A recent PBS show about Wisconsin supper clubs made us interested in trying the Jackson Grill. In case you don't know about the Midwestern supper club tradition picture an independently owned restaurant (rather than a chain) which has a limited menu of well-prepared, American food (often steaks, ribs, or fish) usually with some dishes established as beloved specials of the house. Often there is an interesting decor of local or personal interest. The emphasis is always on personable service in which the owner and staff often know their customers quite well, or greet new ones as friends to be made. In Wisconsin, the bar also plays an important role. Not only do people look forward to gathering for a drink before being seated, they expect the bartender to mix drinks by hand rather than using little computerized squirts. I have reviewed several other supper clubs, some of which I like better than the Jackson Grill, but overall, our evening there was a pleasant experience.
It was not at all difficult to find, just a few blocks east on Mitchell Boulevard off the Miller Parkway but it is small so be sure to make reservations. We were warmly greeted immediately upon entering the bar, invited to sit while we waited for our table to clear, and easily found a place to hang our coats. The bar is almost as large as the table area, very comfortable and very pretty with low lighting sparkling off the owner's lovely colored glass collection. But the drinks were a little disappointing, a little weaker than expected.
Finding dry olive pits on the serving plate of our complimentary bowl of olives was a bad mistake. Our server took it away immediately but this was a shaky start.
We shared two appetizers, some rather ordinary crab cakes which one of our party really loved and an unusual escargot which I loved. Served in a hot, little, trefoil dish, twelve snails were nestled in herbed butter and whole cloves of garlic, the whole dish topped with a sautéed portabella mushroom cap. The combination of garlic spread over the toast, topped with buttery snail and mushroom was delicious.
Entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad and one of the side choices. Those with salad found them crisp and ordinary. My request for two sides instead was happily granted by our friendly server and I was pleased to have the large, crisp cooked broccoli as my green. Those with scallops were delighted with the browned, sweet fish but especially liked the risotto, comfortably soft and warm with nuggets of roasted vegetables. My peppered fillet was fork tender; they must have an excellent source for meat. And the macaroni with cheese, a side dish of bow-tie pasta folded in a tangy smooth cheese sauce was a really unexpected treat.
Of course we had to try dessert, sharing a strawberry napoleon and a piece of carrot cake, both at least four inches high. Our server laughed at our gasps saying, "I always warn people the desserts are big enough to share, but they still always do that!"
The balance of portion size, quality, and price is difficult to gage exactly. We would have liked slightly smaller portions and a lower price, but certainly no one will leave hungry. Some attention to a few details would bring this restaurant up to the final star.
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