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Foodie February: Starting Off the New Year with Old Fashioned Fun

2/11/2017 - Dana Hutson

Foodie
Hobnob Supper Club Kenosha WI

img_HobNob.jpgMy husband and I recently had dinner with good friends at HobNob – a supper club on Lake Michigan near the Kenosha/Racine county border.  This was our second time to visit HobNob.  When we first moved here from Seattle, Washington, in 2013, we spotted the restaurant as we drove around exploring our new city.  I remembered seeing a few places like it when I grew up in Southern California, but that was a long time ago.  Just the signs outside the restaurant fascinated me – old fashioned neon lights with the name of the establishment but also the words “Wine & Dine” and “Food & Cocktails”, not to mention a gigantic martini glass painted on the front facade.  The real clincher for me, though, was the small wooden sign at the eastern edge of the parking lot that simply said, “STOP Lake Michigan Ahead”.  I was sold.  I knew we had to try this place.  Which we did, and had a wonderful evening and a scrumptious dinner.

Our recent visit to HobNob was even better, however, for a couple of reasons.  The first time we went, we didn’t really know many people here in Kenosha yet; going this time with good friends made it all the more enjoyable!  Also, since accidentally spotting the HobNob back in 2013, I have learned a little more about the supper club culture in Wisconsin.  There is a lot of history and tradition within the walls of the HobNob, as well as many other supper clubs in our state, that I was completely clueless about.  Characteristics that may have first hit me as quaint or old-fashioned, perhaps even needing an update, are actually the very things that qualify HobNob to be one of the premiere supper clubs in the state. 

If you Google “supper club”, you’ll get everything from “a restaurant or nightclub serving suppers and usually providing entertainment” to “an establishment that presents itself as having a high-class image, even if the price is affordable.”  But it turns out that the supper club is not so easily defined; there is so much more history behind it, so much folklore that colors the concept.  Before I give you the delicious details of our evening at HobNob, let me set the stage so that you will better appreciate your time at HobNob when you visit soon, which I highly encourage you to do!

According to a September article on the TravelWisconsin.com website, at least 250 supper clubs operate in Wisconsin.  There are certain traits that most of those supper clubs have in common:  they are open for dinner hours only, cocktails at the bar before your meal are practically a requirement (especially the Manhattan and Old Fashioned), dinner will take a few hours, and they often have a view.  Traditional supper clubs began as a place to satisfy a strong yearning for community and connection, especially in rural areas.  A supper club is a destination, not a stopping place for a quick meal before going to a movie.  The best supper clubs are as much about feeling at home as ordering dinner.  Children are welcome at supper clubs; generations of children have ordered their first steak at a supper club and describe it as a “rite of passage into adulthood”.

We found all of these things to be true at the HobNob, whose name itself implies socializing and mingling.  From the moment we walked in, took advantage of the convenient coat check, and perused the glass cases full of memorabilia, we knew we were stepping into a slice of history.  Indeed, HobNob has been serving great steaks and fine wine since 1954.  Michael Aletto acquired the HobNob from the original owner, Bill Higgins, in 1990.  Michael, like my husband and me, is a transplant from Washington State; he earned his degree in hotel-restaurant management from Washington State University and worked for the Four Seasons Corporation for ten years before moving to Wisconsin.  His wife, Anne Glowacki, who joined him in the restaurant work in 1994, is a Kenosha native.  Last year, the HobNob was voted 6th in the Travel Wisconsin Supper Club Showdown, pretty cool given that number I quoted above…6th out of 250 supper clubs in Wisconsin!

Heading down the hallway to the expansive bar, which has an amazing view of Lake Michigan, we encountered one medium sized dining area on the left, and on the right the Moroccan room, with just one table for a semi-private dining experience.  The hallway also houses the coolest “wine cellars” I’ve ever seen – two converted antique phone booths!  We enjoyed our wine and cocktails at the bar while watching the last few rays of sunshine illuminate the water.  An advantage to having an early reservation (5:00) was that we were given a choice of tables.  We decided on a comfortable booth in the cocktail lounge, forgoing a table in the glass-walled Terrace Room only because it was too dark by then to enjoy the view of the lake.  (There are a total of five dining areas, which gives the large facility a very intimate feel.)  The elegant, dimly-lit cocktail lounge has silky wall fabrics, fringed drapes and Naugahyde-covered booths.   We settled in and spent the next 2-1/2 hours chatting, eating and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere.  Have I mentioned that there are no TV’s anywhere?  Or that they ask you to leave your cell phones off and tucked away?  (This is a request that is easy to comply with -- there is no cell service in the building!)  It was an amazing evening, filled only with the sounds of conversation, laughter, and the clink of glassware as we all enjoyed our food…

And the food!  Yes, I must tell you about the food.  My husband ordered the whitefish broiled on a plank, an unbelievably generous portion, not that he had any problem polishing it off!  I had the 6 oz petite filet mignon which was topped with delightful crispy onion rings.  My friend had the jumbo gulf shrimp, beer battered and deep fried.  Lastly, her husband ordered the duckling, quite possibly the biggest item I’ve ever seen on a plate intended for one person!  (He did NOT polish that off…)  All the dinners, as is typical at supper clubs, came with soup, salad, potato and dinner rolls.  You won’t go home hungry!  Everything was delicious and we enjoyed being able to sit and chat through our leisurely meal.  I took part of my steak home and none of us had room for dessert, although it was incredibly tempting.  Juan, our waiter, was very attentive and answered our questions, even as the restaurant began to fill up with other customers.  His previous experience was working at a country club, which he said prepared him well for the classy atmosphere at HobNob.  Steaks range in price from $19 to $60; most of the seafood and specialty items are around $25.  Our entire meal was $144 including drinks…very reasonable considering the quantity of gourmet food they provided, as well as the incredible ambiance. 

We dined at HobNob on a Sunday evening (they are closed Mondays).  If you go on Friday or Saturday, you can enjoy live entertainment in the cocktail lounge; they move a piano into the corner by the windows and it apparently gets quite lively!   So do yourself and your loved ones a favor – make plans to have a relaxing dinner at the HobNob soon.  Celebrate a birthday or an anniversary.  Get engaged (that semi-private room is often booked for engagements!).   Catch up with some good friends.  Of the many things that are uniquely Wisconsin, fine dining at a supper club like HobNob may be the best one we’ve discovered yet.  

Dana Hutson

Community Blogger

Married to Randy. Retired to Kenosha from Seattle. Grandma to two boys and a Cocker Spaniel. Love HarborPark-living and everything Downtown Kenosha!

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