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving around the state and visiting Supper Clubs is atop the list (who would have guessed?). So when supper clubs started reopening for carryout, we were naturally interested. It’s a strange concept; carryout at a supper club. Particularly when we’ve written at length about how much of the appeal of supper clubs is the atmosphere; the decor and the people. Not to mention the slowed down pace of the experience; sipping old fashioneds at the bar for an hour or more; meals that arrive in slow waves of courses. Only the complete absence of supper clubs in our life for more than two months could make the idea of getting carryout from a supper club conceivable, even appealing.

So when Jean and I decided it was time to end our involuntary abstinence, the decision of where to dine felt like a weighty one. We agreed that it made sense to pick one that was relatively close to our house so that our food would hold up okay until we got home to eat. We decided to order from Green Acres in Sauk City, which we’ve written about before. Green Acres is about a half hour’s drive from our house, far away enough to feel like we were getting out, but close enough for the food to hold up.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we were about the only people there. There was a sign on the front door marked “carryout entrance”, so I headed in and was immediately greeted from behind the bar by an employee who asked if I was here for a pick up. I gave her our name for the order, which was all packed up and ready to go. While she was running my credit card I noticed the side entrance across from the bar was marked “carryout exit.” The bartender handed me my credit card and food, and I headed out the exit back towards the car where Jean was waiting. I can’t imagine how stressful a time this must be to work at or run a supper club. I have to commend the folks at Green Acres for making the unfamiliar experience of supper club carryout an easy one.

Back at home, we had our entrees and sides, but now our task was to try to replicate the rest of the supper club experience at home. In charge of ambiance, Jean dimmed the lights, opting for the soft lighting of a candle and my Blatz beer sign. She also put a Nat King Cole record on the turntable.

Meanwhile, I headed into the kitchen to try and whip up a relish tray and some old fashioneds, which were not on offer from the carryout menu as far as we could tell. I cut up some cucumber coins and celery, and finally had an excuse to dust off my old crinkle cut slicer for the carrots. I also made a quick vegetable dip from sour cream and lemon pepper, dried basil, and garlic powder.

For drinks we had some premixed, bottled old fashioneds that Jean had bought on a whim a while back which had been sitting in the back of the liquor cabinet ever since. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any pickled mushrooms, cherries or oranges on hand, so our drinks had to forgo any kind of garnish. I was disappointed until I read the word “whiskey” on the side of the bottle, at which point I realized these old fashioneds were doomed from the start. 

I brought out the drinks and relish tray. Jean and I decided to spend at least a few minutes with just the relish tray and drinks before getting into the other food in order to approximate the pacing of a supper club meal. I gotta say the bottled whiskey old fashioneds were not as bad as I thought they’d be, probably because it had been a while since I’d had one. It seems strange to review my own relish tray, as part of supper club review, but these are strange times. Even stranger since I have to give it pretty low marks, on account of the dip tasted okay but it had kind of a gritty texture from being saturated by all the seasonings mentioned above. I’m glad I made an attempt, as it was better than no relish tray at all, but from here on out I plan on leaving it to the professionals.

We also got into the loaf of bread at this point, which we decided to reheat in the microwave so it would be warm at a restaurant. We had to supply our own butter, which I had neglected to take out of the fridge so that it would be room temperature. I compensated for the lack of spreadability by just covering my entire slice of bread with a few thin pats of butter.

Next we had the shrimp cocktail, which ended up being one of my favorite parts of the meal. The jumbo shrimp were succulent and the cocktail sauce was superb, with the perfect amount of horseradish kick.

We opened up our salad containers next. Rather than eating them out of the take out containers, we decided to put on airs, plating them on our own glass lettuce plates. Jean got hers with french dressing and I got a combo of french and blue cheese. I really liked the french dressing because it had celery seed in it, but as Jean is not a big fan of celery seed, it wasn’t for her. A notable feature of these house salads is the single, giant crouton. Basically, it’s a slice of crispy, buttery toast, perfect for soaking up extra dressing left on the plate after you’ve finished your salad.

