What People are Saying About Smoky's Club
The best martini list I have ever seen--the menu is thicker than the Monday New York Times. Martinis range from sweet to tart and spicy with a lot of great variation. The portions are extremely generous. After 1 I was in probably one of the best moods I've ever been in. A friend described the martinis as "betch bomb good". I'm not sure what that means but I agree.
Atmosphere is relatively quiet and laid back. There is enough room for a party or a small group of friends.
And on the plus side, it's easy to reach and on a bunch of bus lines (safe driving!).
I love this place
If you are in Madison, make sure that you check out Smoky's Club. This iconic restaurant offers great steaks. Also enjoy your favorite drink as some of the best bar keeps in Madison are there to make your drinks. The service is great, the food even better.
I really didn't know what to expect. I drive by Smoky's Club every week and it easily goes unnoticed. Coming here was like meeting the quiet kid in the back and realizing this was the most interesting person in the room.
I almost ordered the veggie lasagna, but then my red wine came so I went for steak. The steak comes sizzling on a metal platter. You can salt and pepper it if you like, but what more do you need than well-sizzled meat. A relish bucket filled with ice, crunchy radishes, carrots, celery, and curling scallions will sit at your table for dipping into between bites of steak. Is this what eating is supposed to be like? I have not yet lived.
They have a house Roquefort dressing, which is like french dressing with chunks of blue cheese. Another house specialty, their hashbrowns, come round, crispety and buttery. The tables are uncluttered, no caddies hovering with crusty A1 bottles, as this place keeps it classy. And the napkins were so soft. Is it paper? Is it cloth?
I haven't gotten to the best part -- the attention to service. No small talk, just an announcement of the soup and featured vegetable of the day. When soup arrived, the bowl was carefully turned so the spoon was facing my dominant hand. We were asked minimal questions like, "do you have everything you need?" at which point we did request ketchup and it came promptly and with purpose. Our waters were filled in comfortable silence. No desserts or drinks were pushed on us. No lecture on how hot the plate would be. It's hard to describe the absence of something, but we were treated like people with sense and autonomy, and it was glamorous. As we left, I wondered if this place could be the Ritz-Carlton of steakhouses.
Or...just a regular supper club. Had I been living under a rock?
We went to Smoky's on a Monday night while heading back to Illinois from visiting Spring Green, WI. We came late, and although it was not busy, our service was excellent and we knew that this place had been around since 1953, so we weren't expecting pristine new decor. In fact, we wanted the authentic "time warp" experience, and we got it. Free veggie relish served on ice, huge free bread basket, delicious brandy old fashioned, incredible fried jumbo shrimp, great hash browns, and special cottage cheese side that was great. Cool pix around from the old days including Sammy Davis Jr. We had read about it in the Wisconsin Supper Club book and we would definitely return when we are in the area.
Visited July 2014
The last time I was in Smoky's was back in 1989. I was in high school, rockin' a perm, sportin' my Z Cavarrici pants, a mock turtleneck, and kickin' some Air Jordans (no, seriously). All I remember from that experience were the relish tray and the sizzling hot plates that the steaks arrived on.
Fast forward 23 years.
I was invited to a dinner with two very good friends and they suggested we hit Smoky's. The three of us arrived to Smoky's at around 7pm on Saturday, found a parking spot, and wandered in to the fabled establishment (sans my Z Cav's - I left them at home).
We took a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar, where Madison's infamous mixologist, "Martini Bob," greeted us as if we were long-lost friends. What an outstanding guy - friendly, personable, and more than capable of creating a mind-bending beverage. My pals went with martinis; I chose a brew.
The tap selection was modest but decent; I opted for a Samuel Adams Lager. I wasn't old enough to drink during my previous visit, but I imagine the bar hasn't changed much since the 80s. And that's A-OK by me. The place was cozy, comfortable, and truly enjoyable.
After a few sips of our beverages, we ordered some breaded mushrooms with the house-made ranch sauce. Both arrived in short order and boy-howdy, were they excellent. I'd highly recommend giving them a shot.
A host dropped by to ask if we'd like to grab a table; we did, and were led into one of the smaller dining room areas. A four-top table awaited, complete with a relish bowl that consisted of carrots, celery, scallions, and radishes. I'd swear I could hear the theme song from "Saved By The Bell" ringing in my ears.
An incredibly friendly server dropped by with menus and to check on the status of our drinks. We ordered a glass of Cabernet and browsed the menu.
After a very short wait, we placed our orders - three fillets (medium rare), hashbrowns, and mushrooms. When given the option between a glass of tomato juice or a basil tomato soup, we went for the soup.
Bob dropped by to see how we were doing, and inquired about our wine choice. He suggested a Malbec rather than the Cab, and went to get us a sample. Upon his return, we took a sip and agreed the Malbec was the better bet. Bob is awesome. Totally awesome.
Cups of soup, along with a bread basket arrived in short order. The soup was fantastic - hints of basil complimented the tomato flavor; I sopped-up the remainder of my soup with some bread... manners-be-damned...
Salads arrived and consisted of fresh greens, homemade croutons, a little onion, and a few cherry tomatoes.
And before you could say Murphy Brown, our steaks were presented - sizzling hot plates and all! I giggled with delight, and then drooled with anticipation as I spied the hashbrowns - the plate of crispy goodness looked awesome.
We cut into our uber-thick steaks and they were perfectly cooked - a stunning medium rare. Content with our bounty, the waiter left us to our meals.
The steaks were superb. Super tender, full of flavor and just divine. The hashbrowns were as stellar as they looked - crispy yet tender and surprisingly flavorful. A side of mushrooms rounded out the flavor profiles - I'd recommend you get these as well.
All in all, this was an other-worldly experience, and I can't wait to go back. The price was more than fair; service was top-notch; the food was as good as I've ever had. It looks like they've also refreshed the dining rooms a bit.
Smoky's = WIN
This is a must do for us in Madison. Friendly crowd, staff and out of the movies atmosphere. Prepare to be fed HUGH portions of meat . The martinis are infamous and the bloody Mary's a meal. Love the old school place. On weekends the crowd isn't as old as other reviewers make it out.
There's something about a place when the staff have been there since the beginning. They could retire, but they don't want to. That says volumes.
We had fish fry (cod) and it was one of the best I've had in Sconnie. It's not AYCE, which is fine by me (lest you add pounds). Thick cuts and not dry or greasy, perfectly cooked. Smoky's serves hands-down the best clam chowder I ever had and FANTASTIC hash browns. True to the classic supper club tradition, you get a fresh veggie "relish tray" with your dinner but the pickled beets are extra. I have never had the cottage cheese side, another classic relish tray component, cuz I'm not dieting. Here cc is mixed with chopped green onions and caraway--a great taste combination and makes it something to actually look forward to.
There is a huge book of martinis and ice cream drinks made by master bar manager Martini Bob, who has his own web site listing all his fabulous concoctions. He's been with Smoky's 30 years and it shows, he's a true mixologist, an artist and a scientist, who has created, with his customers, a hundredvariations. We got the extra from the shaker in a small glass on both counts (martinis and ice cream drink). Since I was with 3 peeps we all shared several martinis for a taste-a-thon and I don't remember which ones we had--but Bob kept 'em coming and all were fantastic. Tho out of towners, we had to join the Martini Bob club too.
Twin Cities, MN