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Kitchen jobs aside, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a Wisconsin supper club—I’ve only experienced them from the inside out, and never sat down to do the whole old-fashioned-and-prime-rib thing. So it was fun to see Kevin Pang’s exhaustive analysis of the cultural importance of the supper club in today’s Tribune. Pang visited a few regional exemplars and derived some truisms: “A $30 entree at a supper club is not a $30 entree in downtown Milwaukee or Chicago,” and “There should be a relish tray.” It’s a good read:
What separates the supper club genre from other restaurants is here, they prefer the word "and" over "or." It seems like the antithesis of Wisconsin hospitality to decide between soup or salad, so more often than not, you get both, on top of the bread basket of saltines and sesame breadsticks and dinner rolls, the baked potato, the kidney bean salad, the pickles, the cheese spread, so on, so forth. By the time the main event arrives, you've already been fed into submission by the undercard.
It's no coincidence the term "doggie bag" is attributed to a Wisconsinite, Lawrence Frank, the man who in 1938 launched the Lawry's prime rib chain in Beverly Hills and who is considered the forefather of supper clubs.