Wisconsin Supper Clubs are a Midwest tradition like no other – a celebration of excellent food in a friendly, homey atmosphere. From thick-cut steaks to fish boils (a Great Lakes tradition, especially popular in Door County) and Friday fish fry, the food at supper clubs here is high quality – and there are some standard items that all supper clubs feature. The relish tray (cut vegetables, dip) and club cheese are standard, and come first.
Then you sit and chat, have a cocktail out on the deck or at your window-side table, and the friendly waitress (who always treats you like an old friend) brings your excellent dinner. For that’s what a supper club is about – socializing and eating in a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
Wisconsin has hundreds of supper clubs – how to choose? Well, Milwaukee author & filmmaker Ron Faiola has come to our rescue with advice for both travel planning and restaurant picking. He’s an author and filmmaker who has produced and directed numerous critically acclaimed documentaries. He is the president and founder of Push Button Gadget Inc., which has been specializing in audio visual and business theater production for nearly 20 years. And, most importantly for us, he is the author of Wisconsin Supper ClubsandWisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, both published by Agate Midway. In these books, he profiles excellent supper clubs throughout the state – and gives us a glimpse into this unique Wisconsin tradition.
Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Cheese burger pizza made from scratch, complete with pickles and ketchup.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Cheese, butter, milk.
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Their sense of adventure food-wise.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Being too food-fussy.
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer, cocktail, then wine.
Your favorite cookbook?
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican breakfast, French omelets.
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Mostly chicken (and seafood), but I love to make some great tofu dishes.
Chef you most admire?
Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright of the Two Fat Ladies show on BBC.
Food you like the most to eat?
Food you dislike the most?
What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Where is your favorite place to eat?
On my back deck when it’s nice out.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Any local family restaurant.
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I don’t, but I know a girl who has the M&M guys on her arm.
Recipe: Onion Pie
Every Thanksgiving my family asks me to make my updated version of this Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.
Ingredients (for 8″ Pyrex pie plate):
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
4 tbs butter
2-3 medium sweet onions cut into rings or strips (not diced)
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp (or mild) cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook onions in two tbs butter and a pinch of salt & pepper on medium low heat. Onions should be soft but not caramelized.
Melt 2 tbs butter in bowl and mix with 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of buttered pie dish.
Combine beaten eggs, milk and cheese in bowl. When onions are done, layer them on top of the bread crumb crust, then slowly add the egg mixture from bowl. Additional cheese (parmesan, asiago) can be added to the top (optional).
Bake on center rack and check at 25 minutes, inserting a clean knife in center. If it comes out clean, the pie is ready. Most likely it will need another 5 or 10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut into pie wedges or squares.
Susan Chwae, along with her mother Joan Peterson, are publishers of the award-winning Eat Smart Culinary travel guidebook series. To date, they have published guides to Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Peru, Poland, Sicily, and Turkey. Note: the links are to my interviews with the authors! I love these guides and have enjoyed reading and sharing them for many years. This series? It’s the best thing you can read if you love food and are traveling.
In 2014, Susan designed the Eat Smart Abroad App that pulls the menu guide and foods and flavors chapters from each book so you never have to wonder what’s on the menu or in the market with easy-to-use translators for food and beverage terminology.
Susan also co-leads the Eat Smart Culinary Tours. Their annual Eat Smart Culinary Tour to Turkey is their most popular tour. Here’s a video from one of their tour participants:
They also lead tours to Morocco, India, Peru, Sicily, and in 2016 will be launching the 2016 Culinary Tour to Indonesia, with William Wongso, who is considered one of Indonesia’s national treasures.
Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home? My grandma’s Shepherd’s Pie. It’s simple and a real comfort food in the winter months. I tend to cook with what I have available at the moment and this recipe is perfect to use what you have on hand, or that single parsnip or rutabaga you received in your CSA share.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, a Wisconsin kitchen staple.
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? A mutual appreciation for the thought and creativity that went into preparing the meal.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Eating too fast, and making me clean up the kitchen.
Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine or cocktail.
Your favorite cookbook author? When I went away to college, my dad bought me the Better Homes and Garden cookbook collection. He wrote a message on the inside cover in each of them. I grab those first for ideas and then create my dishes with what I have on hand.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My Şimşir wood spoon collection from Turkey. There are shops behind the Spice Market in Istanbul where they are made and sold and we always stop to shop as part of our tour itinerary.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? I’m a casserole fan. And I love traditional Mexican foods.
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Chicken
Favorite vegetable? Asparagus
Chef you most admire? My husband. When he starts creating a dish, he absolutely has to master it and I admire his dedication.
Food you like the most to eat? King crab legs
Food you dislike the most? Pearl onions
What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Watch my daughters perform in dance and music. Both of them are passionate about the arts.
Who do you most admire in food? Right now, William Wongso. He’s going to be co-leading our upcoming culinary tour to Indonesia. His dedication and drive to promote the cuisine of Indonesia is awe-inspiring.
Where is your favorite place to eat? Home. I am surrounded by great cooks.
