Taylor Scott, Managing Editor and Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief
We finally had the chance to Waltz by and try out the newest dining and social club in the Valley. Pairing veteran businessman Mike Haight as owner and general manager with classically trained executive chef David Moreno, Roarin 20s Dining and Social Club (1170 Main Street, Plain) adds art deco charm to downtown Plain. In full disclosure, we were surprised to find out that dinner was on the house, however that has no bearing on our review. Unflappable, we took the opportunity to review some of the menu and drink options and ask Haight and Moreno some questions:
I got the chance to try out the new dining location in the Valley just before Christmas and I was incredibly impressed with the unique cocktail and food offerings Roarin 20s Dining and Social Club brings to the table.
When we first sat down in our circular, cozy booth we were given a large basket of various kinds of bread with plain, scallion and cinnamon butter. Good bread at a restaurant is important, it’s the first impression your guests get and it can set the tone for the meal. The bread itself was pretty average, nice and moist and fluffy buns, the different varieties were a nice touch, but the different butters?! That blew it out of the water and set a good tone for the meal. I really enjoyed my overall experience here, but when I say, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I’d go back just for the green onion butter…I’m not even exaggerating.
If I’m being honest, I was stuffed after the bread course but I had to rally because the one thing that will not happen at Roarin 20s is anyone leaving hungry. I ordered the baked Brie with seasonal jam and toasted baguette. I also snagged a few truffle waffle fries from my dining companion’s appetizer. I’ve never tried Brie or truffle before, I enjoyed both. I especially enjoy that they offer an avenue to try these less common to small town Wisconsin foods for others like me who haven’t had the pleasure of trying it.
Pro tip: dip the truffle fries in the Brie. I’m sure that breaks about a million culinary rules but it was delicious.
While I didn’t try them, I was excited to see fried mushrooms on the appetizer menu. Those are a dime a dozen where I grew up in Illinois but much less common here, and I crave them often. Those are definitely on my list to try.
The next course was a salad that came with my entree, overall it was a good salad with fresh and crunchy veggies and a delicious ranch (which, as I’ve discussed before, can make or break my feelings for a restaurant).
I think my least favorite part of the meal was my entree, I ordered the chicken parmesan. The flavor was delicious and everything was very fresh, however there was a bit too much sauce and mozzarella cheese for me. It may absolutely be to others’ tastes, but it was a bit overpowering and made the breaded chicken sort of soggy, and the breading fell off. I think next time I’d ask for less cheese and sauce on the side so I could control the ratio. The meal came with garlic mashed potatoes which were great and a veggie medley. The medley was pretty good, although I would have prefered a roasted veggie to a steamed. I think that would match the entree and caliber of the other foods offered.
I finished the meal with a boozy grasshopper milkshake. But don’t let the word milkshake fool you, these things were strong! Definitely a dessert drink more than a milkshake but delicious either way.
My experience exceeded my already high expectations, and I’m excited to return and try the many other options on the menu!
—Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief
On most given nights now you’ll see a hive of activity, cars stretching down the streets of downtown Plain. In the middle of that activity is Roarin 20s Dining and Social Club.
Looking beyond the pain-stakingly designed art deco decor, the stage and the retro arcade, you see a menu that’s just as well thought out — just big enough to shine.
The menu consists of something different altogether, big enough for anyone to find a favorite and come back for something new, but not so big that it tries to be everything and dilutes the gems that truly shine on the menu.
For appetizers we ordered baked Brie and truffle fries. The gluten free among us (me, it’s just me) decided to mix worlds and try the Brie on the parmesan truffle oil waffle fries and it was complex and would definitely be a good option to feature or play around with if you’re in a group and want to order multiple apps.
While making a mental note to come back for prime rib night, I thought at first I would order the mahi-mahi or the ahi tuna. But then my eyes found the glazed pork chop, boasting a Cedarburg Spice wine reduction.
Cedarburg Spice is a sweet mulled red wine from Wollersheim Winery’s “sister winery” — Cedar Creek in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. They describe it as a “flavorful sweet red wine full of spices, such as orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.”
Cedarburg Spice is also my favorite mulled wine, recently tied with Wild Hills Winery’s Glühwein recipe. Needless to say, a mulled wine reduction isn’t something you see everyday paired with a glazed pork chop, and I had to try it.
The pork chop was thick cut, moist and tender, with none of the tendency pork chops have to be dry. It was a unique experience paired with the diced bacon in the reduction and one I’ll surely try again. However, I’m a sauce guy, I wouldn’t have complained if the dish had more of the reduction to go around or perhaps an apple chutney made with the reduction.
The sweet potato fries (which are closer to wedges) are reminiscent of Haight’s Lone Rock Bistro and Taproom fries. Sweet potato fries are often overcooked or undercooked, but these reflect that balance of crisp with a mouthwatering sweet softness inside. The only improvement to them would have been a good sriracha (or chipotle) mayo or aioli as dipping sauce.
The only other area lacking was the vegetable medley on the side, it seemed a bit out of place stacked against the wonderful main entrees. It needed something, and I think we settled on roasted veggies to take it to the next level.
