The history behind Wisconsin supper clubs

Wisconsin

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – While many of us are familiar with dining at a four-star restaurant, a Wisconsin supper club is in a lane of its own. They are generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan Illinois, and Iowa.

The first Supper Club in the United States opened in Beverly Hills, by Milwaukee native, Lawrence Frank. Supper clubs are responsible for introducing the “doggie bag” to dining out culture, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

They started getting popular during the 1930s and were originally considered a destination where guests would spend the entire evening, typically from cocktail hour to a night-club-like atmosphere.

Today, supper clubs simply operate as restaurants. Wisconsin has 250 supper clubs, and they are typically in rural areas on the outskirts of town. The English Inn Supper Club in Green Bay dates back 100 years.

Courtesy of The Wisconsin Historical Society, Jim Draeger

“Supper clubs, for the most part, will be family owned and a lot of times even the people that we hire are gonna be family or close friends, and I think that’s what makes a supper club so special. Where you come to work and you know everybody who’s there it’s almost like going to your second home all the time,” says Gabriel Gomez, General Manager of The English Inn.

“It’s more of a family thing. It’s seasonal also. You know wintertime, a lot of people want to go to a place that’s cozier. Years back, you’d come into supper clubs, they’d have cheese and liver paste,” says Beth Johnson, a regular customer at English Inn.

Each supper club has its own specialty items, but they generally all serve “surf and turf” dishes such as a prime rib, steak, chicken, and fish. As Wisconsinites know, the supper club experience starts way before you are seated at the table.

“You’d start out with a bit of that have a cocktail and sit down, you’d spend two hours at the supper clubs. I think we just grew up with that and it’s gone from there. I’ve traveled a lot and outside of Wisconsin it’s not the same,” says Johnson.

The English Inn has two locations, one in Green Bay and one in Fish Creek. For more information on The English Inn, click here.

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