JORDAN — Supper clubs were once the kings of dining in the upper Midwest, dotting the edges of small towns across Minnesota long before the advent of chain restaurants, fast food and brewpubs.
As supper clubs dwindle in popularity, their memories are fading — but not in Jordan, where people travel from around the metropolitan area and surrounding communities to dine at the Jordan Supper Club, an establishment that aims to rekindle a bygone era.
Supper clubs rose to prominence in the 1940s as a destination experience where guests could spend an entire evening. The night would often start with cocktails at the bar, traditionally an Old Fashioned, before guests would move to a packed, dimly lit dining hall.
Hearty entrees like prime rib, steak and fish were a hallmark of the clubs. Dessert was usually accompanied by live music and could range anywhere from cakes and pastries to indulgent after-dinner cocktails
All of this can be found at the Jordan Supper Club and its sister restaurant, the Jordan Taproom, on Highway 169 south of Jordan.
The establishment was founded by the late Dick Ames in 2016. Ames’ plan was to create a restaurant with two wings: a formal supper club for special occasions and a comfortable taproom restaurant. The vision that would unify the two rooms and guide Ames’ plan was a sense of community.
“If you know anything about Mr. Ames, he was very dedicated and very motivated about bringing the community together and helping people out and that’s what he wanted with this place,” said Ryan Stern, club manager. “He wanted this place to thrive and have a place in the community for everyone to come together at anytime.”
Almost every dish is made entirely from scratch with a priority on locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant partners with local bakeries, farms and creameries from Minneapolis, Burnsville, Elko, Kimball, Owatanna and other locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“This time of year, we can branch out and get the really fresh stuff that they pick in the morning, drop off in the afternoon, and it goes on the plate at night,” Head Chef Erik O’Connell said.
The preparation emphasizes patience and authenticity. Steaks are hand-cut in house, and the signature brisket and other meats are smoked for 18 hours.
“Every time we roll out a new menu, we have the staff try it and give us honest opinions,” Stern said. “If our staff doesn’t like it, then they don’t believe in our product and it’s not going to sell.”
Staff members hail from Jordan and surrounding community residents; the bar countertops were made by Cambria in Belle Plaine, and the staff uniforms were created by Thread Logic in Jordan. Even the decorative woodwork on some of the walls reflects Ames’ priority of bringing the community together, Stern said.
“We had a local carpenter come in, and he uses old pieces of wood from all around the area from his personal experiences, and he pieced them together — so literally there is a lot of history on our walls,” Stern said.
Right off the bat, the supper club provided a sense of nostalgia that brought older customers in, he added.
Last weekend, the supper club was packed with families celebrating graduations in Jordan, Belle Plaine and Gustavus Adolphus College.
“Supper clubs may be kind of a dying breed, but we don’t want that to happen,” Stern said.