What is your favorite restaurant? Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Madison.
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? If I did, I wouldn’t be able to say because my mother will read this.
Recipe: Thelma’s Shepherd’s Pie
Brown ground or diced lamb with chopped onions.
Add a variety of small or diced vegetables you have on hand, some flour, worcestershire sauce, some herbs, salt and pepper, and enough water to thicken the mixture.
Place in a deep casserole dish and top with prepared mashed-potatoes.
Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, around 30 minutes.
The largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee is perhaps best known for beer and a great Midwestern immigrant tradition (think delicious Polish and German food!). Today, you can celebrate those cultures with food, events (Irish Fest and German Fest, an 11 day music festival, the largest Bastille Day celebration in the US – it’s a city of festivals), and entire neighborhoods that represent immigrant communities (hello, South Side!). All of this – plus an extremely beautiful location, right along Lake Michigan, mean that this is a place that is serious about food, culture, and enjoying the best of life with friends and family.
There’s so much to do, from visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Discovery World science center to shopping the Milwaukee Public Market to sports galore. But let’s be honest – we’re all about the food and beverages here.
Did you know that Milwaukee has historically been famous for beer? Yes, that strong German tradition carried over across the pond, and Milwaukee was the #1 beer producing city in the US for many years, with local breweries Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, and Blatz being the largest in the nation. The only large brewery still in town is Miller (you can see their impact all over town, notably with Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team). But in keeping with that brewing culture and tradition, as well as a diverse population and close proximity to Chicago, there is SO MUCH to eat, drink, and explore here. It’s not just about the beer any more.
What surprises visitors most is the quality and diversity of great eats here. You can find global meals, innovative American cuisine, a fantastic public market, and traditional Friday Fish Fries.
What are you waiting for?
Breakfast: Blue’s Egg
A perfect way to start the day is a meal at Blue’s Egg, a brunch spot serving traditional items as well favorites with a modern twist, with an emphasis on from-scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for something more traditional, choose a dish from the “basics” section of the menu: a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes; thick French toast with sausage or thick-cut cherry wood bacon; or two eggs any style with choice of meat, slices of toast with butter or jam, and fresh-cut hash browns (with just the right amount of crisp).
In addition to the classic eggs benedict, Blue’s Egg offers the Dubliner (corned beef, leeks, rye toast, paprika aioli) and the Florentine (fresh spinach, beef-steak tomatoes, English muffin, hollandaise sauce). Menu standouts include the hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs, cream, sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, shredded potatoes, spinach, toast, hollandaise sauce); the blue crab cake (mixed greens, poached eggs, pickled peppers, challah toast, remoulade sauce); and corned beef hash made in-house (the best ever). A lunch menu is available Monday to Friday in addition to the brunch items and offers burgers and sandwiches with hand-cut fries, soups, and salads, but once you see the overflowing plates of eggs, bacon, and toast being delivered to other tables, you will want to stick with the brunch menu. Blue’s Egg also serves creative cocktails, wine, local beers, fresh squeezed juices, and coffee and café drinks to enjoy with your meal.
My suggestion: The restaurant is spacious but fills up quickly on weekends, so arrive early or consider having a seat at the counter. Take home some monkey bread, coffee cake, or cookies from the front case (if there is anything left).
Price $6-13 Hours every day 7am-2pm Address 317 N 76th St, Milwaukee, WI 53213 Phone (414) 299-3180 Websitehttp://bluesegg.com/
Second Breakfast: Clock Shadow Creamery
Wisconsin is home to cheese – so of COURSE I’d suggest you stock up on some cheese snacks over at Clock Shadow Creamery. This is an urban cheese factory that uses local milk (some of their cows are at the ZOO!) and creates fantastic cheeses. I won’t be lying when I say that when I walked into their clean, bright storefront, I felt like a mouse in Switzerland. I just wanted to EAT ALL THE CHEESE. But there’s a back story – with local founders, an extremely green and clean building, and a strong environmental and community commitment.
Yelp Haiku by Rachel F Urban cheese-making/ Flavored cheddars everywhere/ Lemme at that quark!
My suggestion: While there are tons of cheeses, made by Clock Shadow and others, I’d get a tub of fresh quark to slather on crackers or bread, and a bag (or five) of fresh cheese curds to snack on all day. If you are in Milwaukee in winter and won’t be long, you won’t need a cooler (we just use our cars as freezers). In the summer, bring a small cooler so you can enjoy your chilled cheese curds all day long. Squeak squeak!
Price inexpensive. A bag of cheese curds is under $7 Hours Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Closed Sundays Address 138 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204 Phone (414) 273-9711 Websitehttp://www.clockshadowcreamery.com/
Finding great sausages in Milwaukee is easy. However, Vanguard
takes it a step further – these are, hands down, some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. The flavors are both traditional (brats, dogs, cheddarwursts, super fun toppings) and creative – look at the KHING KHAN (Lamb, Pork, Galangal, Chilis & Lemongrass Sausage, topped with Red Curry, Carrots, Cilantro, and Jalapeños)! Whether you go hot or mild, traditional or creative, you’re bound to be happy. They also serve local and global beer, spirits, and have delicious sides (fries, a variety of poutines, baked potato balls, corn, deviled eggs if you get there before they run out). Be prepared to spend a bit of time talking while you wait – the chefs take their time grilling and assembling the sausages with love.
