118 Regional Favorites from The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook

              Summer cottages conjure up images of restful days by the lake or in the woods, a time of family gatherings, reading a book, watching the sunset and spending time in the kitchen (at least for those of us who like to cook) preparing dishes using local and seasonal ingredients to serve at dinner time.

              For Amelia Levin, who grew up in Chicago and spent several weeks each year with her  family at a cottage in Door County, Wisconsin, those days are to be treasured. Even now she still visits and then later visited her brother who has a place near New Buffalo, takes the essence of those summer memories, distilling the experiences in The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook: Door County Cherry Pie, Sheboygan Bratwursts, Traverse City Trout and 115 More Regional Favorites (Storey Publishing).

              Taking us on a culinary road trip along the Lake Michigan coastline, Levin shows us her favorite places to eat or shop for food, collecting recipes along the way. She shares recipes for Wood Smoked Barbecue Ribs and Sweet Potato and Pineapple Salad  provided by Bill Reynolds, owner of New Buffalo Bill’s in New Buffalo and a Korean Pork Bao Sandwich from Ryan Thornburg, the former culinary director for Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery.

              She was also inspired by local ingredients such as the spicy fennel sausage made by Pat Mullins, who with his wife Ellie, owns Patellie’s Pizza in Three Oaks and formerly owned Local, an artisan butcher shop in New Buffalo, Levin created her recipe Spicy Fennel Sausage and Peppers with Garlicky Heirloom Tomato Sauce which is a homage to a favorite popular at old school Italian restaurants in Chicago. A fan of Froehlich’s Deli, also in Three Oaks, she devised a deviled egg recipe reminiscent of the ones sold there. These she tops with caviar made by Rachel Collins, owner of Flagship Specialty Foods & Fish Market in Lakeside Michigan.

              “I have a soft spot for New Buffalo and Harbor Country because I have family there,” says Levin who graduated from the University of Michigan. “I also fell in love with Fennville which is a really strong artisan food and farming area and I have recipes in the book from Kismet Cheese and Bakery, Salt of the Earth restaurant and Virtue Cider.”

              She was also inspired to invent her recipe for Rustic Apple Gallette with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Thyme using cheese produced by Evergreen  Lane Artisan Cheese in Fennville.

              Starting her book—and her trip where she wandered counter-clockwise around Lake Michigan—in Door County, we learn about fish boils, those classic throw everything—chunks of red potatoes, freshly caught white fish or lake trout and sliced onions–in a pot set on coals above an open fire and Friday night perch fries.

              “I have a recipe for a fish boil you can easily do at home,” says Levin, a Chicago-based food writer and chef who also works as a food consultant and recipe developer. Serve with Bavarian Dark Rye Bread, reflective of the German heritage in Door County, and Creamy Coleslaw.

              There is, of course, Door County-style cherry pie though Levin points out that Northern Michigan, including Traverse City, grows the same kind of Montmorency cherries that are perfect for using in all things cherry such as the Door County Cherry French Toast served at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, Wilson Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor’s Vanilla Sundaes with Seaquist Orchard’s Cherry Topping, Cherry Poached Pears with the Mascarpone Cream in Ephraim, Wisconsin, crossing into Michigan, Levin’s take on the many recipes for cherry chicken salad found in the Traverse City area–Grilled Chicken Salad with Greens and Cherry Vinaigrette.

Spicy Fennel Sausage and Peppers with Garlicky Heirloom Tomato Sauce

For the sauce:

  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes
  • Four garlic cloves, unpeeled  

For the sausage:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One pound Italian-style or fennel sausage, links or cut into four links style
  • One medium or sweet onion, halved and sliced
  • Two medium red bell peppers, halved, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of thinly sliced fresh basil

For the sauce, preheat the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Bro the tomatoes and garlic on the baking sheet until partially blocking, turning occasionally. Remove the garlic cloves. Peel the skins from the tomatoes and transfer the tomatoes and juices to a blender by lifting the foil. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of the blackened peels into the blender. Puree until smooth.

For the sausage, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about five minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onions, and cook until soft and translucent, about two minutes.

Add the peppers and cook until the onions begin to brown and the peppers begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until reduced by half, about one minutes, stirring frequently to deglaze the pan.

Return the sausages to the pan and pour the tomato pepper sauce over them. Simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve top with Parmesan and basil.

