Bookshelf: Wisconsin Supper Clubs

Now that foodies have conquered the local market, the urban bistro, the Food Network, the white-linin fine dining restaurant, Instagram, and my favourite dive bar for some damn reason, there’s one frontier left: supper clubs.

What’s a supper club? It’s the kind of restaurant that’ll have a brass wall sconce decorated with the image of a beer-swilling monk complete with faux candle, without irony.  More seriously, a supper club is a restaurant with upscale food but a casual atmosphere, usually found in rural areas of the American Upper Midwest (and much of rural Canada). It’s the kind of place isn’t an imitation of the 50s, but actually hasn’t been redecorated since then. It’s also the kind of place that serves a real steak Diane—not a “play” on one, but a real steak Diane.

Wisconsin Supper Clubs ($35) is a photographic catalogue of the supper club experience, as it relates to the Badger State. The project started life as a documentary (think of a less offensive version of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), which found some success on the festival circuit, then aired on PBS, causing a bunch of people to start taking supper club tours of Wisconsin, thus inspiring director-turned-author Ron Faiola to put out a book.

The book treats each club, about fifty in all, to a few pages of text about the experience, complimented with a generous serving of pictures that are equal parts Americana and food porn; generous, in this case, can mean up to ten photos per two-page spread. It’s easy to see how people get inspired to take eating tours of Wisconsin.

Dave Robson is the editor of DailyXY. He spends his time reading books, drinking Scotch, and smoking cigars.

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