Wisconsin Supper Club Extinction, and The English Inn

Your table is ready, at The English Inn in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

More and more, the classic Wisconsin Supper Club is disappearing. Slowly, as cities expand and incorporate chain restaurants with sinister consistency, the Stepford Wives-like sameness of their menus, and their artificially-distressed decor, the warmth of authenticity vaporizes. Your bartender may have to look up the proper technique for making a brandy old fashioned, in a small book stashed under the bar. House-made hot bacon dressing is ne’er to be found. And don’t even think about real potatoes. In a world of pre-portioned, pre-packaged and frozen entrees microwaved on demand for your dining pleasure, dining pleasure has too become a thing of the past. In its place, table turnover and the up selling of cereal-encrusted apps and deserts, oft named for natural disasters, is king.

French onion soup at The English Inn in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Notice the paper doily.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Give me a supper club, with its dimmed light, authentic yet sometimes kitschy decor and polished silver. With its roaring fire and linen tablecloths and menu, fat with painstakingly-prepared options of old: French onion soup, escargots, prime rib, Beef Wellington.

Give me a meal that was slow food before slow food was a buzz phrase…it just was, all of it…and diners were willing–nay, happy–to wait.

Beef Wellington at The English Inn: filet mignon, seared, rubbed in garlic, wrapped in puff pastry, baked and served with a red wine sauce. Be appropriately reverent. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

As with most extinctions, we only have ourselves to blame for the slow death of the Wisconsin supper club. Somewhere along the way, work, activities, and general busyness became our focus and the dining experience fell out of favor. Truly dining takes time, arguably the most precious of our life’s commodities. Using it for eating seems like a luxury.

And it is.

Dinner by the fire, at The English Inn in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

You can still get a taste of the classic Wisconsin supper club at The English Inn in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.  The walls and light fixtures are dressed in knights’ armor, the staff are attentive but not hovering and the food is straight out of the past.

The au gratin potatoes at The English Inn. Sadly, due to the size of the Beef Wellington serving,
most of these went to waste. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Beef Wellington is the house specialty, and the chef not only hand cuts the filet mignon, but rubs each with garlic galore and hand wraps each in pastry. The portion is enormous; one is enough to share between two diners. The knife slips cleanly through the Beef Wellington, as if slicing through warm butter.

The hot bacon dressing on the spinach salad, and the cherry bacon dressing are so popular among diners, they are now packaged and shipped to those who want that same taste at home.

The English Inn has both cozy indoor seating and cool outdoor seating, when weather permits.
 Large windows showcase the gardens. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

It is good to know the classic Wisconsin supper club experience can still be had, particularly in Door County, where we are asked to slow down and savor life. It is a taste of nostalgia for some of us, and a schoolroom of sorts for the next generation, who might otherwise never know what it is to not just eat, but to dine.

What are your favorite supper clubs? Which supper clubs do you miss most?  

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Creative Commons License
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.
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