Main Event Steakhouse | Little Chute, WI
Get Ready for the Main Event
Aside from cheese and cows, OK and maybe beer and Packers fans, Wisconsin is well known for its supper clubs. Throughout the state, old school supper clubs with big steaks, chops and Friday night fish fries dominate. Main Event Steakhouse tows the line between old school and something new and fresh, and a lot of that has to do with the young blood behind the ownership.
The restaurant in Little Chute, Wis., just outside Appleton and a few blocks off the Fox River, originally opened in 2005 by supper club veterans Jim and Tracie Buchinger before being taken over by longtime employee Matt Fronsee in 2012. Fronsee knew a thing or two about Main Event; he was just 15 when he started working there as a dishwasher when the restaurant opened. Since then, he rotated through pretty much every station in the place — from cooking on the line to hosting to bartending. So when the opportunity to buy the restaurant seven years later arose, Fronsee jumped at the chance.
"I was finishing up college and had to decide between law school and something else so I went this route," Fronsee said. "I don't know if it was a safe bet, but it was the right move for me. I couldn't picture myself working a 'normal' job."
Stepping into boss role didn't happen without its challenges. For one, most of the clientele were older, many in their 60s and up. Fronsee had to figure out how he could continue to make that set of customers happy while bringing in a younger crowd. He found all it took was to tweak the menu a bit, but also tapping into better-quality beer.
"One big thing we ran with was craft beer," he said. "That was always an interest of mine and we brought in more tap lines and started rotating our craft beer selection." In addition, he forged a relationship with local brewery Appleton Beer Factory to brew his own line called Little Chute Brewing Company. The first offering, Windmill Wheat, rolled out in August of 2015 and Fronsee has crafted a couple since.
The 275-seat, 5,550 square-foot restaurant is known for its 16-ounce ribeye, fresh hand-breaded fried lake perch special on Fridays and $7.95 salad bar at lunch. But it's the different specials, combination dinners, pastas and lighter fare that draw in the larger crowds, which average around 300 covers on the weekends.
"Not everyone wants to come in for a big steak menu," Fronsee said. "We had weekly specials to figure out what people were looking for and put that on our regular menu, like mahi mahi, tuna steak and some pastas. It caters to changing interests. We do a lot of fish on Fridays; it is a Wisconsin supper club after all. But a lot of the new stuff has been going over very well. Maybe people are looking to try something different."
One thing people can't get enough of though? The Saturday night prime rib with au jus and snap-and-eat crab leg buffet. For just $26.95, the special comes with soup and salad bar and a buffet featuring broasted chicken, seafood alfredo casserole, breaded shrimp, chicken strips various potatoes, rolls and more.
"The Friday and Sunday buffets (land and sea; chicken and ribs) are popular, but the big one is Saturday night," he admitted. "Out of 300 people, 200 will get the Saturday buffet and people will drive an hour and a half for that."
Fronsee said a lot of his veteran clientele enjoys coming in for an Old Fashioned and a sit-down dinner, but there are others who like to come in and grab a quick burger at the bar. There, they can choose from upwards of 30 specialty martinis that get served in frosted glasses, 16 tap beers that rotate often and an extensive wine list. And to further connect with guests, Fronsee communicates about specials through Facebook as well as via a text club, where he announces specials and discounts via mobile.
So it looks like he has figured out how to make everyone happy.
- Author: Ari Bendersky
- Posted: September 29, 2016
- Categories: In Our Communities, VOL 4 - ISSUE 4 • FALL 2016