Door County Cherry Pie

Serves 6–8

For the Pastry:

  • 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, cold
  • 3–5 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups well-drained bottled tart Montmorency cherries in unsweetened cherry juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the butter until it is the size of coarse crumbs.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the ice water over the top and stir with a fork. Gently knead the mixture with your hands until the dough holds together. If it is dry, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until the dough holds together. Shape into two oval disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes.

  Roll one of the chilled dough disks on a lightly floured surface to ⅛-inch thickness and about 11 inches in diameter. Gently roll the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan or dish. Without stretching the dough, fit it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

  Preheat the oven to 325º F.

  For the filling, combine the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add the cherries and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and top with the butter.

  Roll out the remaining dough disk to ⅛ inch thick and about 11 inches in diameter. Drape the dough over the cherry filling. Fold the edges under the bottom crust and flute attractively or use a fork to press down the crust. Cut several slits in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape during baking.

  For the topping, brush the milk over the top and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the pie.

  Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

Cherry Streusel Muffins

For the muffin batter:

  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 cup pitted tart fresh cherries or well-drained bottled cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

For the streusel topping:

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the muffin batter, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners or butter the cups. Combine the flour, granulated and brown sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg, butter, and milk. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cherries and lemon zest. Spoon a level ¼ cup of the batter into each muffin cup.

For the streusel, combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a medium bowl, mixing well. Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the streusel over each muffin.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and the topping is golden brown. Transfer the pan with the muffins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Any extra muffins may be ¬frozen for up to 3 months.

Prep time: 40 minutes

Baking time: 25 minutes

Makes 12 muffin

Recipes and photos from The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook by © Amelia Levin. Photography by © Johnny Autry. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

Time for Poutine

          About a month ago, I sent my friend Patricia Winn Wood, Press and Public Relations Manager for the Tourist Office of Spain in Chicago, a copy of  one of my favorite books, one I like to take with me when I’m traveling through Wisconsin. Called the Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State’s Best Creameries, it was written by Kristine Hansen, a Milwaukee-based  journalist who covers food/drink, art/design and travel and whose work has appeared ArchitecturalDigest.com, Fodors.com, Vogue.com, Midwest Living Magazine and Milwaukee Magazine.

The book works on a variety of levels. With over a million cows, the state turns out more than 2.8 billion pounds of cheese per year. Hansen focused on the growing number of artisanal cheese producers in the state and though her cookbook has 60 recipes (as well as beautiful, lush photos), it’s as much of a travel guide — call it a cheesy road trip if you can excuse our pun — to 28 of the state’s creameries.

Notable creameries include Cedar Grove Cheese and Emmi Roth in Southwest Wisconsin; BelGioioso Cheese and Sartori in Northeast Wisconsin; Door County Creamery in Sister Bay in scenic Door County; Holland’s Family Cheese in Northwest Wisconsin; and Clock Shadow Creamery in Southeast Wisconsin.

Pat’s Poutine.

Hansen also includes background information, a kind of cheese data base about cheese events, cheese pairings, different cheese characteristics, how cheeses from the milk of goats, cows, and sheep compare, and cheese award winners.

BelGioioso Cheese.

As for poutine, it took a trip to Montreal and Quebec for me to become familiar with the dish. It’s said that more Canadians have eaten poutine than have seen a moose (and moose crossing signs dot the highways) or have been in a canoe – two things I associate with Canada way before fries with cheese and gravy. It’s a hearty dish—don’t even ask about the calorie count—but delicious. There are a ton of varieties, but the recipe Pat used is simple to make.

Door County Creamery.

 “The curds were direct from Wisconsin, and the dark malt beer that my husband bought at my request was from a store near here,” says Pat.

One suggestion she offered is that she thought the dark malt beer was a little too bitter for her taste and suggested using a sweeter, milder beer. Though if you like your beer hoppy, then stick with the dark malt.

Holland’s Family Cheese.

We also discussed whether to use homemade French Fries or the frozen kind and Pat and I quickly concluded that frozen work for us. The recipe says you can also use frozen tots (I’m thinking Tater Tots) but neither of us have tried that.

For those who don’t want to use beer at all, I included another recipe from the book that uses beef stock instead.

Standard Wisconsin Poutine

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

6 ounces dark malt beer

½ cup beef stock

3 cups crispy potato tots or French Fries

1 cup Cedar Grove cheddar cheese curds

Cook onion and brown sugar in butter until onion  is translucent and begins to caramelize. Slowly stir in flour and dark malt beer. Simmer for vie minutes. Add beef stock and simmer for five minutes. Add beef stock and reduce for seven minutes.

