Oaks Supper Club

The story of the famous Oaks Supper Club starts with Otto Villi who established the Grove Saloon and Hotel in 1868. His business was a success with the hotel being a popular stopping place for people traveling between Chicago and the Twin Cities. When prohibition took effect in 1919 Villi ran the saloon as a soft drink establishment.

In 1930 the business was sold and the Oaks Tavern was opened at the location by new owners Nick & Buddy Meyers. Entertainment included dancing and dining. The brothers wanted to improve the dining experience at the restaurant so in 1940 a well known chef from Minneapolis, Walter C. Kelly, was hired. His fine dining cuisine, including a very popular smorgasbord, became an instant draw. Kelly became head chef of the restaurant in 1940.

It was also during the 1930’s that rumors swirled about the Oaks being a favorite hangout for gangsters. Some of this was likely fueled by the maze of tunnels and caves under the building dating from the era of the Villi Brewery. Stories circulated of gangsters using the tunnels to escape law enforcement when in the area. It was also said that the restaurant was a favorite of mobster Al Capone who would stop in for a meal on a regular basis.

On Feb. 15, 1935 the Oaks experienced a devastating fire. The Meyers rebuilt the restaurant at the same location.

In 1943, Kelly bought the restaurant, and renamed it The Oaks. In 1948 he enlarged the dining room and added a stage large enough to accommodate a big band. Famous musicians such as Lawrence Welk and Sammy Kaye performed at the night club. From 1941 to 1957 the reputation of the the Oaks grew until it became the most famous supper club west of Chicago.

In 1946 a second devastating fire hit the Oaks. Kelly temporarily moved the Oaks to the City Nite Club in Minnesota City until the restaurant was rebuilt. He renamed the new establishment  “The New Oaks”.

In 1957 Kelly passed away and the popularity of supper club restaurants such as The Oaks diminished. Over recent years the building has been the site of various restaurants, a church, and in recent years a machine shop. MCHA archive