The time had finally come for the entrees. I had selected the Saturday night prime rib with a side of wild rice pilaf. Jean ordered barbecue baby back ribs. While it was nice to have spaced out the courses of our meal the way we did, it did mean our entrees were not quite piping hot. Jean saw no harm in microwaving her ribs for a bit, but I was skeptical of doing the same thing to my prime rib. Would it be better to eat it lukewarm, or reheat and risk overcooking it past “medium” like I had ordered it? In the end, Jean convinced me to go for it, and like always, she was right. It only took about one minute in the microwave to warm it up, and I noticed no change in the pink color of the inner part of the prime rib. Jean’s ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, and the barbecue sauce was flavorful with a little zip, but not too spicy.

In the end, it was clear that supper club take out is very different from the experience of dining in. Much like a virtual happy hour or a drive-by birthday celebration, it’s no substitute for the real thing, but given the circumstances, it’s a welcome respite. We hope to be back to dining in soon!

Sister Bay Bowl, Sister Bay

Sister Bay Bowl, Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: nope
Ice Cream Drinks: yes
Price Range: about $10 to about $25
Ambiance: A Supper Club meets a Bowling Alley, so just about perfect

We visited Sister Bay Bowl back in February, well before businesses started closing due to COVID-19. For some reason, we’ve just been a little slow to write this post. Could it be the world-wide pandemic? I suppose. But we’re back! And so is Sister Bay – they are doing curbside carryout!

For our birthdays, we almost always end up at a supper club to celebrate. While I seem to always end up at The Butterfly Club in Beloit, this year we knew we had to finally make the trip up to Sister Bay Bowl for Owen’s birthday. For one, it had been far too long since we had been to Door County. More importantly, Owen loves bowling. A supper-club-bowling-alley combination is really the only place that it makes sense to celebrate his next trip around the sun.

Sister Bay Bowl is right in the heart of Sister Bay. We spent the day walking around the town and enjoying the views, and dipped into Sister Bay Bowl for a nice early supper. From the first sight of the interior, I knew this would quickly become one of our favorite supper clubs.

We entered through the bowling alley, which was hopping early on a Saturday evening. More on the bowling alley to come

The bar area had everything you could want: a large oblong bar with a “wooden” formica top, a couple of booths and tables, a couple of patrons in matching Piggly Wiggly shirts, and a very friendly bartender who was happy to share about the history of the supper club or bemoan the new real-estate developments in Sister Bay. She told us how the supper club started as a hotel, but once they opened for dinner, they stopped hosting visitors. We also talked about double-edged sword of tourism in Door County. The sky-rocketing price of real estate means it is harder and harder for permanent locals to live in the area. However, Sister Bay also depends on the tourism industry to stay vibrant. She also made a mean old fashioned, with plenty of bitters and a nice meaty pickled mushroom to cut the sweet.

After throughly enjoying the bar for a couple old fashioneds, we made our way to the dining room. We were there early, but some other early birds had gotten the prime tables by the window overlooking the town. Not that we were disappointed at all – we thoroughly enjoyed sitting among the bowling decor.

Our meals started with your standard side salad, and a fun little loaf of bread. Owen is easily charmed by any establishment that offers a generous amount of bleu cheese in his favorite French Bleu dressing. Both rye bread and a typical white bread were baked together in one little loaf – quite inventive – and tasty!

The birthday boy, of course, ordered prime rib. He was so excited that it came with both au jus and horseradish, we could have just ended the night there and he would have been perfectly content. When it arrived at the table, he said “I’ve ordered myself a bit of a project here!”. I guess the cut was a bit more generous than he was expecting! The hash browns were unbelievably crispy, like a single unit of crispy potato goodness. They made a wonderful breakfast the next morning (not that I ate them, or anything).

I tried another Wisconsin supper club classic, the broasted chicken. It was deliciously crispy, and served with a bit of cranberry sauce. I wouldn’t have thought to invite cranberries to this party, but they were a very fun addition. One addition I would love to see at more restaurants – the wet wipe served with the meal. It’s like a little permission slip to eat your dinner with your hands.

