Discovering Wisconsin’s Amazing Supper Clubs

Wisconsin is famous for many things – Beer, schnitzels, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen, cheese curds, the Green Bay Packers, the Dells, Friday fish frys, and supper clubs.  Of these it’s Wisconsin’s supper clubs that make me long for a leisurely road trip through America’s Dairyland.

There is no exact definition of a Wisconsin supper club.  It’s an “I know it when I see it” kind of place.  A working definition might be that a supper club has a large bar and dining room with live entertainment, is only open for supper, serves large portions of traditional American food, is often located in rural parts of the state near a lake or resort, and is typically themed in some fashion.  An excellent example of a classic supper club is the Hobnob in Racine not far from Chicago.

The Hobnob Supper Club in Racine, Wisconsin

The Hobnob Supper Club in Racine, Wisconsin

Another clue that you’re in a true supper club is the serving of a unique Wisconsin cocktail, the Brandy Old Fashioned.  Unlike Old Fashioned’s elsewhere, the Wisconsin version uses brandy instead of rye or bourbon and is very sweet – even when you order it ‘sour.’

The famous Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned

The famous Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned

The linked articles above are terrific introductions to Wisconsin’s supper clubs located throughout the state.

Cheese curds, anyone?

About Peter Moruzzi

Historian Peter Moruzzi is passionate about the middle decades of the 20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. Born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Hawaii, Moruzzi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1999, he founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) an architectural preservation group. In 2006, Moruzzi produced "Desert Holiday," a jaunty documentary chronicling the history of the Coachella Valley as seen through vintage postcards. He is also the author of "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground" and "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea." Moruzzi's latest book is titled "Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants" with photography by Sven A. Kirsten. Peter Moruzzi resides with his partner in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.
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3 Responses to Discovering Wisconsin’s Amazing Supper Clubs

  1. brt374 says:

    I’m sure you know of The Gobbler, Peter…I heard tell of it on one of the vintage retail Facebook groups I used to be a member of. What an extraordinary place. No pics of it on it’s Wikipedia page, but there’s many of it other places online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gobbler

    • The Gobbler is one of those mystical places that have been talked about in hushed tones for years. I didn’t mention it in my blog because it is once again closed and for sale. If I had a couple of million bucks and could devote myself to a single all-absorbing project for the rest of my life it would be to restore the Gobbler as a traditional Wisconsin supper club.

      • brt374 says:

        Great minds think alike! I was sick to my stomach seeing those photos for the first time, including the ones of the motel across the road. If those walls could talk…I guess the motel’s been torn down or burned down? I’m actually going through some matchbooks right now and found some Palm Springs ones I forgot I had…I’ll photograph them as a group and message them to you on Facebook later.

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