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‘Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round’

Ron Faiola’s sequel at Five O’Clock Steakhouse

May. 31, 2016
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The photographs are enticing—all those golden-brown battered fish fillets, the firehouse-red barbecued ribs, the meaty tenderloin topped with melted butter and portobello mushrooms. And the text draws the reader deeper into that “old school is new again” subculture of supper clubs, the subject of writer-photographer Ron Faiola’s Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round.

Since Faiola began as a filmmaker, he is not adverse to sequels. Another Round follows up on his previous book, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience, which has already gone through six printings. The pleasant prospect of eating at supper clubs across the state occurred to Faiola while shooting a documentary film for Milwaukee Public Television on another regional culinary phenomenon, the Friday fish fry. His 2011 documentary on Wisconsin supper clubs aired nationally on public television and led to the first book. At the time, supper clubs ranked with spotted owls as endangered species. Nowadays they appear to be on their way back.

Faiola shrugs when asked if the success of his film and book had something to do with the revival. “There was ‘Mad Men’ and all these subchannels with old TV reruns—a retro culture has developed over looking back at the age of ordering an Old Fashioned and a big steak,” he says.

But if all supper clubs serve steaks, not all steakhouses are supper clubs. The definition gets slippery. “A supper club is family run—it’s not part of a chain,” Faiola begins. “They serve homemade food with some recipes handed down from generations. They don’t open for lunch. They usually have a relish tray—and none of this à la carte stuff: Everything’s included. The décor includes one or more of these elements: dark wood, twinkling lights and taxidermy. It’s like pornography in one sense: You know it when you see it.”

Ron Faiola will sign copies of his latest book from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, June 3, at Five O’Clock Steakhouse, 2416 W. State St.

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