The supper club is a uniquely Wisconsin experience. While today’s supper clubs are more spread out and more likely to be found in rural areas, they still hold a very important place in the hearts of Wisconsinites, and are an indisputable part of the state’s culture.
But what exactly is a supper club, and what can you expect out of the experience of visiting one?
What’s the difference between a supper club and a restaurant?
A supper club could be considered a type of restaurant, but the experience between a supper club and a standard restaurant differs in key ways.
Supper clubs are generally independently owned and located in rural areas. The menu will usually be limited, with primarily surf and turf entrees, with homemade food.
These restaurants are meant to be seen as destinations. At other restaurants, you arrive, place your order, eat and leave. But supper clubs are meant for people who aren’t in a hurry, and want to make an evening out of their outing (which makes sense for rural areas, where the drive to get there may be longer). It’s a place to enjoy drinks, multiple courses, dessert and perhaps some music or other entertainment.
When you walk in, you usually will first go to the bar area. There is often a feeling of community in supper clubs—people are here to socialize. You’ll get a cocktail or two, and may be assigned a table number and have your order taken. But in many cases, you won’t be seated until you ask to be seated. The idea is to create a slow-paced, community atmosphere.
Once you’re ready to take your seat, you will talk to your server. You’ve probably already ordered your food, and will likely have an appetizer waiting for you, such as a soup or salad, a relish tray or some bread.
Upon completing the meal, it’s common for people to return to the bar to get an ice cream drink for dessert. Common choices include the Brandy Alexander, the Pink Squirrel (invented at At Random, a bar in Milwaukee) or the Grasshopper.
Where does the name “supper club” come from? In most cases, these restaurants are only open for the supper hour.
The proliferation of supper clubs really began after World War II. Many supper clubs continue to have a midcentury feel to them, with kitschy, retro décor (think a lot of wood paneling and Tiffany lamps).
In many cases, the supper club will have décor that reflects either their location or the interests of the owners. A backwoods supper club might have hunting gear or taxidermy. The supper club might be packed with sports memorabilia (Green Bay Packers, anyone?) or simply have a woodsy or folksy vibe. Many Northwoods supper clubs have log cabin décor to match their location.
Interested in exploring the supper club experience and vibe for yourself? We sure hope you’ll come out and pay us a visit at Hotel Seymour Supperclub, and we will be pleased to give you an evening to remember!