Phil Vettel reviews St. Clair Supper Club

CHICAGO — The St. Clair Supper Club is the Alinea Group's homage to the Wisconsin Supper Club. The retro décor hits all the right notes: The paper placemats on bare-wood tables, the tufted-leather banquettes, the ironically tacky specials board.

There's even a Brandy Old Fashioned, which is how they do an Old Fashioned in the North Woods. It's far too sweet for me, but no question, it's absolutely authentic, albeit with better ice than you'll find up north.

The narrow, basement space has a galley kitchen adjoining a long bar. There are decorative timbers on the ceiling, animal-head light fixtures, and the framed cartoons are from a long-gone diner, owned by partner Nick Kokonas' father.

Except for an ever-changing daily special, there is but one entree: Prime rib, slow-cooked whole and sliced to order. Each roast is cooked to a precise medium-rare temperature, and except for end cuts, that's the only temperature available. The cuts come in four sizes, ranging in price from $48 to $75 dollars; you're looking at the King cut, the second-largest size, topped with a rich, meaty sauce known colloquially as “au jus.”

The appetizers and side dishes are what you'd expect. There's a fine shrimp cocktail, featuring huge shrimp gathered in a vintage glass ashtray – the kind of ashtray four people would share, back in the day. Crabcakes are crispy and meaty, served with fried dill pickles. Creamed spinach is every bit the rich indulgence you expect, green beans are topped with Dijon butter and chopped pecans, and of course there is Yorkshire pudding, which is very much like a popover.

 

The frozen grasshopper pie, another supper club staple, is the featured dessert. It's not as minty as other versions, for which I am grateful, but I still prefer the strawberry shortcake, a deconstructed version with a shortcake biscuit, whipped cream and amaretto-soaked strawberries.

I give St. Clair Supper Club, 951 West Fulton Market, three stars. The setup and flavors are true, and the quality is high. St. Clair prices are higher than you'll find in Delavan or New Holstein, but you'll save a couple hours' driving, and maybe a speeding ticket.

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