Supper Clubs are a huge part of Wisconsin foodie culture. You stop at one during your Sunday drive through the countryside and have a leisurely dinner with an Old-Fashioned cocktail (or two) and prime rib. The kicker is that nowadays, supper clubs are barely distinguishable from a regular restaurant. As a life-long Sconnie, this makes it hard for me to explain the difference between a supper club and a restaurant to someone who doesn’t already understand the difference.
But there is a difference. You can usually feel it in the atmosphere of a place. It’s in the limited selections on the menu, the location in the middle of the countryside, and the presence of a salad bar. Supper Clubs tend to be family-owned businesses. No two are alike, and someone of them are found in a city or don’t offer a salad bar, but each one is most definitely a supper club.
It all boils down to history. Despite their prevalence in the upper Midwest, supper clubs got their start in New York City during the Prohibition era. Supper Clubs were just another word for “speakeasy” back in the day. Over the years, they’ve evolved into rural destinations where patrons can spend a whole evening of fine dining, cocktails and entertainment.
At supper clubs, the point is to linger. They’re places to spend entire evenings. Most of all, their rural locations mean they might be the only place of fine dining for miles around. Supper clubs are meant to be places of community, where you can talk with the person next to you at the bar and then have a conversation with the table next to you in the dining room.
You can learn more about supper clubs and their prevalence in Wisconsin with The Supper Club Book by Dave Hoekstra. Part history, part travel guide, The Supper Club Book is your guide to learning about Wisconsin’s supper clubs by trying them out yourself!
If you’re looking to bring the supper club experience to your home, WisconsinMade Artisan Collective offers the Wisconsin Delights Cheese and Sausage Gift, which makes the perfect supper club relish tray. Stocked with Wisconsin cheddar cheese, summer sausage, mustard and crackers. Enhance your relish tray with the Gourmet Pickled Vegetable Sampler and the Any Combination Pickled Herring Sampler. The Supper Club Cheddar Cheese Spread Gift Box will also bring authenticity to a traditional supper club relish tray.
In celebration of supper clubs, here is a soup you might find at the next supper club you visit: Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup.
Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup
- Cooking Spray
- 3 c. diced carrots
- 1 c. slice celery
- 3/4 c. chopped green onions
- 4 c. peeled, diced round red potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 can low sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 c. flour
- 2 c. Milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 c. Wisconsin beer
- 1 1/2 c. shredded Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 c. shredded Wisconsin Swiss cheese
Coat a large pot with cooking spray and place over medium high heat until the pot is hot.
Add carrots, celery, and green onions and cook for 8 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk while whisking with a wire whisk. Add to pot.
Stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Cook 2 minutes or until thickened.
Add the beer, cook 1 more minute.
Remove from heat, add cheeses, stirring until the cheeses are melted.
Share your favorite supper club memory in the comments!