After dinner, we came back to the bar area and bowling alley. We had put our names down for a lane before our meal, and they were ready for us by the end of dinner. Earlier, the bowling area had been busy, with a couple groups waiting for lanes. A couple hours later, the bar area was bumping, while the bowling alley had cleared out.

The bowling alley at Sister Bay Bowl is a little bit of everything we love. Owen loves to bowl. We are both drawn to classic, no frills establishments with a sense of history. And in our younger days in Milwaukee, we fell in love with the oldest sanctioned bowling alley in the United State and an all-around wonderful place, the Holler House. Compared to the Holler House, the lanes at Sister Bay are pretty new (automatic ball return! Six whole lanes!) there are still some old fashioned touches that we just loved (keeping your own score, self-serve shoe ‘rental’).

Normally, I bowl with a bowling ball that I found at a thrift store with the name “Marge” engraved on it. Marge has become a bit part of my bowling identity. While she had stayed home for this trip, I was just delighted to find “Rhonda” to fill in for the night.

I know some folks would not be thrilled to keep their own score (some folks named Owen even), but I really enjoy when I get to keep my own score at a bowling alley. It’s not too much math that a bowling beer gets in the way, and the challenge of remembering the scoring rules keeps me engaged in the game in a new way. And I even won one game! By one point. I swear, it’s not just because I was scorekeeper.

Hopefully, we will all be able to go safely back to supper clubs soon. When that happy day arrives, Sister Bay Bowl will be one we will want to visit again soon. A combination of two quintessential Wisconsin gathering places – the supper club and the bowling alley. It’s a Wisconsin treasure.

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!

The Butterfly Club, Beloit

The Butterfly Club, Beloit, Wisconsin

Rating: 5+ out of 5 Old Fashioneds, in the running for our all-time favorite supper club

Relish Tray: no
Ice Cream Drinks: absolutely
Price Range: about $11 to about $30
Ambiance: perfectly retro, perfectly teal, a perfect lounge, a perfect supper club

The Butterfly Club is a special place for me and Owen. For years we’ve been making the trek down to the Butterfly Club for my birthday, and it’s even where we got engaged. I have a lot of good memories there, and any review of it I ever write will have all that coloring my perspective. But I also think the Butterfly Club is special.

Last year, on our annual visit for my birthday, we were talking about why the Butterfly Club is so, so good. Owen said, “I feel cheated that something like this is so rare nowadays.” It’s not just a ‘Wisconsin Supper Club’ with excellent food (and even better drinks). It’s all of that, and also an amazing, nostalgic lounge, complete with a lounge singer and regulars who come to dance.

The lounge. It’s everything.

The teal everything. The large wrap around bar. The mirrored ceiling. The multiple levels. The little cocktail tables with armchairs.

Every time we come to the Butterfly Club, it seems like someone is celebrating something. Heck, we’re usually there because we’re celebrating something. Perpetually, in my head at least, there’s a group sitting in the large circular booth area in the lounge celebrating a 40th anniversary.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should at least mention the supper part of the supper club.

The teal atmosphere continues to the two large dining rooms. The dining rooms don’t have quite the same charm as the lounge, though the large mirrors and lights of yester-year add a nice touch. Once we had the pleasure of being sat at one of the tables right up against the mirror.

While there’s not a relish tray, all the other supper club standards are there – and they’re all done well. The bread basket is piled high with the best of all bread basket-worlds: homemade rolls, the fancy prepackaged breadsticks, and cinnamon rolls. The side salad comes on the supper club standard glass cabbage-leaf plate. I know it’s not true, but for me, the glass cabbage leaf plate just makes the salad taste better. And don’t worry, there’s often two full dishes of butter packets at the table.

Every time we’ve been to the Butterfly Club, the food has been excellent. We often like to start with the Oysters Rockefeller. It’s one of those dishes that harkens back to a different time period, much like the Butterfly itself.

