Minnesota's supper clubs set the table for a delicious family drama

portrait of a man with glasses next to a yellow book cover
“Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club” is a family drama set in and around a supper club in the fictional northern Minnesota town of Bear Jaw. Author J. Ryan Stradal says it’s “the kind of book you can’t take the Minnesota out of in editing.”
Penguin Random House

J. Ryan Stradal knows supper club culture.

Growing up in Hastings, Minn., his family milestones were marked by dressing up, sitting in a leather booth at the Wiederholt's Supper Club, picking at a relish tray and watching the grown-ups enjoy a brandy Old Fashioned.

He even worked at a supper club across the river, in Prescott, Wisc., where he went behind the double-swinging doors and had his views about restaurant work forever changed.

So it is with a deep sense of fondness, with a side of realism, that his latest novel centers around a supper club in the fictitious northern Minnesota town of Bear Jaw.

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Main character Mariel has inherited the Lakeside Club from her grandparents and is wrestling with its future — and her own. Meanwhile, her husband stands to take on his own family’s restaurant legacy, a growing chain of family diners. Which future will they pursue? And will old family wounds deepen in the process, or be healed?

This week on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Stradal joined host Kerri Miller in the studio to trade stories about their own experiences with the supper club scene. They also talked about the purpose and value of nostalgia and how Stradal works to balance sentimentality with reality in his writing.


Use the audio player above to listen to the podcast version of the conversation.

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