Skip to content

Something We Can All Agree On (Wisconsin Supper Clubs)

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read
Something We Can All Agree On (Wisconsin Supper Clubs)

You don't need to take a political or artistic stand to make a huge impact with a photo book. When people ask about what photo book made the most impact recently, I have a suggestion they usually never consider, because it's not for photography nuts. It's for travel and food nuts. It just happens to use photography as a tool.

Here in the midwest, I don't believe I've heard more talk about any book in last decade as Wisconsin Supper Clubs and it's follow-up Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round.

I'm not kidding.

Among retirees especially, it's become more a way of life than a series of books. I've met dozens of people in my travels attempting to visit all 100 supper clubs profiled in the books.

Each book profiles in words and photographs, the author's favorite 50 supper clubs. The photos are taken by the author, who is not a professional photographer by trade. However, these photos have the power to compel travelers to spend entire summers on the road, seeking out the most quaint, eccentric or lavish examples of the Wisconsin supper club.

A supper club is a very midwestern style of restaurant that is dying out in most states. But in Wisconsin, it's a source of pride, kept alive by tourists and even celebrated with its own craft beer. Here's the criteria the author provides for what makes a restaurant a supper club:

I'm not visiting all of them. But I will visit the best. The cover of the first book was taken at Ishnala, which is the canonical example of a supper club (yes, I've already been to this one). Here's a video tour:

I love that this author has found a subject that brings people together (in huge numbers) by tapping into something we can all agree on.

It's easy to forget about positive impacts when we become mired in the social media oh-crap-what's-on-fire-now hype. All too often what gets our attention is what's the most shocking thing at the moment.

Summer is coming. I don't know about you, but I need a break from 2017. I'll be spending a little time on the backroads of Wisconsin enjoying the scenery, a fat steak and Spotted Cow. Won't you join me?