Owen standard order is the Shrimp De Jonghe, a house speciality. Originally from Chicago, Shrimp De Jonghe is sort of like a shrimp casserole. The shrimp is cooked with onions, mushrooms and cheese in a puff pastry shell. It’s a cheesy dream, brightened with fresh thyme and lemon.

I’m much more likely to sample new dishes on the menu. All of the classic steakhouse items I’ve tried have been great – the prime rib, the filet mignon, you name it. Last time, I tried the ribeye and shrimp skewer. The shrimp were so roasty and delicious that I even ate the tails!

Once we’re plenty full of meat and cheesy potatoes, we waddle back to the bar to catch the show. Every weekend, the Butterfly Club has a live lounge singer, most often Mike Williamson. Imagine, sipping on a martini in a lounge while a true crooner serenades the crowd. And the atmosphere does demand a martini over our usual old fashioneds. Insider tip: you can ask for the special olives stuffed with bleu cheese for an extra 25 cents.

Mike Williamson has the relaxed confidence of a veteran performer. For some songs, he roams through the crowd, checking on each table with a “How you folks doing tonight?” or a “Martinis, huh? Try it with an anchovy next time” between songs (sometimes even between lines of songs). He and his band take requests, and they seem to be able to play anything – Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Bill Withers. Once, someone requested “Puff the Magic Dragon” at the end of the night, and Mike sang it with gusto.

Of course, when there’s singing like this, there’s dancing. When was the last time you visited a restaurant with a permanent dance floor? Owen loves to dance, so we always make it onto the floor for at least a couple songs. Owen has plenty of enthusiasm, but neither of us really know anything aside from a few basic steps. That’s not the case for many other dancers at the Butterfly – there’s usually a lot of experienced dancers on the floor!

Most recently, we celebrated the new year at the Butterfly Club. We had heard on a previous visit that they throw a New Year’s Eve party with Mike Williamson, Rick Burns (keys), Bob DeVita (drums), John Smarzuski (Sax, Clarinet) and special guest Patte Armato Lund (vocals). All that, plus fireworks – we knew we couldn’t miss it.

The Butterfly Club always looks good, but on New Year’s Eve it was something special. There were so many balloons everywhere. Mike Williamson and company were excellent, as always. Right before midnight, someone came around handing out noisemakers and party hats. The whole place rang in the new year with a champagne toast while Mike and Patti sang “Auld Lang Syne” and “Celebrate”. There’s no other way we would want to celebrate a new year, a new decade than in this place at the event so reminiscent of yester-year.

See you soon, Butterfly Club. Thanks for the memories.

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.

Maiden Lake Supper Club, Mountain

The Maiden Lake Supper Club, Mountain, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: yes, with plenty of radishes
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: about $15 to $32 for entrees
Ambiance: lakeside, northwoods

The Maiden Lake Supper Club has been on my supper club bucket list for many years. One of my dearest friends (also named Jean, believe it or not) spent a summer waitressing there when she was a girl, and I’ve always wanted to see it in person. Owen and I don’t get up to the northwoods as often as I would like. When an unexpected funeral for a beloved relative of a close friend brought us to Lakewood, we made the most of it by finally stopping by Maiden Lake Supper Club.

During our visit to the area, we stopped by a lot of little towns – Suring, Pound, Hickory Corners, Embarass (yep, that’s the name), and drove past countless perfect, picturesque lakes. As the name suggests, The Maiden Lake Supper Club is right on Maiden Lake, with a beautiful cocktail deck right on the water. Unfortunately, our visit was in November, so we didn’t have a lot of daylight to enjoy the view. We’ll just have to visit again in the summer!

As we were walking into the restaurant, another patron greeted us with a “What’s up, go pack go!”. For the record, this is exactly how I would like to be greeted whenever I enter any room. We didn’t know this man, he didn’t know us, but his friendly camaraderie, and his focus on what really matters – the Packers – set a very welcoming tone to the whole evening.

