Wisconsin Dells Sunday dinner

 

“Put on you gloves,” Mom said. And she wasn’t referring to my woolly mittens during winter’s blast. They were dainty white gloves that ended at the wrist, tapered fingers, usually with a pearl closure. It was summer at our favorite vacation spot, the Wisconsin Dells, and we were going to a grand place for Sunday dinner.

Living on the south side of Chicago, we could drive in our Vista Cruiser since airline tickets were expensive in the 1960’s. Though we switched up motels several times on various trips, we never stopped visiting the Tommy Barlett Water Show and we never stopped dressing in our best for dinner. White gloves, a small grown up white clutch purse and, of course, a neatly styled dress; nothing less was expected for the occasion.

Just minutes from Wisconsin Dells located in Mirror Lake State park, you wind through the beautiful woods to the Hoffman Brothers restaurant built in 1953, situated right on the shore of Mirror Lake, Ishnala. My father loved the restaurant built into nature where giant Norway pines grow through the roof. Though only a child under 12, our first stop at the restaurant with my parents was the Arrowhead Bar built in the shape of an arrowhead with a breathtaking view of the bluffs.  Here is where we waited for our seat in the dining room and I could actually sit at the bar in those days. Served like an adult, I graciously sipped the famous kiddy cocktail with maraschino cherries, loaded with sugar, before being seated for dinner.

The house specialty was prime rib but I always got to choose a steak, medium rare, regardless of the cost. The rustic but elegant surroundings in red offered that reverent experience of unbroken time with my parents so long ago. Both now both have passed; not able to tell their daughter how proud they are of her well-practiced manners, always reminding her how she will grow into a lovely woman someday.

But to carry on tradition, I took my own children to this supper club that boosted over 50 years of popularity.  My son and daughter, pre-teen in age at the time, fought as usual, not quite as enamored as I was and were more content with a grilled cheese sandwich and fries then prime rib. Their unpracticed manners or should I say complete rudeness did not go unnoticed. And no, white gloves, were not a part of their Sunday apparel. The thought of professional class and style, ties, sports jackets and a dress could only be described in my warped imagination. Needless to say, I was disappointed at the outcome of our visit.

However, years later we found a picture together of what I thought, a failed excursion that I had quickly snapped for posterity, gobbling their Ishnala food. It was remembered fondly that this was the restaurant where their grandparents, had rekindled their love for family. Imagine that, they had paid attention to the intent after all; an unexpected response to the trip that I thought a waste of time and money.

As a result, they are trying to save their pennies for their own Sunday dinner that offers timeless beauty and what will hopefully be for them,  another excursion of cherished family memories.

Look to see if that favorite restaurant, park, even movie house is still thriving and insist on taking them for a visit. Though popcorn may be the only immediate source of your children or even grandchildren’s concern, they may surprise you in the long run.