Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go
By ANASTASIA PENCHI
What’s better than a relaxing dinner at one of Western Wisconsin’s finest supper clubs while recapping the past and celebrating the future?
You know the drill: A fashionable couple sits down for drinks at the bar before dinner. The host takes them to their table, complete with a relish tray with pickles and celery and carrot sticks. The wait staff brings ice water and rolls inside a basket lined with a napkin and maybe crackers.
And then there’s the salad bar. The best supper clubs offer every fresh cut veggie known to man, along with a variety of homemade pasta salads, cottage cheese and at least two soups (one should be clam chowder).
They also offer a Friday night fish fry special and a prime rib or steak special on Saturday night.
Many impressive supper clubs can be found along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, which is a 250-mile stretch of Highway 35 running adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.
For a culinary experience that comes complete with unique ambiance and a beautiful drive, start your tour at one of these locations:
Travelling cheese curds
Rocky’s Supper Club in Stoddard is a family-owned business that opened in 1972 and has its front door on Hwy. 35. It’s a favorite for its deep-fried cheese curds, which are batter-fried on site and can also be purchased at area festivals like Riverfest in La Crosse. Rocky’s other big claim to fame is its blue fish, which is a broiled fish that is served draped in a homemade blue cheese dressing. They will also drape shrimp in this dressing if you like. Rocky’s bar is a distinct, oval-shaped, mammoth piece of furniture with raised seating on one side that screams, “Sit down for that classic Wisconsin Supper Club pre-dinner drink.” The least you can do is comply.
The Trempealeau road trip
No Western Wisconsin Supper Club list is complete without a certain sassy Irish lassie. Sullivan’s Supper Club opened in 1968 and is located near the Mississippi River next to Perrot State Park in Trempealeau. Imagine sipping a chardonnay from its extensive wine list, which includes international favorites as well as wines from Elmaro Vineyard, a Wisconsin winery that is only 10 minutes away. Sit on Sullivan’s patio overlooking the Mighty Mississippi and watch the river traffic. Take in the many shades of green found on the bluffs. Order your favorite kind of steak and Sullivan’s famous Irish potatoes, which are small, whole deep-fried potatoes served with sour cream. Yummy, yum, yum.
It’s all about the fish
Hillside Fish House in Fountain City has been around in some form or another for more than 160 years. Its Web site tells the story of the original business, which was called the Marshland House and was a railroad junction hotel. Apparently it became well known for its tasty walleye after acquiring the fish via trading with local American Indians. The building’s history includes a fire, as well as an era when it was primarily a tavern. Still, the original structure remains in use, and diners today continue to rave about the walleye. They also like the shrimp. I’m sure the suppliers have changed over the years, but a good fish recipe can go a long way.
The old-fashioned recommendation
Are you familiar with Shultzie’s Supper Club in Dickeyville, which is a southern Wisconsin Great River Road community also known for its roadside shrine? Apparently this restaurant serves some of the best brandy old-fashioned cocktails, which is very important when rating Wisconsin Supper Clubs. Brandy is not a liquor consumed in other parts of the world, so not every bartender is an expert on making that perfect brandy old fashioned sweet with the orange and cherry garnish. The bartenders at Shultzie’s seem pretty familiar with them based on the positive reviews. The fried chicken is also highly recommended. Good eats and good drinks are the essence of a proper Wisconsin Supper Club. Go enjoy.
Meet the Writer
Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: www.loislaneforhire.com.