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.

The Buckhorn Supper Club, Milton

The Buckhorn Supper Club, Milton, Wisconsin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: nope
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: entrees range from about $22 to $50+
Ambiance: lakeside with lots of history, decor and red twinkle lights

The Buckhorn Supper Club is a special place. It ticks a lot of the boxes on our ideal supper club list: lakeside, woodsy, plenty of Packers memorabilia, a dark interior with a view, strands of red twinkle lights, and 80+ years of history. It even has some things I didn’t know I wanted in a supper club, like stuffed-animal birds and striped wallpaper and even an arcade table. But the best thing about the Buckhorn is the out-of-this world, delicious food.

Per usual, we got to the Buckhorn nice and early. We had a couple quick sips of our very boozy old fashioneds in the bar area, but got seated pretty much right away. From what we saw, the bar area was perfectly charming, with bold striped wallpaper and Wisconsin sports, fishing or lobster-related memorabilia stuffed into every crevice. I particularly enjoyed the Packers Beanie Babies stung above the window.

To be totally honest, we didn’t have great service while we were at the Buckhorn. We came on a Saturday, not realizing the place would soon be full of post-Camp Randall Badgers fans. Owen and I like to really take our time at a supper club, and we could sense that the server was annoyed that we didn’t remember the specials, or know what we wanted to order when she first stopped by our table to check on us. We also were a little surprised by the prices. The Buckhorn is not cheap, like $15-for-onion-rings-not-cheap. By the time we ordered our food, we were both feeling a little crabby from the service and the prices.

However, it’s clear that the Buckhorn is going above and beyond in the kitchen. When we did ask to hear the specials again, all of them sounded incredibly interesting and tasty, and noticeably bold for a traditional supper club. The menu at the Buckhorn is pretty much what you’d expect: prime rib, steaks, seafood. Sure, there’s no relish tray, but the food was some of the best we’ve had at a supper club.

Nestled in the bread basket was a little friendly dollop of beer cheese spread, made in-house. Just saying the words “beer cheese” together can make a person feel heavy, but this was whipped to a light and fluffy perfection.

Owen had a side salad with his meal. It came with a nice mix of iceberg lettuce and spring mix, and his go-to bleu cheese dressing had plenty “funkiness” coming through – a high compliment from Owen.

The true highlight of the meal – the highlight of the whole evening, probably the highlight of that whole week – was my french onion soup. I have thought about this soup at least once a day since we visited. If the rest of the meal had been a disaster, the Buckhorn would still have a spot in my heart for this luscious, beautiful french onion soup. It was so rich, so dark in color, and so pleasantly sweet – it was almost french onion caramel. Eating it, I felt guilty that Owen hadn’t ordered it as well (but not guilty enough to share).

When our entrees were served, there was a billow of steam coming off of them. Owen had the prime rib with mushrooms, and I tried the broasted chicken. A heaping pile of mushrooms and a lake of au jus really sang on Owen’s tender prime rib. His baked potato was served most appealingly, with an orange and kale garnish.

My broasted chicken was some of the best I’ve had. The garlic mash certainly delivered on the “garlic” promise, with lovely potato skins and a perfect chunky texture.

Observing our fellow diners, we noticed that we seemed to be the only non-regulars. I saw a diner hug a server, watched a fellow at the table next to ours recite his order, sides and all, without even opening his menu, and almost every group stopped by the hostess stand to chat on their way out. I’m going to guess that we were the only ones who felt like the service was less-than-ideal, and I bet that it was just an off-moment for our server. Another night, we might have been hugging at the end of our meal too. Next time, maybe when we stop by for one of the Buckhorn’s famous lobster boils. Until then, I’ll just dream about that french onion soup.

The Five O’Clock Club, Pewaukee

The Five O’Clock Club, Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: no, or at least not for fish fry
Ice Cream Drinks: maybe not, but great pie
Price Range: Friday fish fry ranges from about $9 to about $22
Ambiance: updated lakeside supper club with a lot of history

One recent Friday night, Owen and I met our friends Vic and Edna at the Five O’Clock Club in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. We had been talking about meeting up at a supper club, and picked a place that was not too far for either of us. 

I like a supper club that feels like a destination, and you have to drive down a long road to get to the Five O’Clock Club. Luckily, Owen and I had a slow Friday afternoon, so we were able to get there a little early, not long after the time the Five O’Clock name suggests. Even though we thought we were plenty early, the place was jam packed when we arrived. We had to park in the “make a spot” parking along the driveway. Upon entering, there was even a line to put your name in for a table, and the hostess was completely out of pagers. The long wait didn’t bother us at all, Owen and I don’t mind some extra time for an old fashioned or two. The weather that night was beautiful, and we enjoyed our first old fashioneds outside with other diners waiting for tables.

The Five O’Clock Club has been in business for an impressive 90 years, opening in 1929.

When Vic and Edna arrived, we found some seats at the bar – a precious commodity in the packed bar area. The bar area is stuffed with trinkets and decor, including a particularly impressive collection of Brewer’s bobbleheads. Our bar seats allowed a clear view of the bartender using enough bitters to tint the ice rose-colored. The old fashioneds were classic, though Edna’s brandy-sweet was very sweet. 

