The news hit me like a kick in the stomach. Eve’s Supper Club, one of my favorite places to dine in Green Bay, Wisconsin, closed yesterday.
I remember Eve’s opening on Riverside Drive in the building that formerly housed a casual restaurant, the Shrimp Shack. That was forty-six years ago. After a few years, they moved down the street to the top floor of an office building at 2020 Riverside. A classmate of mine, Jarrie Gollyhon, married Eve’s son, Jerry Haltaufderheid, and for years she and her husband have run the restaurant together.
For me, as well as for thousands of other Green Bay natives, Eve’s is the site of fond memories. One of mine is bittersweet: When I came to Green Bay after my father was hospitalized with a heart attack, his friends Bob and Marcia Deutsch took me to dinner, both to catch up with me and to express their concerns about my dad’s living alone. The place they chose was Eve’s. The occasion was somber, but the delicious food and beautiful view brought comfort.
When Pam, Carla, Del, and I began making our annual pilgrimage to Green Bay in the late ‘90s, Eve’s became one of our hangouts, a place to enjoy a meal and reconnect with other longtime friends. I marveled at how the menu evolved over the years. When I was young, most restaurants in Green Bay had a limited selection of entrees: steaks, maybe a pork chop, fried chicken, shrimp or perch. They might have lobster tail if you were lucky. But in the 2000s Rick Haltaufderheid, Eve’s chef and Jerry’s brother, turned out such sophisticated offerings as shrimp-stuffed tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce, roast duck with raspberry chipotle sauce, and pangasius, an Asian whitefish, with a roasted red pepper and chili compound butter.
It was fun to see my friend Jarrie blossom as well. I remember her from school as a quiet girl with a dry wit. She became the poised and vivacious hostess of Eve’s—and my source for all the latest “inside” Packers news. Yes, the Packers frequented Eve’s, at least the old-time ones. On Alumni Weekends we might see Fuzzy Thurston, Bart Starr, or Willie Davis dining there. Once or twice a year, Paul Hornung would come to Eve’s lobby to sign his books and memorabilia.
I e-mailed Jarrie and was gratified that on the busy day of the announcement, she took time to answer my query. No, there was no family illness or emergency. It was simply time to move on. The Haltaufderheids of this generation are in their sixties, and no young family members are willing or able to take on the business.
It’s painful, though, to lose Eve’s, not only as a family business but as a representative of an increasingly rare breed, the Wisconsin supper club. Ron Faiola is the author of a book, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience (Agate Publishing, 2013), and the director and producer of a documentary film by the same name. From the blurb for his book:
“The ‘supper club experience’ is a tradition embodied by many long-standing restaurants scattered throughout the small towns of Wisconsin. It is based around a bygone idea that going out to dinner is an experience that lasts an entire evening. The clubs emphasizing food made from scratch, slow-paced dining, and family-run businesses. Combine this with stately dark-panel decor, complimentary relish trays, and the best brandy Old Fashioned sweet you’ll ever have, and you have barely scratched the surface of the Wisconsin supper club’s appeal.”
Eve’s was not featured in Faiola’s book, but it clearly fit his definition.
As an author myself, I have additional reasons to mourn Eve’s. Not only is it a recurring setting in my Incomplete Passes, it was the scene of my most successful book signing. There I was in Eve’s lobby on the night of December 10, 2011, as customers repeatedly told me, “Paul Hornung used to sit there.”
“I know!” I replied to each of them. “I wrote about it in my book.”
But nothing lasts; things must change. The Haltaufderheids have worked hard, and like other early boomers, they have earned a fulfilling retirement. And it’s not as if Eve’s is the first player to exit the local supper-club game. Some years ago my BFF Pam visited Green Bay with her daughter. The young woman had grown up in Louisiana and was curious about her mother’s hometown. Pam looked through a guide to the city and was pleasantly surprised to see that a place called the Stratosphere was still open. Remembering it as one of the city’s most elegant clubs, she made a reservation and advised her daughter to dress up. The two women arrived at the Stratosphere and discovered that they had donned their fancy dresses and jewelry to have dinner at … a sports bar!
Thanks for some wonderful times, Eve’s! I’ll cherish the memories.