An hour wait to be seated might be a good thing at this eatery. Discover a popular summer hangout where you can enjoy stunning views of Mirror Lake while sipping a Brandy Old Fashioned cocktail and other Wisconsin Supper Club staples.
Take I-90 north to Madison, Wis., the Hwy. 12 West exit, and as you circle Wisconsin’s capital city, your surroundings look just like any other urban setting. But, soon, as you continue driving north, a new vista unfolds. The highway cuts through fields of typical Midwest farmland, now framed by majestic, high hills of forest and rock. You realize you are out of the “Flatlands” and now rolling through a picture-perfect tour of Wisconsin’s countryside. Ishnala Supper Club, S2011 Ishnala Road, in Lake Delton, Wis., is now but an hour away.
The tranquil, lakeside setting that is your destination was named by Winnebago American Indians. Ishnala means “By Itself Alone,” and the Ishnala Supper Club surely is. Its history adds to the allure. To the Winnebago, this was ceremonial land. The tribe sold the land to settlers who built a log cabin trading post in 1826. The trading post was purchased and expanded into a log home in 1909. The log cabin led to the restaurant of today, which blends ever so artfully into the forested shores of Mirror Lake.
Our visit to Ishnala originated from the gift of a book about Wisconsin’s unique culture of supper clubs, where friends meet, dine and socialize as they have for decades and decades. Traveling as we did, down the long, winding, wooded lane through Mirror Lake State Park that leads to Ishnala, one can’t help but feel a sense of wonderment. For us, this bucolic entrance heightened the sense of anticipation that we were about to arrive at the most iconic example of Wisconsin supper clubs.
Ishnala Supper Club is owned and operated by Robert Prosser. He keeps the grounds of his club trim and neat, where its natural beauty and lakeside add to the experience. Ever present, he is there to greet you as you enter the restaurant’s lobby. Ishnala’s success is the result of hard work and Prosser’s attention to every detail. This is a very popular supper club. So, be advised Ishnala does not accept reservations. An hour’s wait to be seated is rather customary. But, you’ll appreciate the time it allows you to take in the beautiful setting and enjoy a Wisconsin Supper Club staple, a Brandy Old Fashioned, at Ishnala’s famous Arrowhead Bar.
Every table is a good table at Ishnala because they all afford a view of Mirror Lake. But, if you have the time a window table is worth another Brandy Old Fashioned. Ishnala has a large menu – about anything you might want, including supper club staples.
As we dined, I looked up toward the upper level’s dinner tables. There stood Prosser, scanning the dining room and keeping everything running. Prosser stopped by our table to check on us, and we talked a bit.
“I love everything about Ishnala: the beautiful environment, providing delicious meals and delighting our customers,” he told us. “But, I especially enjoy running a dining room well. It’s an art. And we’ve experienced strong growth over the years because this is my passion, and my staff is equally devoted.”
Prosser’s mission is delivering a memorable Wisconsin Supper Club experience every time someone visits Ishnala. He makes sure that, when it comes to setting the standard for Wisconsin supper clubs, Ishnala truly stands “By Itself Alone.”
Ishnala Supper Club is generally open from late April through October. The bar opens Mon.-Fri. at 4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served starting Mon.-Fri. at 4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 3:30 p.m.