Cook crispy potato tots or French Fries according to package directions.

Add curds to potatoes until hot. Pour gravy over curds and tots and serve immediately.

Poutine with Red Barn Family Farms Cheese Curds

4–5 medium potatoes

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup beef stock

Red Barn Family Farms cheese curds

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut potatoes into fry shape you desire and mix in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.

To make gravy, heat olive oil in saucepan on medium heat, whisking with flour until it becomes a paste. Cook for 30 seconds. Add beef stock and bring to a simmer. Let sit to thicken and add pepper if desired.

To serve, layer fries and Red Barn cheese curds in a bowl and ladle on gravy.

Recipe by Sophia Herczeg

Serves 4–6

Both recipes courtesy of the Wisconsin Cheese Book by Kristine Hansen.

Door County: A Little Bit of Sweden and a Few Goats as Well

Photos courtesy of Al Johnson’s Swedish Recipe

I once thought it would be fun to raise goats and make goat’s milk cheese. I even took a class in cheesemaking though I have to admit my cheeses didn’t turn out that well. And, of course, my condo association doesn’t even allow cats or dogs so I’m sure I couldn’t have a small herd of goats grazing on the grass in the common area though when the pool gets fixed, they’d have plenty of drinking water.     

Now, when I’m in Sister Bay in Door County, I like to stop at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik –the latter word is the Swedish equivalent for boutique and the place features a wide assortment of Scandinavian items. Besides such fare as Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce, the big draw here are the live goats (yes, live) grazing on top of the restaurant’s grassy roof. 

The restaurant opened in 1949 but the goats are relatively new, having first stepped foot on the roof in 1978 after someone gave owner Al Johnson one as a gift. They have a fairly pampered life—lots of attention, they come down at night and are transported to a comfy barn and they don’t go to work on the roof if the weather is inclement. Oh, and rooftop meals are supplemented after hours so they’re not—and you can tell this by looking at their photos—going hungry.

              Even when I’m not in Door County, I can get my goat fix because the restaurant’s website has not one but two goat cams so you can log on and watch them munch grass in real time. But goats aren’t the only good thing about Al Johnson’s. Their Swedish cuisine, including those wafer thin pancakes, are great as well. I haven’t done this yet, but if I wanted the entire Al Johnson effect, I could cook up some of the restaurant’s recipes and watch the goat cam while I eat.

The following recipes are courtesy of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant.

Gingersnap Apple Crisp With Maple Syrup Whipped Cream Filling

6 medium Apples roughly pounds (preferably Granny Smith)

1.5 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour


1 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 pack of Nyåkers ginger snaps crushed (if you can’t find Nyåkers, it’s okay to substitute another brand)

1/2 cup of melted butter

 Preheat oven to 375˚. Peel and quarter apples, slice 1/4 thin. Mix with lemon juice, sugar, and flour. Crush cookie finely in a food processor, or Ziplock bag with rolling pin. Mix all topping ingredients well. Put apple mixture into 9×13 pan and top with crumble mixture. Bake 40-50 min or until apple is bubbly.

Whipped Cream

1 cup of cream 1/4 cup of Al Johnson’s Golden Goat syrup (substitute real maple syrup if you don’t have any goat syrup on hand). Mix and whip ingredients until stiff peaks form. Serve on top of Gingersnap Apple Crisp.

Al Johnson’s Lingonberry Vinaigrette

The lingonberry vinaigrette recipe, developed by Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant head chef Freddie Bexell, is offered as a dressing choice for a salad of mixed greens. It also works well in a raw red cabbage and apple salad.

Makes about ¾ cup

3 tablespoons sweetened lingonberries (can use lingonberry jam)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ cup canola oil

½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

⅛ teaspoon salt

Generous pinch of black pepper

In a mixing bowl, whisk together lingonberries, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in canola oil. Add fresh oregano, salt and pepper. For a smoother dressing, pulse mixture briefly in a blender or food processor.

Al Johnson’s Red Cabbage Salad with Lingonberry Vinaigrette

Red cabbage, tart Granny Smith apples and thinly sliced red onion are tossed with lingonberry vinaigrette to create a raw salad. Finish the salad with dried sour cherries and coarsely chopped pistachios.

