Jefferson supper club reopens with local emphasis

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By Joan Neeno, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

JEFFERSON—It was a blustery night. We got lost and were running late. So the first sight of the Edgewater Supper Club, an old, wood-clad building along the Rock River, didn't inspire great confidence.

Then we opened the door, and the Edgewater revealed itself in all its quirky, antique glory.

A dark, copper-topped bar graces the front room. The main dining room features a low, wooden-beamed ceiling and a crackling fireplace with two large booths on either side. The windows reveal an enclosed porch with river views. The porch floors are slanted with age, and the ceilings are so low that I could have touched them.

The effect was like being in an old boat that has been lovingly cared for over the years.

That being said, the staff should have a sign outside similar to the ones amusement parks have for roller coasters. Instead of “Must be this tall to ride,” it would read “Must be this short to get in.” I'm sure many taller diners have clocked themselves on those ceiling beams. Being height-challenged, that wasn't an issue for me. Among our group, only Dr. Dan had to watch his head.

A supper club since the 1920s, the building itself is more than 100 years old. Legend has it that the kitchen was once a private club and cash drop for Chicago gangsters such as John Dillinger and Al Capone.

The building sat empty for a couple of years until Bill and Vicki Millis of Under the Oaks farm in Milton reopened it in September. Not surprisingly, their focus is on locally raised meats and produce. They also stock many local wines and spirits.

The chef is Jeff Steckel, who previously ran the popular Jeppa Joe's sandwich cart in Milwaukee.

The service and the food were as charming as the historic location. The owners' father, Blaine, greeted us, and our server was their daughter.

It felt like old home week for our friends Dan and Shawn, who have a long history of date nights and special occasions at the Edgewater.

Most of us started with the fresh oyster stew, featuring meaty oysters in a surprisingly light cream-based broth. I had anticipated something heavy and goopy, but the soup was light, nuanced and a great start to the meal. The fresh pretzel rolls made a good vehicle for sopping up the broth.

Being a Wisconsin gal dining out on a Friday, I ordered the two-piece hand-breaded haddock with cole slaw and choice of potato ($11).

The slaw, made of cabbage from Johnson Creek's High Meadows Organic Farm, came out in a big bowl for sharing. I enjoyed the creamy, savory dressing. The shredded cabbage held up to the dressing, retaining its crunch and earthy flavor. The twice-baked potato was generously broiled with cheddar cheese and bacon. But the fish was the star—beautifully cooked, flaky and mild with a breading that I'm guessing was made with seasoned panko breadcrumbs. It was fantastic.

Dr. Dan had the fried fresh lake perch ($15 for four pieces), which is the classic Wisconsin Friday fish. The kitchen did it justice. It had the same breading and was cooked with the same care.

Shawn and Lori, Dr. Dan's wife, both chose the salmon ($18 for queen-size), which was served with a mild white sauce and choice of potato. They were beautiful filets, firm yet tender. The smaller portion was a good size, and both enjoyed their meals.

Shawn's husband, Dan, ordered the ribeye steak ($26), which he said was nicely seasoned and cooked well.

My husband, Richard, got the jumbo shrimp with hand-cut french fries ($23). The shrimp were massive and cooked perfectly. The hand-cut fries were nicely fresh.

We were stuffed after dinner, but we had to try Vicki Millis' desserts.

The white cake with chocolate frosting was tasty, but the pumpkin bar was the favorite— moist and bursting with the flavors of the season. At first, the desserts' appearance was a bit surprising because they looked homemade. I'm used to seeing professionally perfect slices of frozen cheesecake that get thawed in the microwave at most supper clubs. Vicki's desserts were a delightful change of pace.

The Edgewater is more intimate than many supper clubs in the area, and its menu is smaller as well. There are no appetizers, and the entrée choices fit on one page. Who needs more? With the daily specials and emphasis on fresh and local, you will leave thoroughly charmed.

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