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Little Chicago Dining & Spirits | Kaukauna, Wi

Little Chicago Dining & Spirits | Kaukauna, Wi

Steaks & Seafood Define this Supper Club

Don't be fooled by the name: Little Chicago has nothing, really, to do with the metropolis more than 200 miles south. Sure, photos of gangsters like Al Capone and one of the infamous "lady in red," who was John Dillinger's downfall, hang on the wall. But that's where the comparisons end.

"I get calls all the time for pizza, but we don't have pizza," admitted Little Chicago owner Butch Kolosso. "We're not a Chicago-themed restaurant, but rather it's about the heritage of the area."

Kolosso didn't know the exact reasons for why the area was once called Little Chicago, but he heard there were moonshiners and speakeasies nearby and that Capone once visited an establishment in the area. He opened the 7,000 square-foot 215-seat restaurant with a 40-seat outdoor patio and a 120-seat bar in late 2012. It joins his other successful spot, Lake Park Pub in nearby Menasha, which is known for its Friday night fish fry. Where Lake Park Pub has more of a tavern feel, Little Chicago evokes a supper club. With a menu teeming with steaks, chops and a variety of fish, it has become a popular newer place in the area. But the menu offers more than other supper clubs with pasta, chicken, barbecued baby back ribs and the ability to make combination dinners.

"A lot of the other places in the area don't offer as much as we do," he said. "Here, you can get a steak and seafood, but we have a combo section that you can combine anything you want. If you order chicken alfredo, you can add a side order of shrimp. Or if you want chicken and ribs, you can get a half rack and two pieces of chicken. Or perch. Or shrimp. That's unique for this area."

And adding on to create a combination dinner only cost a bit more than the already-fairly affordable menu, where most items come in under $25. We're talking 14-ounce prime rib for $20.95, 16-ounce ribeye for $21.95, salmon for $17.95 or a seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, haddock and perch for $19.95. All the dinners also include a choice of potato (nearly 10 options) and Little Chicago's soup and salad bar. The steaks Little Chicago serves are all USDA choice. It uses haddock for the fish fry. For 15 years Kolosso's been using a lighter breading or a homemade beer batter. And he does each to order. "I started it that way at Lake Park because of the volume," he said. "It's easier, I think, to keep up. I don't like breading in the morning because it gets thicker on the fish."

Kolosso uses social media, especially Facebook, to promote specials and other things going on at Little Chicago, but he likes to reward guests in other ways, too. There's "birthday night" where if you come in with a group of at least four people the week of your birthday, you get 10 percent off the meal and complimentary cake. Customers can also join the "diner's dozen" and "lunch club" rewards programs. After getting 15 punches on your card, you can get a free lunch or a buy one/get one meal up to $15 at dinner.

And he treats his staff well and doesn't take advantage. Knowing business might be slow on long holiday weekends like Memorial Day or Labor Day, Kolosso will shut down the restaurant for a few days and let everyone enjoy their weekend.

"It's important to let your people have the weekend off and come back on Tuesday," he said. "A lot of people think it's a great idea and it shows I'm not greedy. We can shut down for a few days and survive."

After about two decades in the business, it sounds like he knows something about it. Even if he still doesn't serve pizza.

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