Resolutely independent

Chain restaurants are everywhere, or almost everywhere; the old-style out-by-Route 23 supper club seems to be in irreversible decline. But they had a lot to recommend them:

The one thing about most supper clubs is they required at least a 30-mile drive to get there because they were built on highways outside of major population areas, which gave them the feel of an upscale roadhouse — the opposite of “your neighborhood Applebee’s.”

In more ways than one, in fact:

Back then and now, a supper club is destination dining. But what is the difference? Consider this: At Applebee’s you get someone in a typical high turnover, low-wage job cooking your meal from a standard corporate recipe using pre-measured, pre-packaged ingredients so your meal looks exactly like the meal in those glitzy national TV ads — well, almost. At a supper club, your meal is prepared by someone who has likely worked there more than 25 years and takes great pride in their work. The food is fresher, the service is excellent and genuine, and your meal is cooked with seasoned cookware and grills that are over 50 years old. And the recipes are tried and true, and have been handed down from previous generations.

And then there’s Junior’s here in OKC, built on Northwest Highway (not yet the Distressway) in the early 1970s, before oil boom turned to oil bust. And they’re modestly modest:

Junior’s offers personalized service and fine dining. Don’t come looking for a gourmet fusion of three beans and art though. We offer the best hand-cut certified Black Angus steaks in town, Australian lobster, our famous Caesar Salad, and much more.

Old school, and proud of it. This is not something you encounter at Ruby Tuesday’s.





4 comments

  1. fillyjonk »

    24 June 2017 · 4:21 pm

    There was a supper club (“The Log Cabin Inn,” maybe?) off US 2 between Gladstone and Escanaba. We used to go there every time we went to visit my grandma.

    It was special. It wasn’t fancy, but it was nice. And the food was better than what any Applebee’s could spit out. And yeah, it was pretty old-school (steaks, broiled chicken, lake fish….) but a lot of us don’t like “weird” food and it’s nice to just be able to get broiled whitefish and know what it’s gonna be, and that it’s not going to have anything totally unexpected with it.

    I think a lot of those used to go back to the more “dry” days – I remember my family going to one in West Virginia where my parents had to “join their club” (for a buck each, and get a little signed card) in order to be able to order a glass of wine with dinner.

    I’m glad to hear a few of them still exist.

  2. McG »

    24 June 2017 · 6:25 pm

    Destination dining, eh? In Hudson, Wyoming, a town of less than 500 between Lander and Riverton — ten miles from Lander, 15 from Riverton — is a place called Svilar’s that must qualify, since I can’t imagine Hudson’s own population keeping it alive.

    Its onetime across-the-highway rival, El Toro, succumbed a few years back.

    We haven’t been to Svilar’s but, assuming it’s still open, I intend to remedy that someday.

  3. Roy »

    25 June 2017 · 12:15 pm

    There used to be a place in Southgate, KY, (just across the Ohio river from Cincinnati), called the Beverly Hills Supper Club. It was more a night club than a restaurant. It didn’t end well.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Hills_Supper_Club_fire

  4. Holly H »

    26 June 2017 · 3:36 pm

    I’m remembering episodes of Perry Mason. Such elegance, with such sinister plots.

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