I must preface this review by saying that I was a die-hard fan of the old Coerper’s Five O’Clock Club, and had I not visited the restaurant prior to recent visits, I would have little to complain about in this review.
Steaks and other items at the “new” Five O’Clock Club, 2416 W. State St., remain, quite frankly, if not the best in town, some of the very best, and service here has taken great strides to soften the steakhouse’s once gruff reputation. But I was dismayed to see that the Five O’Clock Club has changed a few of the unique elements that aside from the food, made it stand out from other steak houses in the city.
For those of you who have not visited the Five O’Clock Club, a great element of the allure of this place is in its somewhat sordid location and history. Situated in a questionable neighborhood, when you park your car at the club, it is guarded by a gentleman in a tiny wooden booth who may or may not request that you leave your keys in the ignition.
In earlier days, he would walk the lot with a hockey stick to admonish any would-be thieves. Reservations are required, and local lore had you calling on a Tuesday evening at 4 p.m. to hopefully snag a table for some night of the week, and there was always a chance you wouldn’t get in.
Dinner began with drinks at the bar, where you placed your order, and were led at the staff’s leisure to a dimly lit ‘50s and ‘60s style dining room where warm sourdough bread with honey, a large salad with dressings on a Lazy Susan and a relish tray awaited you.
Dinner could take two hours or longer, and service was notoriously unfriendly and snail-paced.
When the club changed ownership in 2004, many lamented, but all for naught, because for the first few years the restaurant stayed fairly the same, save for a drastic improvement in the friendliness of service.
Only within the last 18 months or so did two minor yet significant changes occur which caused my dismay: the restaurant stopped including its trademark baked potatoes in the cost of its delicious entrées, tossing this unique offering aside and adjoining them instead to the growing bandwagon of à la carte steakhouses; and it stopped offering all five of the previously provided salad dressings, asking instead that you order only the ones you prefer.
For waste purposes, I understand that these two offerings were likely cost prohibitive, but they are missed nonetheless. However, over that hump, the relish tray, crusty sourdough bread, and salad linger -- although perhaps a dressing or two shy.
Food at the club is still fantastic, and the trademark au jus and charred-on-the-outside, cooked-to-perfection-on-the-inside aged steaks remain butter tender. Appetizers, too, are delicious, with shrimp scampi ($3.25 per shrimp, four shrimp minimum) in rich, garlicky butter sauce drizzled over plump, fresh shrimp hailed with fresh parsley. Crab-stuffed mushrooms ($9) came packed with cheese and crab, and although a little watery, were still quite good.
Their excellent seafood selections aside, the specialties here are aged beef steaks, and in many, many visits over the years, I have never seen one arrive that was not cooked perfectly to temperature. A filet Oscar ($38) came butterflied and singing with fresh asparagus, crabmeat and a lovely citrus-laden hollandaise sauce.
The tender filet mignon ($38) sat happily amidst the club’s extraordinary au jus, and even at my guest’s medium well temperature was still tender enough that the knife flew through the beef. Lamb chops, too, ($32) were plump and absolutely heavenly, although to my confusion, they too sat in a heavy pool of the rich beef au jus. The combination was not unpleasing, but wholly unexpected.
An à la carte baked potato was admittedly worth the additional $4; plump and tender, served with a large bowl of sour cream and chopped chives. And little touches like our server plating our appetizers individually and the legacy of the brown paper doggy bags made me feel more at ease from my previously mentioned hang-ups.
Sometimes change is good, and so long as they do not change the steaks and au jus that have made them famous, the Five O’Clock Club maintains its status as Milwaukee’s most unique, phenomenal steakhouse. Just don’t forget to order your baked potato.
The Five O’Clock Club is open Tuesday through Saturday at 5 p.m. To make reservations, call (414) 342-3553.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.