Prime rib, Friday night fish frys and relish trays are the stuff of legend in Wisconsin. They are revered as much as Lombardi, Favre and Bucky.
But the supper club is a relic, so one suburban Milwaukee man is hoping to bring them back into fashion, by documenting the truly unique ones in a new book.
It's a typical weeknight at the Hob Nob in Racine, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The martinis and old fashioneds are out, as are the complimentary hors d'oeuvres, which include stuffed mushrooms and gorgonzola bread.
The supper club has been here since the 50s; it's one of the legendary spots featured in Ron Faiola's "Wisconsin Supper Clubs," which documents 50 of the state's most enduring time capsules.
"They've all had fires at some point in their history of the building; they started off as dance halls and taverns and roadhouses and later on, kind of progressed into something a little higher class dining than a tavern," said Faiola.
Schnitzels the size of a football and a filet of beef crowned with onion rings are pretty standard fare, but so are ample portions of salmon and whitefish, usually accompanied by cheesy French onion soup or au gratin potatoes- this is Wisconsin, after all.
But the thing about supper clubs is they're all different. Faiola says the original owners of the Hob Nob made every effort to keep the décor unique.
"He would travel around the world and buy up these Persian carpets and unusual decorations and tapestries and all this stuff and that's what you see in the restaurant," Faiola said.
"It's very exotic. You don't find decoration and décor like this anywhere else in the state."
And you don't find the high-touch element of customer service everywhere either. The owners and servers know just about everyone here. Faiola says the supper club is as much community gathering place as it is restaurant.
"People made that their place to go: Friday fish fry, Saturday prime rib," he said.
277 Sheridan Rd., Racine, WI
Wisconsin Supper Clubs is available at bookstores, Target, etc.
Based on this movie:
Also just released:
The Supper Club Book: A Celebration of a Midwest Tradition by Dave Hoekstra, with foreword by Garrison Keillor
Hoekstra offers dozens of dining destinations in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, detailing each restaurant's history, and introducing the personalities that give the clubs their character and keep them thriving.
Hoekstra will have an official book launch party supper club style on Thursday, June 6.
6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn
Doors open at 6:00pm
Book signing at 7:00pm
Live music at 8:00pm
This event is free and open to the public.