“For me, supper clubs have the feeling of up north, on a lake; family owned, family run; typically, dinner spots,” says Birch’s on the Lake Brewhouse & Supperclub owner Burton Joseph. He notes that weekend traditions such as Friday night fish fries, crab legs and prime rib are a nod legacy of supper clubs as well.
Starting by a Midwesterner in Beverly Hills during the 1930s, supper clubs were a mainstay of summers spent at Northwoods cabins. It’s an atmosphere that carries through to this day. “A big thing for me is lighting; always dark, dark woods as well,” says Joseph. “You’ve got your windows that look out onto the water but always your dark wood walls. And fireplaces, fire pits.”
The overall effect is somewhere between refined Vegas lounge and cozy lodge. Another hallmark contributing to the lounge vibe? A full bar. “Supper clubs were known for their drinks back in that time; grasshoppers, Manhattans, old fashions, martinis,” explains Joseph. The bar staff at Birch’s are introducing these old favorites to new generations of aficionados.
A floorshow is another must-have. “Benny Weinbeck—who’s been around, has a following—plays piano on Friday nights. Then Wayne Anthony plays on Saturdays, we put together a four-piece,” says Joseph. They may change up the singer once a month or so, but it’s always a crooner à la Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
But while Joseph’s brought these traditions into the present, some have stayed in the past. While you’ll still find wait staff in button downs, ties and aprons, customers face no dress code themselves. From baseball caps to formalwear, everyone feels comfortable, which is just how Joseph likes it.
Other staples have gotten a modern makeover. “We always had matchbooks. What we do now is they look like matchbooks, but they’re actually toothpicks,” says Joseph. Birch’s also does its own take on a relish tray, which features pre-dinner snacks like radishes and celery.
While some things change with time, the ethos of Birch’s on the Lake will always be the same for Joseph. “It’s just a feeling of, when you walk in, if you’ve been here before you’re recognized, and you recognize us. That’s what makes people feel at home.”