A's List: The modern supper club offers new twists, while paying homage to the past.
By Audarshia Townsend
You could say the supper club concept emerged out of necessity. Born during Prohibition, they were a way for people to socialize over dinner—with drinks hidden under the table.
In Wisconsin, supper clubs were situated in remote areas and boasted three major characteristics: imposing taxidermy throughout the space, dark wood for a cozy, inviting vibe and brandy Old Fashioneds serving as the signature sipper.
Chicago’s old timey supper clubs served as popular gathering spots in the neighborhoods as well, with drinking and live entertainment key ingredients to their success. They thrived for many years in the city and suburbs, but many faded away by the 1970s.
With everyone loving nostalgia these days, it’s no surprise the supper club concept has re-emerged with much enthusiasm. We check into some of Chicago’s finest, from a Logan Square restaurant with a lively dinner party vibe to an authentic Wisconsin eatery from a Michelin-starred chef.
Speaking of authenticity, Cherry Circle Room looks and feels like a piece of Chicago history as much of its interior has been left intact on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Lots of hardwood accents and red leather booths add a sense of sophistication to the dining room. The bar is also part of the original structure, but the long and winding shelves behind the bar have been custom designed for the space and have been made to look as though they've been there all along. A tableside cocktail cart is a favorite here; bartenders whip up a variety of classic drinks with all fresh ingredients. After dinner, guests may retire to the adjacent Game Room for billiards, checkers, Bocce and more.
Menu highlights: Cherry Circle Room is as Chicago as it gets when it comes to food. Over-sized shrimp cocktail, prime steaks (think 55-day, dry-aged ribeye), pork shoulder with bacon and cold-smoked beef tartare are a few of the stars.
This Chicago-inspired supper club is from the folks behind the wildly popular Le Sud in Roscoe Village. Here, guests will find many nods to the Windy City’s past, from reclaimed furniture throughout the dining room to an Italian beef-inspired steak on the menu. The dining room is tucked away in the back, offering diners a respite from the bustling downtown action. Up front, in the bar, there is live music, televisions tuned in to news or sports, and a lively after-work crowd. There’s also a pre-theater menu that’s available in the bar or dining room.
Menu highlights: You’ll find heavy Chicago influences: Wagyu sirloin that's Italian beef inspired with house-made giardiniera, roasted peppers and red wine jus; house-smoked salmon and roasted eggplant with cauliflower "risotto."
Loosely inspired by supper clubs of yesteryear, the owners of Good Fortune describe the restaurant as a "1970s dinner party." The best of the era's music entertains diners as they enjoy their time there. Two dining rooms offer completely different settings: The front room feels modern and group friendly, while the rear dining room is darker and romantic. In the back, guests are treated to full-on chef action behind a glass partition.
Menu highlights: Good Fortune’s version of the classic Wedge salad offers a tangy twist. The listed little gem romaine salad comes with crisp bacon and tomatillos. Also outstanding are the wood oven-roasted pork collar, pan-roasted striploin with beef sausage and charred broccolini, and crispy half chicken with an apple dumpling.
This campy take on the classic supper club experience has been going strong for almost two decades. In 2020, it celebrates 20 years of female impersonators, kitschy-themed nights and fare named after the likes of Carmen Miranda, Yoko Ono and Coco Chanel. Kit Kat’s décor is over the top with vibrantly hued furniture, oversized screens showcasing diva singers and light shows during performances. Iconic singers like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson get nights dedicated to them on their birthdays; there are drink and food specials, plus female impersonators lip-sync to their music. Kit Kat’s brunch drag shows are legendary.
Menu highlights: Celebrity-named dishes like Mae West (fried chicken and waffles), Yoko Ono (sesame teriyaki salmon) and James Dean (angus burger with cheddar) are popular.
Chef Grant Achatz grew up in Saint Clair, Mich. That inspired him to open this supper club based on his experiences growing up in a state that revered them. His is as classic as they come: You'll find taxidermy on the walls, a brandy Old Fashioned for imbibing and prime rib on the menu. Situated underneath Roister--another one of his popular restaurants--St. Clair Supper Club offers 30 seats in the dining room. That includes "bar" seats where guests may watch all the culinary magic unfold right in front of their eyes. That magic happens seven days a week with daily specials such as the Friday fish fry, king crab on Saturdays and Italian on Sundays.
Menu highlights: Prime rib is the only meat at St. Clair Supper Club. It arrives to the table medium rare and cut to order. A dessert favorite is the frozen Grasshopper pie.
This subterranean space feels like a speakeasy, supper club and live music venue in one. It’s all those, plus a mini Champagne salon serving up unconventional bubbles. The whiskey lounge features the largest selection of American whiskies in the world: more than 550. And if that’s not enough to convince you to check out Untitled, the live music attractions are some of the very best in the Windy City. Live blues, R&B and soul are typical fare, and occasionally they’ll do tribute nights dedicated to Prince, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross.
Menu highlights: You can go big—or light—at Untitled: If you’re grabbing a table for bites while watching one of the bands or burlesque show, order charcuterie (duck prosciutto, chicken live mousse, soppressata), charred octopus with forbidden rice, or crispy pork ribs drizzled with piquillo pepper caramel and Asian pear relish.
See previous A's List columns right here.