I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis during the heyday of supper clubs. My mom did less cooking as my siblings left the house, so we’d often go out to eat. Two of my favorite spots in the 70s were Jax Café and The White House. Even on vacations up north, we’d seek these classic supper clubs.
What exactly is a supper club, you ask? Well, they were a big deal in the upper Midwest. You’d know one the moment you walked in. Picture wood paneling, a relish tray, and a candle flickering in a red jar on every white tablecloth. Your meal would typically include soup or salad, bread, potato, and an entrée like fish, steak, or chops. And let’s not forget the drinks—a proper supper club knows how to make a mean old-fashioned, and they’d serve up delightful ice-cream drinks like grasshoppers, brandy alexanders, and pink squirrels after dinner.
I recently read Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal, and it took me on a walk down memory lane. The story revolves around Mariel Prager and her journey with the Lakeside Supper Club on Bear Jaw Lake, Minnesota. The story is a rollercoaster of emotions, following Mariel’s journey through her family’s restaurant. From her grandmother’s love for the place to her mother’s reluctance, the restaurant holds memories, both good and bad. When Mariel inherits it, she finds unexpected love and loss, all while navigating the challenges of running a business.
What I loved most were the honest, relatable characters. Stradal paints a vivid picture of Midwestern life, and you can feel the authenticity on every page. The story jumps back and forth in time and switches between characters’ perspectives, which didn’t always work.
There were some terribly heartbreaking moments, too, so be prepared to shed some tears. Overall, it’s a lovely read that captures the essence of family-run businesses and the Midwest. I’d give it 4 stars, mainly for the spot-on setting and the characters who felt like old friends.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.