My suggestion: I absolutely loved the Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. Get a side of cheese curds, no matter what else you order.
Price $5-9 Hours every day 11am-2am Address 2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207 Phone (414) 539-3593 Websitehttp://www.vanguardbar.com/
If you’ve followed my instagram, you know I can’t get enough good coffee. And frankly, Anodyne is the best. Let’s start with the Walker’s Point location (one of three) – an historic industrial building, turned warm and inviting inside with enormous round mirrors over the coffee bar, a stage, and plenty of honey-colored wood. Splashes of red for accents highlight the red A in the labels and Anodyne logo.
This place? It freshly roasts their coffee in the back – you can view the roasters from the counter, and if you don’t see the kind you want to purchase in bags, they’ll head back to see if there is some freshly roasted and not bagged up yet.
The friendly baristas, relaxed environment, and delicious coffee
make this my favorite in town. The menu features brewed to go, lattes and cappuccinos, a honey bee (honey latte with milk), a my buddy (almond and vanilla cappuccino), mochas (including additions of frosty and turtle – mint and caramel, respectively), espresso, Americano, red eyes, and seasonal apple cider.
My suggestion: A pour over. I love Ethiopian, but the Sumatran was also excellent. Get a slice of layer cake from the Cake Lady to accompany your delicious brew.
Price 12 oz pour over $2.75, 20 oz mocha $4 Hours Monday-Friday, 6:30am-9pm; Saturday 7am-9pm; Sunday 7:30am-9pm Address 224 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204 Phone (414) 763-1143 Websitehttps://anodynecoffee.com/
Happy hour: Lakefront Brewery
Come for the microbrews and riverfront seating, stay for the polka. Yes, this true Milwaukee brewery features a polka band on Friday nights for the fish fry. With a rich family history in beer, Lakefront started in 1987, and has won over 200 awards over the years. You can take an informative, hilarious tour ($9-10) of the Brewery with samples (!)– check the website for details.
My suggestion: try the beer flights to ascertain which you love best.
At Fortune, you’ll have the option to peruse two different menus.
Get the red menu – it offers more authentic dishes. Try to go with as many people as you can round up, so you can order more dishes (they are served family style). You’ll see large families sitting around large, circular tables. This is to take advantage of the lazy susan in the middle of the table, to scoot the food around so everyone can reach it. The food is delivered as it is made, so it’s hot and fresh. Milwaukee’s Chinese community likes to get together there for family gatherings and special events.
My recommendation: dumplings, of course – with a thick wrapping and flavorful meat, they are scrumptious. The crabmeat rangoons are hot, crispy, and delicious. My favorite entrée is the Salt Chicken – crispy, salty skin, tender, juicy inside. Love at first bite. We also get the salt and pepper squid (served with jalapenos) and the fried pork intestines (a dish my husband loves) and the tender, gently sautéed pea shoot leaves with garlic.
Price $11-30 Hours Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-10:30pm Address 2945 S 108th St, Milwaukee, WI 53227 Phone (414) 328-9890 Websitehttp://www.fortunerestaurant.net/
Late night dessert: Kopp’s Custard
A visit to Milwaukee is not complete without indulging in frozen
custard, and Kopp’s Frozen Custard serves some of the best. A Milwaukee institution since 1950, Kopp’s scoops up vanilla and chocolate custard daily, but the real standouts are the specialty flavors. Each month, Kopp’s posts a Flavor Forecast so customers will know when to stop in for their favorite custard (there are two specialty flavors each day). The flavors are irresistible and include tiramisu (espresso flavored custard with fudge swirl and pieces of ladyfinger cake), peach melba (chunks of peaches and raspberry swirl), macadamia nut (loaded with whole nuts), Sprecher root beer float (highlighting soda from a local brewery), and cherry amaretto cheesecake (cherries and chunks of New York cheesecake). Specialty sundaes, floats, malts, and shakes are also available.
Haven’t tried frozen custard yet? It’s rich, smooth, and has a creamy texture – I like it more than ice cream! Kopp’s doesn’t freeze their custard, so it’s not hard packed when served, like ice cream – it’s served up straight out of the frozen custard machine. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner or a heartier late night snack, Kopp’s serves delicious burgers and chicken, fish, and grilled cheese sandwiches – just remember, there’s always room for dessert.
My suggestion: Try the flavor of the day!
Price 2 scoop cone/dish: $3.45 (they price it up to 6 scoops!!!) Hours every day 10:30am-11pm Address 7631 W Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI 53220 (two other locations in the metro area – check the website for addresses and phone numbers) Phone (414) 282-4312 Websitehttps://www.kopps.com/