What can two retired Army veterans accomplish with determination, elbow (and bacon) grease and a love of cooking? Just about anything – and most definitely a successful, comfortable, delicious dining experience at St. Mary’s Supper Club located at 3700 N. Arms Place in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.
Chuck and Bernie Stevenson are brothers and long-time members of the community, having first eaten at St. Mary’s Supper Club as patrons in the 80s. They both graduated from West Vigo High School and joined the Army thereafter. Bernie has been in food service for more than 25 years, beginning as an Army cook. Although Chuck spent 20 years in active duty as a Field Artilleryman, cooking was a hobby and he enjoyed learning about different cuisines as he traveled the world.
The two brothers had talked about one day owning a restaurant and, after it closed in 2002, they purchased the Supper Club. They reopened the restaurant in February 2003 with local favorites (such as deep fried catfish) and many new items.
The menu includes an impressive number of appetizers such as chicken livers, homemade chips and onion dip, deep fried portabella mushroom slices, shrimp cocktail, frog legs and Potatoes Grande with cheese, bacon and sour cream along with staples like chicken wings, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.
The majority of the dishes served are made from scratch. They have special recipes for the Kraut balls, homemade croutons, Blue Cheese and Honey Mustard salad dressings and many other dishes. During a seven-year tour in Germany, Chuck lived with a German family that owned and operated Ghasthaus, a small German inn. He brought back many authentic recipes for dishes now served during Thursday’s German Night. You’ll also find Cajun items on the menu as well as spaghetti and veal. The Apple Crisp is made to order with caramel sauce and ice cream so either save room for dessert or get a doggy bag.
St Mary’s Supper Club is most known for their char-grilled, hand-cut steaks and baby-back ribs that literally fall off the bone. They also offer a variety of chicken and seafood. For the lighter appetite, they have an extensive sandwich menu and steak burgers that are hand-ground from trimmings off the quality fillet, strip, rib-eye and sirloin steaks.
Both brothers still have day jobs with Bernie working full time at an assisted living healthcare facility in Terre Haute and Chuck working part time at the local Post Office. “As you can see, the restaurant is our first love, but our second job,” said Chuck. St. Mary’s Supper Club is open for dinner, drinks and dessert from 5-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Neither man wants to be an absentee restaurateur. “We do it for the simple satisfaction of doing it and because it’s an investment,” Bernie said. Chuck adds, “If we were open 24/7 and we both couldn’t be here, we’d probably sell the place. That’s just not what we want.”
The building, which was erected in 1908, has been a grocery, pool hall and tavern. George Wilson was the first restaurateur in early 1960 and history has it that the Sisters of Providence helped sponsor his liquor license for the establishment, with one caveat – St. Mary’s Supper Club wouldn’t allow access to the college girls at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. This reciprocal relationship has continued and SMWC students, faculty, sisters and staff receive a 10 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages, if the server is notified when ordering.
The atmosphere even in the bar area is comfortable, well-lit and inviting. (What other bar in town offers a photo of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin prominently displayed on the wall?)
Chuck is an intuitive bartender and can be found talking with customers, learning their preferences for favorite libations or food preparation. This author and her friend met Chuck during our first visit, when we asked him if he could make a Kir, a popular French cocktail made with dry white wine and Crème de Cassis. After just a few minutes, Chuck returned to the table with two rosy, wine-filled flutes. And, it doesn’t matter if it’s been a month or more, Chuck remembers the Kir.
Note: As if the expansive menu and friendly staff weren’t enough, St. Mary’s Supper Club offers a talented artist’s work as an auction fundraiser. Joshua Spies, named the 2011 Safari Club International Conservation Artist of the Year, displays a signed print for a sealed bid auction to benefit Ducks Unlimited almost weekly at the Supper Club. Whoever bids the highest on the print, presuming that the minimum bid was met, is notified of their good fortune.