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Not Your Average Supper Club: The Ranch

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

The Ranch Supper Club

Wisconsin is often associated with Friday night fish fries, beer and cheese. “America’s Dairyland” is so much more than what these common stereotypes portray. There are plenty of restaurants scattered throughout Wisconsin where people gather to pound Spotted Cows and munch down on some crunchy fries. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our spots, but there’s a gem located in Hayward, WI called The Ranch Supper Club that sticks to it’s northern Wisconsin roots while taking you seamlessly back in time as you walk through the front door. I got a chance to sit down for a cup of coffee with owner and chef, Nathan Bochler, to discuss what makes The Ranch unique and to hear his story.

Nathan and his wife, Haley (a certified sommelier), will have owned The Ranch Supper Club for two years this coming fall. He and his wife have recently moved back into the area after living in San Diego for nearly fifteen years. Don’t confuse him with being a “city slicker” though. Nathan grew up in the Park Falls, WI area as a kid. It was during this time that Nathan began working for his parent’s restaurant as a dishwasher around the age of ten. He didn’t always desire to be a chef/owner of a restaurant when he was young.

The Ranch owner and chef, Nathan Bochler

“I was just like any other kid,” Bochler said. “I wanted to be an actor or musician or something along those lines.” His passion for cooking was, as he liked to put it, “a slow romance. It wasn’t an instant thing.”  

After growing up and graduating from Park Falls, Nathan moved down to Madison to attend school when he was eighteen. It was there that he began working at different restaurants and the most notable one being, Delaney’s.

“Jim Delaney took me under his wing during my time in working for him,” Bochler said. “He gave me an opportunity to display my abilities and creativity.” Bochler then showed me a picture from Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round by Ron Faiola, in which one of Nathan’s dishes, the ostrich Wellington, was a featured picture. It was a highly raved about dish and was one of the more popular dishes at Delaney’s. After years of working at Delaney’s and honing his craft, Nathan then made the move out to San Diego, California.

“I like to make an impact wherever it is that I am,” Bochler said. “It was a tough place to leave, but I can probably count less than ten places that I’ve worked,” Bochler held up his hands, “and I believe there’s something to be said about that.” He attributes this attitude that he has to the northwoods mentality that was instilled in him while growing up.

While in San Diego, Bochler served many celebrities during his time out on the West Coast. He served the likes of Craig Robinson from The Office, world renowned chef Gordon Ramsay, and even a Wisconsin legend, Aaron Rodgers. When asked about what it was like to make a meal for Gordon Ramsay, Bochler said, “He actually isn’t as hot headed when the cameras are off.” Bochler added, “I try not to get too starstruck and just view them as regular people.”

I then thought I would hit him with a hard hitting question about what celebrity he would want to make a meal for whether they were living or dead. His response was actually kind of surprising, but the more I got to know Nathan, the more it made sense.

“Theodore Roosevelt would be who I would want to serve,” he said. “It’d be a game dinner, like bear steak out in the country or at camp site. A real ‘chuck wagon’ kind of meal.” When asked why he chose Teddy Roosevelt, Bochler replied, “I really like what he did for the outdoors and nature.” As we sipped on our coffee, I couldn’t help but notice Bochler looking out the front window and admiring the nature outside.

Turning back the clock to a menu from the earlier years of The Ranch.

Outside of being a chef and business owner, Bochler enjoys the outdoors and taking care of himself by running, biking, and hiking. He also stressed the importance of taking care of himself mentally and exercising his brain. “The restaurant business can be stressful and mental health, as well as physical health, is just as important.” He also enjoys spending time with his family, attending live music shows and exploring the area. “I’m from here, but I’m new to the area, so I like to go out and explore other businesses,” he added. “I’m not afraid to go to other restaurants and eat. I want to see the community thrive and that means I have to go and be willing to try different places.”

