Supper club question for Madison history nerds

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thebookpolice
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Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby thebookpolice » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:02 pm

A Chowhound is looking for a specific supper clubbish place based on some esoteric clues. The Stus and Snos of the Forum could probably knock this baby out in 15.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828386#7082706

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby bdog » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:16 pm

Stus and Snos? The poster went to this place in 2000, not exactly ancient history.

Any steak lover should be able to figure this one out.

I am not a steak lover.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Henry Vilas » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:20 pm

And Sno's a veggie.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Jademan7 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:28 pm

Esquire??

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Jademan7 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:30 pm

Not sure about the one way streets, but a stand alone building with a squarish bar in the middle. For a large group they could have seated them downstairs.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Galoot » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:32 pm

It's worth quoting Snoqueen's post from back in 2008 on the topic of supper clubs. I don't know how to link to posts from back then, so I'll just quote her:

I count Smoky's as a supper club.

For fennel and those who are in the dark, some background: Supper clubs were usually in a rural area, by the side of a highway or at a crossroads. They were part bar, half restaurant, but the bar should be a separate room. The lucky ones were on a lake, as other posts have illustrated. There are lots of variants but here are the basics.

You have to understand the culture: this is an offshoot of Wisconsin bar culture which is clearly still alive and well.

First off, fish on Fridays was still expected for Catholics back in the supper club heyday, which I'd date as starting with the time most families got a car (1920's, maybe) and peaking in the 50's when baby bookers were kids. Everybody would pile in the car on Friday night and go out for fish. Rural families with enough money showed up, town families too. It was a social event, not just a meal, a very secular, democratic one open to everybody with enough money to buy a few drinks at the bar. I don't remember any snobbery about who you associated with at a supper club. It wasn't like Bishops Bay, it was everyman's place, town and country, Catholic and Protestant. (That was a big deal too in the time period.)

The decor was paneling, sometimes with a moving Hamms From the Land of Sky Blue Waters sign. Tablecloths on the tables, though -- a little elegance at the end of a work week felt good. Supper clubs were open every night (well, skipping Sunday -- we're still religious back then) and served red meat too. But Fridays were the main night, the big event.

In these days, taking your kids in a nice bar with you was perfectly normal. It was a family thing. You brought your kids to fish fry Friday, the adults had a Manhattan or whatever, the kids got a Shirley Temple. Often you met two or three other families and ate together. Everybody smoked.

Appetizers were cut up celery, carrots, olives, radishes, and communal dip, a bread basket with white bread and soda crackers in plastic, and pats of butter.

Dinner was served either family style (big serving platters) or one-by-one depending on the place. Breaded fried fish (sometimes caught right in the lake nearby until the lakes got dirted up or fished out), choice of french fries or mashed, and cole slaw (creamy or vinegar, again depending). If you wanted dessert it was pie.

There were other things on the menu, but frankly I can't remember anybody ordering them. Obviously someone did -- just not us.

Then the kids fell asleep in the car and the grown ups sat around for another drink before coming out to take everybody home. This was before anybody thought at all about drinking and driving, which meant nothing until the 1970's brought a new, culturally revolutionary state law that isn't our topic here.

Now, Smoky's counts because when it was new, University Avenue was the highway from Madison to Middleton not part of the city. Across the street was Poole's, another club where the original Borders Books building is now. After you get the idea, you'll develop an eye for old supper clubs along Wisconsin byways.

Driving on two-lane roads all over rural Wisconsin you still see ancient supper clubs that are now closed or minimally operating. An example people might recognize is on the right on the Hy. 12 curve as you leave Cambridge eastbound. It looks like an old house with wings added on three sides. A lot of them look that way, and it's because that's what they were. There's always a big parking lot around the outside, because these are part of mid 20th century car culture along with drive-in root beer stands and drive-in movies.

Today, it's like Wisconsin's decentralized version of Route 66: mostly memories but the bones can still be seen.
s

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby massimo » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:31 pm

All I can think of is Fyfe's, but a lot about that wouldn't match the description. I can't really think of any place where you'd hang out on the first floor (does this mean ground floor?) and head down stairs to eat, unless they used to seat large groups on busy nights down in the Corral Room. The guy already nixed Wonder Bar (which I don't think was actually the Wonder Bar back in 2000, was it?) and Tornado, though. He was probably drunk and lacking situational awareness...

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Igor » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:50 pm

Galoot wrote:It's worth quoting Snoqueen's post from back in 2008 on the topic of supper clubs. I don't know how to link to posts from back then, so I'll just quote her:


... significant snippage

Supper clubs were open every night (well, skipping Sunday -- we're still religious back then) and served red meat too. But Fridays were the main night, the big event.

More snippage...

Everybody smoked.

More snippage...

Appetizers were cut up celery, carrots, olives, radishes, and communal dip, a bread basket with white bread and soda crackers in plastic, and pats of butter.

More snippage...

Dinner was served either family style (big serving platters) or one-by-one depending on the place.


Sorry if this constitutes thread stealing. A couple comments about the above...

Some of us are still religious, and were back then too :). Many supper clubs were open on Sunday, just not for supper. You went for lunch, and had the buffet, or family style chicken.

The relish dish (carrots, celery, radishes, pickles, and green onions) and the cracker basket were cheap but awesome parts of the meal. If you had lots of kids, you fought over who got the crunchy bread sticks out of the cracker basket. Cheese dip often went with it. If it was a roomier place, you had a salad bar where you had iceberg lettuce with french, western, or 1000 Island dressing, and maybe some tomato wedges.

There were actually some non-smokers as well - out of 9 aunt/uncle pairs, we only had 1 cigarette and two cigar smokers. However, the smokers were prolific, and the ventilation was the door. So even non-smokers smoked.

Finally, on the topic of family style meals. I had a fairly large African-American co-worker about 10 years ago, who grew up in the South. After being up here a few years, he had his first chance to attend a wedding up north that was served family style. When he returned to work the following Monday... let's just say that he was a big fan, and wondered why the rest of the world had not caught up to this awesome system. Every time I get a cold prime rib with golf ball potatoes and crunchy green beans at a wedding (under a plastic plate cover) I have to agree.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby barney » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:06 am

My money is on the Corral Room.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby snoqueen » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:19 am

I'm stumped too -- I haven't done the steak house/supper club thing in Madison for many years so I'm not the best one to tell you what was around in 2000. And I can't fit the windows, one-way streets, and two levels into the same restaurant.

At first I was thinking Crandalls (where Tornado is now) but that got ruled out by the date. Two levels could be East Side Club, but the food there wouldn't be memorable to most people. Esquire isn't on one-way streets.

I'm glad the guy enjoyed himself, wherever he went! Maybe it wasn't a restaurant so much as a state of mind....

Thanks to Igor for reminding me about the cheese dip.
Last edited by snoqueen on Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:24 am

This is a tough one. Sports bar-ish, basement dining, limited menu, one way streets.

Greenbush is in the basement but nothing else fits.

My best guess: Didn't Johnny O's on University ave try their hand as a steakhouse a few years back?

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby barney » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:55 am

Does Greenbush have tablecloths in the basement though?

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Hank_Venison » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:21 am

Magnus?

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby Ned Flanders » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:35 pm

The Avenue?

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Re: Supper club question for Madison history nerds

Postby donges » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:42 pm

Maybe Toby's? I don't know if they have a downstairs, but the way that frontage road circles around it it could like two one-ways at night, I guess. The bar in the middle certainly is square and their steaks are quite good.


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