Makes 6 servings

8 cups thinly shredded red cabbage (1 medium head)

1 Granny Smith apple, washed, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios

⅓ cup dried sour cherries

⅔ cup lingonberry vinaigrette (see recipe above)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except vinaigrette. Toss with enough lingonberry vinaigrette to just coat. Refrigerate any remaining vinaigrette or serve on the side.

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Red Wine Lingonberry Sauce

This stuffed chicken recipe is from the former Inn at Kristofer’s restaurant, which was located just down the street from Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. The sauce also works well with pork tenderloin and salmon.

Makes 4 servings


1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature

2 cups plus ⅓ cup breadcrumbs (divided)

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Four (5-inch-long) picks to secure stuffed chicken

 Lingonberry sauce:

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup red wine

½ cup sweetened lingonberries (substitute lingonberry jam if you can’t find canned lingonberries)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Prepare chicken: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine goat cheese, shallot mixture, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and Italian parsley.

Place chicken breasts on a work surface. Make a deep slit or pocket in chicken along the longest part of the breast. Be careful not to slice thru entire breast.

Stuff evenly with cheese mixture. Use long wooden picks to secure stuffing.

Line a baking sheet pan with foil. Coat with vegetable oil spray.

In a bowl, combine eggs and milk. On a large plate, place remaining 2 cups breadcrumbs. Dip chicken completely into egg mixture. Roll in breadcrumbs. Set on prepared pan.

In a large skillet, heat unsalted butter and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When hot, add chicken breasts. Cook on one side. Using tongs, turn and continue browning chicken on all sides. Chicken may need to be browned in batches. Place on prepared pan.

Roast in preheated oven until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce: In a saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add shallot and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add red wine, lingonberries and balsamic vinegar. Use a small whisk to combine. Simmer over low heat until reduced by one-fourth, about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water. With sauce on simmer, slowly drizzle in enough cornstarch mixture to thicken sauce. You may not need all of the mixture.

When chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes before removing wooden picks. Slice chicken into medallions. Serve with lingonberry sauce.

Al’s recipe for Swedish Pancakes.

3 large eggs

Makes 4 generous servings

2 cups whole milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

 Garnish options:

Unsalted butter

Sweetened lingonberries

Fresh berries or sweetened sour cherries

Maple syrup

Whipped cream

In a mixing bowl using a wire whisk, combine eggs and milk. Add flour, a little at a time, followed by sugar. Let batter rest 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Heat a large sauté pan or flat griddle over medium-high heat. Coat with vegetable oil spray. Pour 2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto pan. Pancake will be thin. When slightly firm, carefully flip and cook on other side. Pancakes will take 1 to 2 minutes per side to cook. Serve with garnishes of your choice.



Wisconsin Cherry Pie. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Summer in Door County means cool breezes, mild temperatures, quaint harbor towns, farm-to-table
restaurants, cheeseries, wineries, mead makers and distillers and sun-soaked waterfront vistas as well as
300 miles of shoreline paralleling Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

This delightful coastal Wisconsin getaway is now open for travel and committed to providing visitors with a safe vacation experience. To achieve this, Door County communities and lodgers have developed health and safety procedures and are committed to following operating guidelines from state and local authorities. Many have signed on to the Commitment to Cleanliness and Safety Initiative, a joint endeavor from Door County Medical Center and Door County Public Health to ensure the safety of both visitors and residents.

Hillside Waterfront Hotel. Photo by Trail Genius.

Visitors to Door County can choose family owned, vintage hotels and inns, historic B&Bs, luxury
waterfront suites and cottages for their stay. Starting in June through July many accommodations in
Door County are offering Re-Open and Re-Discover promotion packages for those who want to explore
the peninsula’s 11 lighthouses, five state parks, cherry orchards, maritime history, wildlife preserves and
myriad of outdoor recreation activities knowing that safety precautions are of utmost importance to
the community.
Take advantage of packages that include accommodations for one to three nights; a meal for two
(offerings may include a gift certificate to a local restaurant, complimentary on-property breakfast, a
picnic basket filled with Door County specialties); an activity or attraction offering (state park pass,
maps, tours, tastings); and a $25 Door County gift certificate available to use at a variety of shops,
restaurants and attractions.