In all, we waited over an hour for a table, but with a couple old fashioneds and a couple old friends, we didn’t mind the wait. There are a couple different dining rooms at the Five O’Clock Club, and from what I could tell, all were cozy and woodsy and heavily decorated. We were sat right by a fireplace with a nice view outside.

The Five O’Clock Club has a limited menu on Fridays, just fish fry and a couple sandwich options. When we were led to our table, it was preset with cole slaw at every place, rye bread, and two bowls of tartar sauce. I do like that math, two bowls of tartar sauce for four people. 

Some less favorable math, the butter dish only had three pats of butter left when we sat down. Vic asked if we could get some more, and a heaping bowl of butter pats soon arrived. Vic is not a huge fan of rye bread, to the great offense of the great rye bread advocates, Owen and Edna. This rye bread was just what Vic likes, nicely spongy and subtly caraway flavored. Owen could do with some more caraway punch.

The coleslaw was nice and vinegary, and though I wanted to save it to eat with my fish, I couldn’t stop from eating it up right away. There’s something nice and distinctly supper-cluby about getting to eat part of your meal while deciding what you want to eat for your meal.

One of my favorite things about the menu at the Five O’Clock Club is that the cheese plate is listed as “market price”. Only in Wisconsin.

We started with some onion rings. The batter was incredibly crunchy, and the onion just slipped right out, but left its’ essence in a very pleasant way.

Vic and Edna also tried the seafood chowder, which came with a bowl of croutons. Sometimes, a creamy soup at a supper club can feel like a salt bomb, but not this time. The soup was good and rich, but not too salty. 

 For our entrees, we all took advantage of the fish fry combos, I tried the shrimp and scallops while everyone else tried the perch and cod, all of which came with fries. Fried scallops can be a risky move, but here the scallops were juicy and succulent, not rubbery at all. The lake perch was the real star of the night. It had just the right ratio of batter to fish, and nice fish flavor.

Afterwards, we all split a slice of apple pie. Owen and I should really meet up with friends like Vic and Edna at supper clubs more often. We always want dessert, but when it’s just the two of us, it seems like a lot to take on, and we usually talk ourselves out of it. The pie was wonderful, our only complaint was that it was served cold. Based on the comfortable service, and the number of pats on the back Owen received from our server, I’m sure the staff would have happily warmed it up for us, if we had thought to ask. With a cup of “well brewed” coffee (Owen’s opinion), it was the perfect end to a pretty nice night. 

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. 

The Al-Gen Dinner Club, Rhinelander

The Al-Gen Dinner Club, Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds, a perfect northwoods supper club

Relish Tray: not exactly, but crackers and cheese spread
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: entrees range from about $13 to about $30
Ambiance: old school, north woods, log cabin

Sometimes, when Owen and I pick an area of Wisconsin to explore, we have an idea of the supper club that we would like to try that night. This time, we were drawn to the Rhinelander area because of an album by one of our favorite bands, The Blue Mooners. While there is a song on the album specifically about Rhinelander, the song Hodag Country is my favorite (maybe tied with Minocqua Mama). Owen and I popped the CD in our car and started to drive north, hoping to see a hodag of our own.

After a day with no sightings of the fabled beast, we stumbled upon a pretty good consolation prize – Swearingen’s Al-Gen Dinner Club. The Al-Gen was first opened in 1932, and it feels like it. It’s been updated, sure, but it still retains the perfect, northwoods, log cabin feel. On the menu, the tagline is “Yesterday’s atmosphere serving today’s favorites”, and while “today’s favorites” are not the most modern dishes I’ve seen on a menu, they are certainly delicious.

When we sat down at the bar, it was still pretty early. The bar area has a full wrap around bar, and our old fashioneds were tart and very bitters-forward. Surprisingly, the pickled mushrooms had a spicy kick – Owen was over the moon. While we were at the bar, another patron ordered a martini and it came in a classic martini glass adorned with a Green Bay Packers “G”, very classy and very Wisconsin.

The dining room is cozy, and holds maybe twenty -five tables. The northwoods, log cabin feel continues in the dining room, with plenty of deer heads and vintage Rhinelander brewery decor. There’s not one window in the place, so it feels like it could be any time of day (or night), and maybe any year.

I was truly delighted when the server brought us a tray crackers and a regal scoop of cheese spread in a sundae dish. Only in Wisconsin does cheese spread get the royal treatment it deserves.

With our entrees, we had a side salad and a choice of soup. The salad had some kale mixed in with the greens, very modern for a classic supper club salad. The choice of soup was chicken-something or tomato-something. I thought I misheard the server when she said tomato juice, and ordered it, expecting a tomato bisque perhaps. Of course, Owen heard perfectly, but happily ordered the tomato juice as well. I’ve seen it as an option on supper club menus before, but it was my first time having a juice course, and I didn’t mind it at all.

As if the cheese, salad and juice were not enough to start our meal, we also got a bread basket with two homemade breads, a warm herby french bread and a raisin walnut bread, both incredible.

