The oral history of the beloved eateries of America’s heartland
The supper club of the Upper Midwest is unmistakably authentic, as unique to the region as great lakes, cheese curds, and Curly Lambeau. The far-flung locations and creative decor give each supper club a unique ambience, but the owners, staff, and regulars give it its personality. Author Dave Hoekstra traveled through farmland, woods, towns, and cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois, eating at salad bars, drinking old fashioneds, and most of all talking to old-timers, local historians, and newcomers. He discovered that far from going the way of so many small establishments, supper clubs are evolving, combining contemporary ideas such as locavore menus and craft beer with traditional Friday night fish fries and Saturday prime rib. He brings to life the memorable people who have created and continue the tradition, from the blind dishwasher at Smoky’s to the Dick Watson Combo playing “Beyond the Sea” at the Lighthouse and the entrepreneurs and hipster crowd behind the Old Fashioned. Corporations have defined mainstream eating habits in America, but characters define supper clubs, and this combination oral history and guide, with more than one hundred photographs, celebrates not only the past and present but the future of the supper club.
"...for midwesterners, the supper club is an epicenter for social eating, a locally owned roadhouse where families repair for an evening to treat themselves to a hearty meal with friends and neighbors... Hoekstra relates the stories of a number of these institutions, their owners, and the people who have frequented them over the past half-century. He holds out hope for their future, noting how some are evolving in new directions, safeguarding local traditions in the face of competition from national chains. Photographs of both restaurateurs and their clientele preserve a sense of a passing era."—Booklist
"...little backstories are what make the book precious and, as time goes on, of historical significance."—Mary Bergin, syndicated columnist for Midwest Features
"Hoekstra has long been one of the city's best reporters and writers at the Sun-Times, and so he fashions, from what are essentially oral histories, lively feature stories about each of his selections."—Chicago Tribune (Printer's Row)
"This delightful book offers an excellent slice of American life as it once was and still exists in remaining supper clubs... American history buffs, tourists, and foodies of all sorts should thoroughly enjoy."—Library Journal's Xpress Reviews