The Supper Club Experience

  Back to the wilds — or not so wilds — of Wisconsin.

Our hotel — the aforementioned Sleep Inn — was on the edge of Madison, off on a side road that took us past a church and a few houses. At first we were dismayed that all the eating establishments were on the other side of the highway. But just down the road from our lodging, we noted a place called Toby’s Supper Club. Its parking lot was already packed with cars before 5 p.m. on a Wednesday night.

We inquired at the hotel’s reservation desk, asking if the food at Toby’s was good. “It’s great!” enthused the clerk. So, after getting checked in and an exploration of the greater Madison area, we finally set off on foot for Toby’s.

As we guessed from the full parking lot, the inside of the restaurant was packed. Bryan went up to the bar to order a couple beers and inquire about getting a table. He was informed that we would place our order at the bar and when our food was ready, we would be seated. Seems that’s an old Wisconsin supper club tradition, according to some people we met while waiting at the bar. While it was standing room only on this Wednesday night, the bartender told us it would be three times as popular on a weekend night.

Finally, the waitress came and told us our table — and food — was ready. The small table was already stocked with our salads, relish tray, bread basket and a small dish containing two cinnamon rolls, which we quickly decided to save for dessert. No sooner did we finish our salads than the main course arrived — freshly fried cod for both of us.

It was all very tasty, but I think I was most amazed by the servers’ timing. I guess after all these years, they know how to time it so a table is available when each party’s food is prepared.

I’m sure our travels will eventually take us back to Madison, and Toby’s will once again be on our agenda. We not only had a delicious meal, but the “supper club” experience.