For our main courses, Owen tried the “beef and reef”, a filet with a side of shrimp. We had heard they were already out of prime rib, but the filet was a pretty good substitute. Despite amount of color on the shrimp, they were not overcooked at all.

I tried another combination plate, this one ribs and chicken. I had been craving BBQ ribs for a while, and these really hit the spot. The sauce was tangy and sweet, and I only wished there was more of it. By the time I turned to the chicken I was too full to go on, but the leftovers made a tasty breakfast.

The Al-Gen does serve ice cream drinks, but Owen and I had already stopped for a cone while strolling around Rhinelander – we will have to try them next time.

The Al-Gen is everything we want in a supper club. I want to travel to a destination, family-owned restaurant in the northwoods. I want my bartender to be hard of hearing and wearing a novelty tie. I want to be surprised when I accidentally order tomato juice. I want a cocktail served in a Packers martini glass. I want to need a doggy-bag because of the enormous amount of food I’ve been served. I want to be in a beautiful, well-preserved log cabin from the 1930s. And I want to visit the Al-Gen again and again.

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. 

Blanck’s Lake Aire Supper Club, Fond du Lac

Blanck’s Lake Aire Supper Club, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Rating: 4 out of 5 Old Fashioneds

Relish Tray: No, but a generous salad bar
Ice Cream Drinks: available
Price Range: most entrees range from about $12 to about $30
Ambiance: casual, lakeside

One of my very best friends grew up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, though he’s lived in New York City for many years now. He’s a city person – there aren’t a lot of things he misses about the city of Fond du Lac – but when he found out about this blog, he told Owen and me to try out Blanck’s Lake Aire Supper Club.

After a day enjoying some of Fond du Lac’s delights – the lighthouse, the Kristmas Kringle Shoppe, a nearly-empty Forest Mall, and a miraculous sighting of Elvis himself – we strolled on down to Blanck’s Lake Aire Supper Club. Owen and I like to get to supper clubs nice and early, because a leisurely drink at the bar is part of the experience, after all. When we pulled in, promptly at 4:30pm, a large party was also arriving. We took this as a good indicator of a local, established spot.

Blanck’s interior is simple. Some things have been updated, and some things have not, and that works for me. You really can’t go wrong when you have a view of Lake Winnebago. If I had my druthers, all supper clubs would feel like stepping back in time a couple decades, but Blanck’s nostalgic-meets-pinterest decor compliments the lake view.

One thing we both enjoyed about our pre-dinner drinks: Blanck’s is pickled mushroom country. Many of the other patrons at the bar ordered their old fashioneds with pickled mushrooms, and one even went so far as to get pickled mushrooms with extra onions on the side.

While we sat at the bar, we were handed a menu to peruse. Blanck’s uses the order-at-the-bar system. You let a server know you’re ready to order by “giving the ‘High’ sign” – menus upright. We placed our order with a server, and she led us to our table.

I’m not sure that the things that Owen and I like about supper clubs are universal draws, because we were both delighted by the paper placemats full of local ads. Sure, the lake view is great, but when’s the last time you ate your meal off of an advertisement for a local HVAC company?

Blanck’s is doing a lot of things right, but they are particularly succeeding in the salad bar department. Salad bar is not really even the right term. Soup and Salad bar is closer, but there’s also a section full of prepared salads, a bread section, and a nice end cap with crackers and spreads. Owen was in heaven.

There are so many goodies at the soup and salad bar that I can’t imagine anyone being able to get all their treats in one trip.

We both tried the cheesy beer, potato and bacon soup (you can’t go wrong with that combo). It tasted like butter with a side of beer, in the best way possible. When we were working on our selections, the server stopped by our table to ask “how is the salad bar going?”. I appreciate being checked in on, even during the self-service portion of the meal, where any problems would have only been self-inflicted.

Blanck’s has a big menu, and lots of items that intrigued us. We started with some onion petals. Owen loves onion rings, but we both might be converted to the onion petal format, if only for ease of dipping.

For our entrees, I ordered the chicken cordon bleu and Owen the prime rib, princess cut. Honestly, my previous experience with chicken cordon bleu was frozen and delivered by the Schwan’s man. I sort of forgot that chicken cordon bleu has Swiss cheese, and I don’t really love Swiss cheese, – I could have ordered better. I’m sure it was an excellent version of chicken cordon bleu because the chicken was moist and delicious, and the wild rice was a pleasant surprise. I just might have been happier with a different meal.

Owen had the prime rib with “cheesys”, the real showstopper of the evening. Cheesys are hash browns with cheese throughout, something adjacent to the tray of cheesy potatoes you might see in a church basement social. The prime rib was “princess cut” but you couldn’t tell by looking at it. We couldn’t imagine a piece any bigger, especially considering the ample spread we had already consumed.

We intended to try one of Blanck’s ice cream drinks, but we were both too stuffed after dinner to follow through with it.

On our way out, we noticed a supper club first for us – Blanck’s Lake Aire also sells CBD products. Whatever it takes to bring in more customers!