Supper clubs used to be found all over the Midwest, but they are associated with no state stronger than Wisconsin. In fact, their charms are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in Wisconsin. The Old Fashioned is one of the most popular bars in Madison and harkens back to the old traditions and rec-room décor of Dairy State supper clubs. Capital Brewery has even named a lager after the dining institutions. So what makes them special? Why are they so beloved in Wisconsin; why did they survive here?
Supper clubs are more than dining. They are more like an pub in rural western Ireland—the public living room. They are not clubs in the membership sense, but a central place one can spend an entire evening dining, having cocktails, and maybe catching some entertainment. Among patrons, you’ll see businessmen hosting clients and feeding them the charms and camaraderie of the bar. A family will be celebrating a grandparent’s birthday in the dining room. Games of Euchre played in the lounge with watchful eyes on the lookout for table talk between partners. Supper clubs are the center of the community and have played a central role in preserving Wisconsin’s famous hospitality and small-town cohesiveness.
In this grand dining tradition, I will be reviewing supper clubs across the state. I am pleased to announce my first review is Benedetti’s in my hometown of Beloit.
|Look at that slaw!|
Like any good supper club, the relish tray was brought out before any order was put in. You gotta love a good helping of coleslaw. It’s the illusion of a healthy salad with the nutritional value of Chinese newspapers. But damn is this stuff good. Paired with my Old Fashioned, this brought me back to old-time Wisconsin of Hank Aaron baseball and bowling alleys.
Walking into any old supper club in Wisconsin is like slipping into a well-worn shoes. It should be comfortable and put you at ease. The food is classic, fatty, and delicious. I was fortunate enough to be there on a Friday, so I tried out the fish fry. Good portions--not too big. The breading was light and crispy and the homemade tartar sauce tasted great. Fries were merely an accessory meant to supplement the fish, the star of this show. Among the din of the restaurant, old familiar faces were laughing and chatting; catching up on the week. The bar was busy with people celebrating the upcoming freedom of a summer weekend in Beloit, and everybody jumped into the in-house ice cream for dessert.
|Fish is a miracle food.|