Kayaking by Cana Lighthouse. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Explore the Lake Michigan side, a little more quiet, in Baileys Harbor with Maxwelton Braes Lodge’s
Stay, Play & Dine Package featuring a two night stay, two rounds of golf, $50 gift certificate to Thyme
Cuisine, two complimentary old fashioned cocktails, and breakfast or express lunch for two at Thyme
Cuisine. Ephraim’s ideal spot for a romantic getaway is Eagle Harbor Inn, offering “Suite Escape: Contact
Free Stay.” Enjoy a one-bedroom Whirlpool Suite welcomed with chilled prosecco and chocolate truffles
and grab a picnic lunch from Door County Creamery using a Door County gift certificate.
To view complete package details and a list of participating accommodations, visit
doorcounty.com/content/vacation-packages and link directly to accommodations for booking

Sunset Over Eagle Harbor. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience

Photo courtesy of Ron Faiola.

         When I was young, my parents liked to dine at supper clubs. To me, they were swank places of dark wood, bold colored banquettes, and oversized menus where your dad would order a martini and your mom a Manhattan while you, because you were only seven or so, had to do with a Shirley Temple. But at least it came with a pretty paper umbrella and a maraschino cherry

         These were the supper clubs of yore. Often tucked away on back roads that seemed to take hours—no make that days—to reach when you were riding in the back of that big boat-like Buick your parents owned and no iPad or cell phone existed yet to keep you entertained. Just a coloring book and a box of Crayolas your mother handed you as you climbed into the car. If your brother came along you could kill time by arguing over whether the Cubs or Sox were better—a fight that endures to this day. If not, you colored and asked every three minutes (I know because my dad timed it once) “are we there yet?”

         In Michigan there are few supper clubs that I know of. Maybe D’Agostino’s Navajo Bar & Grille in Bridgeman, family owned for almost 70 years would qualify. It has that feel. There’s Talon’s Supper Club in Norway way up in the U.P. where old fashioned ice cream drinks (typically one of the deciding factors in determining if a place is a supper club) like Grasshoppers and Brandy Alexanders are on the menu. But let’s face it, is anyone going to drive 400 miles one way to go to a supper club? In Norway Michigan—population 2,845?  No, I didn’t think so.

Photo courtesy of Ron Faiola.
Courtesy of Timmerman Supper Club.

         Much more local, there’s the Heston Supper Club, in Heston, Indiana just north of LaPorte on the Michigan-Indiana border. And yes, it is in the middle of nowhere. In Syracuse, Indiana less than 90 minutes, The Sleepy Owl has been around for more than a half century. I haven’t been there yet, but definitely will when we can finally leave the house.

Courtesy of The Sleepy Owl.

         Geraldine’s Supper Club in Indy is a hat tip to the classic places of the 1930s and 1940s. There are a few more in Illinois, like the 60-year plus old Timmerman’s Supper Club on the Mississippi River in East Dubuque as well as several in towns I’ve never heard of like Scapecchi’s Supper Club in Farmington.

Photo courtesy of Ron Faiola.

         Because they’re becoming big again, Millie’s Supper Club in Chicago has the look—polished wood, red leather, low lighting—which is cool unless you want old.

Courtesy of Heston Supper Club.

         But for the largest selection of real back-in-the-day supper clubs, the place to go is Wisconsin and Ron Faiola has got them covered in his two large, heavy-on-photos books,  Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience and the follow-up Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round both published by Agate, a Chicago publishing company. The books came about after Faiola’s film (its name is the same as the first book) was shown nationwide on PBS nine years ago. He also has a website, wisconsinsupperclubs.net, with lists of supper clubs organized by region including many not mentioned in his books. And amazingly, there are lots of them.

Relish Tray courtesy of Ron Faiola.

         So what exactly is a supper club? You’d know if you walked into one of them but Faiola describes them as usually only open for dinner and family owned with great service and food as well as a club-like atmosphere. The reason for all that, he says, is because there’s usually at least one family member on the premises to ensure quality is maintained and guests are happy.

Courtesy of The English Inn Supper Club with locations in Fish Creek and Green Bay, Wisconsin.

         “When you come back to a place a few times, you get to be family too,” he says.

         Expect steaks and classic dishes like shrimp deJonghe. The latter is totally Chicago-centric, dating back to Chicago and the three deJonghe brothers who immigrated from Belgium in 1891. Two years later they opened a restaurant at the 1893 World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition, a global celebration of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The brothers went on to operate several restaurants including, from 1899 to 1923, DeJonghe’s Hotel and Restaurant at 12 E. Monroe Street. Their most famous dish, the one Henri deJonghe or their chef, Emil Zehr, is said to have created, is Shrimp deJonghe. Heston Supper Club has it on their menu as Sautéed deJonghe. They also serve frog legs, an old fashioned supper club dish if there ever was one and one even harder to find than Shrimp deJonghe. Ditto for The Sleepy Owl, though they call theirs Shrimp Scampi which really is pretty much the same. And yes, they have frog legs as well.

