Supper clubs are definitely a Midwest thing. If you ask someone from Wisconsin what a supper club means to them, chances are you will get a variety of answers based on their experiences, but the one thing that you will almost always hear is that supper clubs are awesome.
Supper clubs became a thing in the pre-prohibition years. They were typically located in the middle of nowhere off of country highways and some were even said to be stops where gangsters could keep low profiles and have a few drinks. They were always family run businesses where sometimes the family actually lived on premise. Supper clubs were truly destinations for your night out, where you could dance the night away after a phenomenal meal and cocktail.
Today, supper clubs have changed a little bit, but the basic characteristics that you will still find at these types of eating establishments include:
- A good Brandy Old Fashioned
- Prime rib, a baked potato, and a stiff drink
- Big steaks, lobster tails, and fried fish
- The expectation to drink, have dinner, and drink again
- That feel-good Midwestern hospitality
If this sounds like your kind of meal, then there are 5 supper clubs in the Madison area that are definitely worth your time and money.
Opened in 1947, Kavanaugh’s is said to be one of the original creators of the “Friday Night Fish Fry” here in Madison. Celebrating 70 years of business, Kavanaugh’s is one of the longest family-owned restaurants in the Madison are and is proudly kept alive by a third generation. Be sure to get there early on Friday night for their “all you can eat” deep fried ocean perch!
Smoky’s has been setting the bar high for supper clubs in Madison for over 50 years. The unique ambiance may surprise you, but every artifact you see has a story to go with it. They’ve been named one of the best steaks in the Midwest over the years and offer an impressive martini menu. Check out this family run restaurant next time you’re in need of a good time!
Toby’s has been slinging their famous Key Lime Pie martinis for over 40 years. The building was originally a barbershop offering bootleg booze in the 1930’s, and eventually became a supper club by 1945. When a new addition was added to the building in 1972, an original menu was found showing that a T-bone Steak cost only 65 cents! While prices have changed, the quality of food and service has remained superb.
Tornado Steak House may have only been around since the mid 1990’s, but it quickly became a favorite in Madison. Originally operated as Crandall’s Fish Fry, the restaurant still features the wood paneling on the walls with words of wisdom throughout. The super swanky bar serves up delectable cocktails; and the intimate, white linen dining room is hard to beat. Be sure to stop in for their late night food specials from 10pm-1am and the Corral Lounge downstairs which is open on weekends!
Founded by Eddie Touhy, brother of Chicago Mafia leader Roger “The Terrible” Touhy, Eddie’s Wonder Bar opened its doors in 1929. The supper club was known to serve exceptional steaks and drinks to not only Madison residents, but also to mobsters trying to escape the heat from Chicago. The Wonder Bar went through a few different owners, and in the 1990’s the business took a turn becoming a cigar bar and The Bar Next Door. Eventually in 2009, the supper club was restored to its original glory as The Original Wonder Bar Steak House and is back to serving incredible steaks, seafood, and drinks.
Madison has a lot of great, trendy restaurants to check out. But sometimes it’s worth it to take a step back and appreciate the food, service, and family businesses that made history.
Photo credit: Smoky’s Club