180906BENEDETTIS

Served with a heaping helping of button mushrooms, this plate of tenderloin tips was just what Nikki Bolka was craving when The Gazette’s restaurant review team, The Four Dishes, visited Benedetti’s Club 51 in Beloit.

BELOIT

It was a dark and stormy night as we made our way south to Bene detti’s. Miraculously, when we arrived at the restaurant, we got a momentary reprieve from the downpour. It felt good to enter a warm, dry and welcoming establishment.

The dimly lit bar is enormous with no shortage of seats. Several pub tables along the wall provide for an overflow crowd. Dark wood paneling surrounds the spacious dining room, and white cloth tablecloths and red cloth napkins decorate the dining tables. A rustic stone wall in one corner provides a feeling of warmth and comfort.

We felt even cozier as we were seated near a large window, where we were able to watch the rain pour down the sheet of glass while enjoying our dinner. It was early on a Thursday night, and we were seated right away. But we learned on Wednesdays and Fridays it’s recommended to have a reservation due to Benedetti’s popular fish fry.

The menu offered some good options for appetizers (shrimp, calamari, poppers), but we went with the onion straws ($5.45) as we rarely see them on a menu. They were crispy and finely cut and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. I enjoyed the standard supper club brandy Old Fashioned ($5.50) to wash mine down.

Dinners come with a trip to the salad bar, which offered standard fare. There was iceberg and romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, chopped hard-boiled eggs and shredded cheese along with a few heavily mayonnaised salads and a couple of more unusual options such as pickled herring.

A regular customer was loading up his plate at the same time as we were and he helpfully explained some of the offerings. He jokingly pointed at a reddish-brown mound and said his friend described it as “the worst chocolate pudding ever,” but it sure made for a delicious pate. Spread over crackers, it was a savory treat, and it got two thumbs up from us.

A few dishes over, the actual chocolate pudding wasn’t bad, either. Another star at the salad bar was the outstanding blue cheese dressing, which was tangy with chunks of cheese.

Our server was patient while we debated and switched our entree choices. Benedetti’s menu is diverse, and we each had several top picks.

I love fish, and the menu has more selections than normal for the Midwest. Mahi mahi is a firm, mild-tasting fish I always enjoy, and Bene detti’s serves it plain with melted butter ($21.95). It was perfectly acceptable, but I regretted not getting it blackened. My potato choice was au gratin, which was served with a baked cheese top in a separate silver dish, which kept it nice and hot.

With the weather guiding Helene’s dinner choice, she looked to the evening specials for her comfort food, chicken and dumplings ($8.95). The huge dumpling commanded the center of the plate with chunks of chicken around it, and the mild, gelatinous sauce that accompanied it was adorned with bits of parsley. The dish was very comforting, indeed.

Nikki went with the braised tenderloin tips ($24.45). She ordered them medium rare, and they were cooked perfectly. Served with a ton of sauteed button mushrooms in a thin beef broth, this was definitely a meal for a mushroom lover. The beef was delicious, too, and the serving size was huge. For her side, she picked garlic mashed potatoes, which paired well with the hearty beef dish.

Jennifer was hungry, so she selected the petite filet mignon ($26.95). This, too, came with fresh sauteed mushrooms and three good-sized onion rings. Although she ordered her steak medium, it was a bit overdone. She didn’t hit “pink” until the center of the steak.

Like me, Jennifer opted for au gratins, which were piping hot and overflowing with cheese. She overheard guests at the neighboring table request a side of sour cream with their au gratins, and she knew immediately that she had to try it, too. She was delighted with the combined tastes.

As usual, we ended up taking part of our meals home. The portions were generous and, sadly, we did not have room for dessert. Although we didn’t try the ever-popular after-dinner drink, the grasshopper, Jennifer heard Benedetti’s uses three-quarters of a gallon of ice cream to create just one. Sounds fabulous!

Old Fashioneds, steaks and a fish fry ... supper clubs evoke nostalgia, bring friends together and help guests to feel at home. We were happy to discover Benedetti’s in Beloit is no exception.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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