Because we were a bit later than our usual early bird arrival, the bar and restaurant were packed when we arrived. We don’t mind a wait at all, and two seats at the bar opened up, and we settled in with a couple old fashioneds. Maiden Lake knows how to make an old fashioned, and we were particularly charmed by the options of fruit, mushroom or brussel sprout as garnishes. We both tried the brussel sprouts, new for us. They were deeply pickled, with that distinct brussel sprout sulfury flavor – according to Owen, “like farts in a good way”.

The Maiden Lake Supper Club feels just like how you would want a northwoods supper club to feel – not too modern, plenty of twinkle lights, and fully wood paneled. The demographic leaned a bit younger than many supper clubs we visit, in fact we saw multiple #supperclubselfies in action during our time at the bar.

While seated at the bar, the bartender gave us a couple of menus. It’s always nice to peruse the options while you’re waiting for a table. It gave us plenty of time to consider our options, though they were a bit limited because they had run out of tenderloin and prime rib by the time we arrived. I was caught completely off guard when a server took our order right at the bar. Owen knows better than anyone that when I’m ordering at a restaurant and I’m flustered, I tend to surprise even myself with my decision, usually opting for whatever my panicked eyes land on first. Once our orders were placed, we were led to our table.

Always a bonus for a supper club – a complimentary relish tray. This one was fairly simple, just carrots and an impressive amount of radishes, but it hit the spot. I’m not always a fan of liver pate, but this was excellent – smoky and salty, almost like whipped summer sausage. In case the basket of crackers and breadsticks wasn’t enough pre-dinner carbs, we also got our own little loaf of bread.

Owen started his meal with a cup of french onion soup. A bit unusually, the soup was served with a bowl of cheese on the side. Owen can be a bit of a stickler about the proper presentation of foods, but this was pretty charming. The soup was rich and sweet, with a good amount of beef flavor.

For me, the highlight of our whole experience at Maiden Lake was the salad. When our salads arrived, they came with a little mini salad bar, right at our table, allowing us to add as much cheese, bacon, and sesame sticks as we wanted. It was all the fun of a salad bar, but from the comfort of our own seats. Plus, the little dishes were left on our table for the rest of the meal, allowing us to add a bit of cheese or bacon to our other dishes (hello baked potato). They even take the extra time to freshly grind pepper onto your salad for you, which is enough to make Owen feel like a pampered prince.

In my surprised panic, I ended up ordering a ML Burger. It wasn’t a bad choice at all, with Waygu beef, onions, bacon, gorganzola cheese, all served on a ciabatta bun.

Owen tried the wild mushroom ravioli, which was served with a lemon basil cream sauce and roasted red peppers. Very delicious. Neither of us were unhappy with our meals in the slightest, but next time we stop by Maiden Lake, we want to try one of their infamous steaks.

Though a sad circumstance, a funeral, brought us to Lakewood and Maiden Lake Supper Club, we thoroughly enjoyed our time. In fact, the funeral had been for a life-long Packers fan, and all attendees were encouraged to show their Packers pride. Our server noticed our Packers garb, asked if we had attended the funeral, and offered her condolences. Even though we are certainly not locals, at that moment, we felt a real sense of belonging. I can’t think of a better example of how supper clubs serve as community institutions with real connections to their patrons and neighbors. Thanks for the hospitality, Maiden Lake – we’ll see you again soon!

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.

Green Acres, Sauk Prairie

Green Acres, Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin

Rating: a solid 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: not really, but a “supper club plate” is available as an appetizer, and relish-tray type fixings are available at the salad bar
Ice Cream Drinks: a wide variety of ice cream drinks, after dinner drinks, and ice cream martinis are available
Price Range: entrees range from $12 to roughly $40
Ambiance: classic, classy supper club

I’ve spent a lot of time driving on Highway 12, so I’ve passed Green Acres more times than I can count. It’s a friendly landmark on the highway for me, the old white house standing out from the woods around it. It’s one of the few supper clubs I remember visiting as a child, but I haven’t been back in many, many years. While we were in the bar area sipping on our pre-dinner old fashioneds, we overheard another group say “I’ve driven past this place a million times and I’ve never been in!”, which is pretty much how we felt too.

