As our waitress approaches, we set down our brandy old-fashioneds and push aside our relish tray. The plates she brings celebrate old-school big eating: a porterhouse that hangs over the rim, a casserole-size dish of potatoes topped with bubbling cheddar, a tower of crispy fried fish and enough iceberg lettuce salad to feed a small wedding party.
Our first thought, of course, is whoa. Who eats like this anymore? Um--we do, every time we go to a supper club, and Beloit, Wisconsin (50 miles southeast of Madison), has a bevy of them. The hearty portions, paper menus and friendly owners make these throwback, dinner-only restaurants legendary.
The small-town (and North Woods) clubs became popular in the Midwest after Prohibition, when roadhouses could get a liquor license if more than half their business consisted of food sales. In Beloit, these family-owned spots continue to thrive, with individual spins on the concept.
The dark wood paneling and old-school menus at Benedetti's Supper Club convey a homey, 1960s restaurant feel. The 615 Club operates out of an early-20th-century house, with just 11 tables and leather club chairs on wheels. At The Butterfly Club, a lounge singer belts out Dean Martin's "Everybody Loves Somebody."
Even if you are so full you can't eat another bite, don't leave without indulging in a Grasshopper (creme de menthe and vanilla ice cream) or Pink Squirrel (creme de almond and creme de cacao with ice cream). Booze mixed with ice cream--after a steak dinner. We love ya, Wisconsin.
Pictured: Onion rings and sauteed mushrooms top a ribeye steak (served with a maraschino-topped old-fashioned) at Benedetti's Supper Club.