The drinks we’ll save for another review, but suffice it to say the brandy old fashioneds here will be a contender for Best of the River Valley. I also had the brandy alexander after dinner and it certainly doesn’t hold back, and was a perfect decadent way to cap the evening. Cocktail in hand with a full stomach, it’s easy to imagine love music or a comedian onstage.
Flappers not required.
— Taylor Scott, Managing Editor
After indulging in some of the menu items Roarin 20s has to offer, we got the chance to ask Haight and Moreno some questions:
Valley Sentinel: ‘Roarin 20s Dining and Social Club’ is an interesting name, can you tell us the origin of the name and what it represents?
Mike Haight: It comes from a few things, but mostly a conversation I was having with my mother [co-owner Janet Haight] just before opening Lone Rock Bistro. I asked her if she thought the pandemic would change people’s behavior after it ended, if socializing was just going to suck after the pandemic the way travel sucks still 20 years after 9/11. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If history is any indicator the last pandemic was in 1918, after that (and the following recession) was over was the Roaring 20s, the hardest partying most social decade in American History”. I took that as well as the fact that we are now in the 2020s and came up with the name and concept when a space presented itself months later.
VS: With your successful endeavor in Lone Rock with the Lone Rock Bistro and Taproom, why Plain and why a 1920s-style restaurant?
MH: We were approached by a group in Plain who had a great space and wanted a restaurant. We are all about doing fresh things in small villages. My mother has been doing this for over a decade in Spring Green. Plain and Lone Rock are both 7 miles from my mom’s shops in Spring Green, so both are an easy commute. As for the style, the concept came first then I set out to build a place that would incorporate 1920s style art deco architecture elements as well as art elements from the previous art nouveau era. It was fun to transform the space and people are really liking it.
VS: You describe Roarin 20s as a dining and social club. Right now, with only a couple months under its belt, you seem to be focusing on the former — and well, but what does the latter look like? What’s your vision for Roarin 20s?
MH: We are focused on the food, the drinks as well as the environment and the service. All are evolving as we speak. It’s a fluid process. The goal now is to provide a space when people can eat, drink, socialize and play while being well attended to. Eventually we would like to add an entertainment program in the dining room some nights after dinner service has ended.
VS: Are your menu options a reflection of the 1920s ‘Roaring 20s’ style as well?
MH: Some things are classics but food has evolved a lot since the 1920s. I would say our menu reflects the 2020s more than the 1920s.
VS: The entire greater Spring Green area seems to be undergoing a food renaissance right now, what’s your vision for upscale dining in the Valley?
MH: Honestly I think the idea of “upscale dining” is more of a city one. That comes with a lot of expectations that are incredibly hard to live up to with an employment crisis, COVID, and everything else we as restaurant owners are facing these days, especially in small rural areas. What we are trying to do is give our rural communities something that fits their needs. We build places for our whole community, good people on every budget. Chef David as well as my GM in Lone Rock, Justin, work very hard to give people quality options at reasonable prices. We in no way are claiming the title of “upscale dining” so I’m probably not the best person to ask about that.
VS: You’ve mentioned an ongoing effort to create quite the cocktail catalog, can you tell us about that? Sounds like this winter may need to feature a cocktail tour of the Valley.
MH: I work with both our bar managers, Maddie in Plain and Sammi in Lone Rock both are very talented career bartenders, to design beer and cocktail programs. If you are a fan of either I suggest you stay tuned to both. Lots of cool stuff on the way. Maddie and I are also working on a cocktail book to be published where we give recipes and techniques to make 100 original cocktails at home. Many of them will be available at Roarin 20s over time. A good way to get information is to follow us on Facebook.
VS: Feel free to share anything else you’d like.
MH: I appreciate the positive customers who have supported the efforts of all the people I work with. They work extremely hard and we are always doing our best as are all the locally owned businesses in our area. We thank you for spending your hard earned money in the communities we live in. May the 2020s be a great decade when we have a chance to look back.
Valley Sentinel: Could you tell us a bit about your background and your journey to Roarin 20s?
David Moreno: I grew up in Chicago, moved to Wisconsin when I was 17. Moved to Portland, Oregon to study culinary arts at La Cordon Bleu. Moved to Paris, France to finish my culinary degree at the head school. Did my internship at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Nevada. Worked at a couple of resorts and casinos before I came to Roarin 20s.
VS: Are your menu options a reflection of the 1920s ‘Roaring 20s’ style as well, or something else entirely? What’s your culinary vision for Roarin 20s?
DM: The décor reflects the 1920s point, the food reflects the 2020s. My culinary style for Roarin 20s is to make great from scratch dishes that everybody will love.
VS: We thoroughly enjoyed the parmesan truffle oil waffle fries, what inspired you to include something so unique on the menu?
DM: My ultimate goal is to open people’s minds and expand their palettes with very unique and inspiring dishes.
VS: The glazed pork chop was unlike any pork chop we’ve ever had, what makes it so special?
DM: It’s all on how we prepare it and the glaze compliments the pork chop. We chargrilled to put the marks on and finish it in a pan and at the very end we add Cedarburg Spice wine glaze with bacon.
VS: What’s your favorite item on the menu?
DM: I would definitely have to say the glazed pork chop or the mahi-mahi with a Hawaiian style chutney.