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Monday, Oct. 1, 2012

Supper Club Dining in Hales Corners

Stoneridge Inn creates a memorable experience

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Supper clubs were once the places to go for a good meal in Milwaukee and surrounding areas. They didn’t serve fast food; they were sit-down restaurants with full bars but without an air of exclusivity. Supper clubs were like country clubs for the middle class, with well-prepared food, linen napkins and a sense that everyday people were welcome. Everything on the menu was easily understood and the servers were never supercilious.

Since the supper clubs’ golden years of the 1950s and ’60s, their numbers have shrunk (and so has the middle class, by some measures). Still, many of the venerable operations continue, including one on the outskirts of town, Diamond Jim’s Stoneridge Inn in Hales Corners. The Stoneridge dates to the original supper club era, but car dealer Diamond Jim Letizia purchased the place in 2001. He gave it a face-lift and a fresh menu while remaining faithful to the supper clubs of the past. With two dining rooms and a banquet hall for parties, the Stoneridge can accommodate a crowd.

Remember relish trays? Before you can even read through the menu, a loaf of Italian bread is brought to each table along with a tray of carrots, black olives and sweet peppers. The appetizer section (everything at $6.95) consists of comfort-food staples. Cheddar cheese spread with crackers? You won’t find that at some trendy Downtown spot. There are also beer-battered mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, chicken strips, mozzarella marinara and a stack of delicious, lightly breaded onion rings.

The specials at a recent visit came from the American classic end of the culinary world, including prime rib, pecan-crusted chicken breasts and whitefish almondine. A la carte is not a phrase native to English, and it’s not on the Stoneridge agenda. Dinners come with soup or salad and are served with a choice of potato—french fries, hash browns or baked. The salads are well composed, with onions, shredded carrots, radishes and cucumbers. Try the Italian dressing, homemade and fresh. At most restaurants, baked potatoes are usually the blah-est things on the menu. Here, however, the potatoes are packed in rock salt, which not only makes the skin worth eating, but somehow also results in a fluffy white inside.

Regular entrees include the major meat groups of steaks, chicken, pork and seafood. There are combination surf and turf plates and a few items that have become unusual in local restaurants, such as beef liver with sautéed onions and bacon. The entrees run from $11.95 for fresh Icelandic cod through $39.95 for a pound of Alaskan king crab legs or the Black Angus and crab legs combo. There are burgers and fish, as well as pork chop and Sicilian chicken sandwiches, for lesser appetites. The desserts are scrumptious enough to tempt even the most austere tastes.

Another great touch: live music. On Saturday evenings, veteran Milwaukee guitarist and singer Red Deacon holds forth from a small stage. Although his background is in country music, he often plays in a fluid style similar to Mark Knopfler with a repertoire that ranges widely across the decades. Melancholy yet calming, his foggy voice makes you want to linger over that generous slice of apple pie with cinnamon ice cream.

Diamond Jim’s Stoneridge Inn

11811 Janesville Road,

Hales Corners

414-425-7777

$$-$$$

diamondjimsstoneridgeinn.com