Green Acres is real classy, complete with a smooth jazz soundtrack in the bar. The bar area features a nice big wrap around bar, plus some individual tables. All of the Packers and Badgers art is framed, each with its own display light above. It’s Wisconsin sports memorabilia, but nothing is hokey and nothing is neon. We ordered our old fashioneds, and enjoyed the tail end of a Badger game. To Owen’s true delight, there were little bowls of pub mix scattered all over the bar area.

At Green Acres, they use “magic syrup” in their old fashioneds, which the bartender told us is a mix of bitters and simple syrup. Combined with a generous pour of brandy, it was pretty magic to us – a real nice old fashioned.

When it was time for our meal, we were led to the upstairs dining room, which looked just like I remembered from however-many years ago. The dining room is pretty large, with tall ceilings, dark green curtains, and a salad bar right in the middle of the room.

They don’t serve a complimentary relish tray at Green Acres, but you can order a “supper club plate”, and I recommend that you do. It’s full of local meats and cheeses, pickled asparagus, “mustard-style” deviled eggs, and a very interesting “brandy sweet butter”. The latter tastes like something between butter and frosting, and I have a feeling Owen and I will have to find some more soon. Like everything on the plate, it was delicious. This platter felt like a celebration of Wisconsin – in fact, a celebration of Sauk Prairie. Everything on the plate came from within 50 miles; Wollersheim brandy butter (just 2.4 miles from Green Acres), Wyttenbach meat sticks (3.4 miles away), The Cheese Maker cheddar (18.5 miles away), and Carr Valley cheese spread (the furthest away, at 39.4 miles). Next time you want to show a non-Wisconsinite what we’re all about, I recommend this plate. It may look like a simple meat and cheese plate, but everything was extremely local, and extremely tasty.

Another thing Owen and I loved about Green Acres is the salad bar. Of course, we love a huge salad bar with tons of options, but there’s something to be said about a more moderately sized salad bar. For those of us who tend to go a little overboard and put too many different things on our plates, resulting in strange flavor combinations (cough*Owen*cough), the smaller salad bar allows for a more curated experience. You could put everything on your salad at Green Acres, and you would come away with a perfectly appetizing salad. I know, because that’s exactly what Owen did. (Don’t miss the block of cheese above the salad bar!)

If a supper club really wanted to charm the pants off me, they would focus on the bread. To my delight, we were served a whole loaf of bread with our meal, wrapped in a nice little napkin, on its own little cutting board. Who can complain when there’s a warm little loaf of wheaty bread, and it’s all yours?

At this point, we were pretty smitten with all Green Acres had to offer, and I still had prime rib coming!

The prime rib was juicy and delicious, and I couldn’t decide if I liked it more with the creamy horseradish sauce, or on its own. It shone either way. I ordered the smallest size available, and I still couldn’t finish it (as much as I wanted to).

Owen tried the Rainbow Trout, which was stuffed with creamy shrimp and cheese and topped with almonds. He had it served with tartar sauce. It’s pretty uncommon for Owen to order a baked fish (he’s really more of a fry guy), but it hit the spot.

Though we were pretty full, it had been a while since we ended a supper club trip with an ice cream drink, so we decided to power through. Green Acres has a really impressive dessert drink menu, with ice cream drinks (like grasshoppers and pink squirrels), after dinner drinks (like Irish coffee and chocolate wine), and ice cream martinis (like something called a rootbeer-floatini). I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a supper club distinguish between ice cream drinks and ice cream martinis. I’ll admit I was intrigued, but I just can’t pass up a brandy alexander. I’m glad I stuck to what I know and love, because Green Acres makes a mean brandy alexander. It was not overly blended, with a lot of nutmeg in it, and the perfect size for a sweet treat.

We liked everything about Green Acres. It’s a classy and classic place, but still very much “come as you are”. One touch I particularly enjoyed – here kale is in its rightful place as garnish, instead of in a trendy salad. Next time you’re driving down highway 12, stop in!

Dorf Haus Supper Club, Roxbury

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!

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.