If you’re planning a Midwestern road trip, you’ll likely hit several adorable small towns, in addition to some of America’s great cities, like St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. If you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin, be sure to get a taste of regional history with dinner at new restaurant Harvey House, which pays homage to the Midwest’s iconic supper clubs.
In the early to mid 20th century, supper clubs — drinks, dinner, and entertainment packaged all in one family-owned venue, often on the outskirts of town — were all the rage throughout the Midwest. Set in a historic train depot in Madison, Wisconsin, Harvey House recreates that midcentury feeling, but with an elevated twist.
Co-owners Shaina and Joe Papach met at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern, before working in some of the top kitchens in the country. Joe (who hails from Indiana) spent six years at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and Shaina (a Madison native) did stints at Chez Panisse and Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.
Knowing they wanted to open their own place, the couple moved back to the Midwest in 2018, and spent time scouting the perfect location. They found it in the form of the Madison Train Depot, one of the best-preserved examples of the city’s 19th- and 20th-century railroad history. The pandemic delayed the couple’s plans by a few years, but this summer, Harvey House finally opened its doors.
The Papaches converted an existing train car into a private dining space, but the action will be in the main building (formerly the baggage claim house), which seats about 100 between two floors (each with a bar.) The interior incorporates the building’s original brick walls and woodwork with locally found vintage fixtures, as well as new marble details. Throughout are murals depicting pastoral Wisconsin landscapes, by artist Jessica Niello-White.
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The couple wants Harvey House — so named for Fred Harvey, a man who started a chain of restaurants in the 1800s, and for Shaina’s grandfather Harvey — to be a place where locals and out-of-towners alike can stop in multiple times a week for familiar but elevated regional favorites.
Some tempting items include: smoked kielbasa in a blanket, duck with cherries and a cognac jus, and a resplendent relish tray of trout roe-topped deviled eggs, pastrami-style smoked sturgeon, and crudités with ranch mousse and house-made pickles. In addition to beer, wine, and familiar mixed drinks, throwback cocktails like the Brandy Alexander or Grasshopper are also on offer (plus “airplane shooters” of Fernet.)
“While opening a restaurant during a pandemic has had its challenges, the restaurant is busy and doing great,” Shaina Papach told T+L. “We feel so fortunate to have such an amazing group of people working at The Harvey House, as well as such a supportive community in Madison.”