Shrimp deJonghe by Jane Simon Ammeson.

         Lobster, ribs, prime rib, perch and Friday night fish fries are also popular supper club items. Oh and don’t forget, the relish tray and/or salad bar.

         Drinking is part of the experience. That’s one reason there are so many Wisconsin supper clubs further north like in Door County says Faiola. During Prohibition as liquor was offloaded from boats coming from Canada and delivered via back roads to the big cities, supper clubs out in the boonies got their orders filled as gangsters, avoiding the highways and the cops, stopped by.

Courtesy of Ron Faiola.

         The cocktails people drank back then are popular again. But the thing with supper clubs is they never went out of style. In Wisconsin, the big one is the brandy old-fashioned sweet. I’d never heard of it but according to Faiola—and he should know—people in Wisconsin drink more brandy than anyone else in the U.S. and that’s usually by consuming a lot of brandy old-fashioned sweets.

Courtesy of Greenwood Supper Club which opened in 1929 in Fish Harbor in Door County.

         But supper clubs aren’t cookie cutters, says Faiola. Each is unique because of the family factor. Just like going to one friend’s home versus another.

Courtesy of Florian Supper Club in Bailey Harbor, Wisconsin.

         His books make great guides and people use them to explore the state, choosing which supper club to try next. Even in these days when we really can’t go anywhere yet, they’re still fun to look at—both a step back in time and a look forward when we can hit the road again. Also, I’m also going to be on the hunt for more Michigan supper clubs so if anyone knows of any, let me know.


         Here is the original recipe served at the deJonghe Brothers’ various restaurants. It’s interesting because it calls for ingredients not usually associated with fish dishes—nutmeg and mace. But while both are more pie ingredients today, in Europe a century and more ago, they were often used in savory cooking as well.

         As for why last place the deJonghe Brothers owned closed, supposedly it was because of liquor violations during Prohibition. But that doesn’t really sound like Chicago, does it?

         Also, shrimp can be expensive. A reasonable substitute (after all, this dish is really about the butter, garlic and breadcrumbs) is a tender, mild white fish or even cauliflower that’s cooked in boiling water until barely tender just like the shrimp. For fresh mild white fish, it’ll bake in the oven and doesn’t need to be parboiled beforehand.  

The Original Shrimp deJonghe

2 pounds large shrimp (40), or 48 slightly smaller

1 large garlic clove, mashed with the side of a knife or finely minced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chervil

Pinch of dried thyme crumbled between your fingers and thumb

1 shallot, minced (very finely chopped)

1 tablespoon minced onion

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups fine dry breadcrumbs

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of mace (optional)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook shrimp in a 4-quart pot of boiling salted water (see note below) until just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain shrimp in a colander, then immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mash garlic to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash garlic with salt using a large knife), then stir together with fresh and dried herbs, shallot, onion, 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, 1 cup bread crumbs, nutmeg, mace, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Melt remaining 1/2 stick butter and stir together with remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to make topping.

Arrange shrimp in 1 layer (slightly overlapping if necessary) in a buttered 3-quart flameproof gratin dish or other wide shallow ceramic baking dish. Cover with herbed breadcrumb mixture, then sprinkle with topping. Bake in upper third of oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil until crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Note: When salting water for cooking, use 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts water.

Note: This can also be made in 8 small baking ramekins for appetizers, or 4 larger individual baking dishes for main dish-sized.

Relish Tray

These are all suggestions. Add or subtract as you like.

Spreadable cheese and crackers

Black olives

Green olives

Olives stuffed with blue cheese


Bread and butter pickles

Sweet pickles

Pickled beets

Pickled onions

Pickled watermelon rind

Pickled baby corn

Pickled Brussel sprouts

Pepper slices (pickled or fresh)

Pickled cauliflower

Carrots, cut into sticks

Celery, cut into sticks

Hand-Muddled Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet

1 maraschino cherry

½ slice of orange

1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon sugar

2-3 dashes of bitters

1 ½ to 2 ounces brandy



In a 10-12 ounce tumbler, combine the cherry, orange, sugar and bitters. Muddle (mash) together.

Add ice, then the brandy and top off with 7UP. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.