Traveling to different places isn’t something new to Bochler. He likes to frequent farmer’s markets and prides himself in being an enthusiast of them. He tries to travel out to California a few times a year and also added that he recently traveled down to Miami in order to hunt rare fruit.  “The more you travel, the more you see. It defines you,” Bochler said. “As soon as I was old enough to drive I was traveling. I wanted to see what was next. Traveling strengthens who you are and makes you proud of where you’re from. You bring your home wherever it is that you go, “ Bochler said. “It’s an easy carry on.” Bochler hopes that as soon as his kids are old enough that they will want to travel as well. “It’s going to be hard, but I want them to experience life.”

Photo from Nathan's Instagram: @nbochler

You don’t always have to travel to get the things you’re looking for when it comes to the restaurant business. The Ranch tries to work with the best available local suppliers that they can find and they pride themselves on that. But just because many of their ingredients are local, it doesn’t mean that they allow that to limit their menu. “Anything you eat here is part of a traditional supper club experience, but your experience can be global while sticking to its values,” Bochler said. While their focus is to stay true to Wisconsin and what works for the area, there are ways to implement creativity into their variety of menu options. While some may see that they have certain restrictions with being a supper club, Bochler sees it as an opportunity for creativity. “Restriction = creativity in the world of food,” he added.

Creativity and uniqueness is something that will draw people to a place. In the food industry, it’s important to stick out.  People enjoy experiences that aren’t “cookie cutter” and seek restaurants that provide a unique experience. When I asked Nathan what separated The Ranch from other supper clubs, he said, “It’s more than a robotic supper club experience. You’re not just getting a steak medium-rare and being on your way. The Ranch is a traditional supper club with modern touches.” The Ranch’s modern touches include: barrel aged cocktails, an extensive wine program and dishes including bison, Lake Superior fish, and farm grown produce. “If you’re looking for a northwoods specific experience, that’s why you come to The Ranch.”

When one travels to The Ranch, they won’t have to look too hard for the owners. “We are working it,” Bochler said. “We aren’t off on an island somewhere monitoring it from afar.”

I believe the hard working mentality that owners Nathan and Haley bring to The Ranch is what makes them a great addition to the area. They understand the tradition of what life is like in the northwoods and know what kind of work it takes to get the job done. “I like to earn my laziness,” Bochler said. “Work hard, then relax.” If you’re looking for a place to enjoy an Old Fashioned or need to fill your belly after a long day of work, stop by and see Nathan, Haley and the staff at The Ranch Supper Club in Hayward, WI.

The Ranch Press Release:

Nathan Bochler - appeared on local television, newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and The Food Network.

The Ranch Supper Club

Facebook and Instagram @ranchsupperclub Hours: Open year-round. Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5pm. Closed Mondays 715-634-2090 10590N Ranch Road Hayward, WI 54843

A Wisconsin tradition passed on to next generation. Change of ownership notice. The Ranch Supper Club is available for press conference, article comments, TV segments, magazine shoots, recipes, etc.

The Ranch Supper Club’s history reaches back into the days of Hayward’s birth, this establishment has always been known for great food and honest cocktails.

Nestled in the North Woods, located on the edge of town. The historic landmark Ranch Supper Club est. 1931, is the original steak house in Hayward. Enjoyed by early lumberjacks, entrepreneurial timber tycoons and notorious Chicago gangsters of the time. The Ranch seamlessly knits past and present together. The legacy continues with next generation owners.

The 100 seat restaurant draws fans from all over the world. Featured on the Travel channel and in Wisconsin Supper Clubs book by Ron Faiola. Besides providing the traditional supper club experience, patrons enjoy modern touches such as: barrel aged cocktails, extensive wine program, a wealth of dishes featuring local products and suppliers including bison, Lake Superior fish, farm grown produce.

There is a banquet space, restaurant and bar, cocktail lounge with fireplace. Décor includes ornate displays of old timey life including taxidermy, historical area antiques, and thoughtful art.

Special Events: Wine dinners, beer and cocktail paired dinners, cocktail parties, cooking classes, wine education.

“Our goal is to provide our guests with our take of Northern Hospitality”.

New owners: After spending years away from our Northern Wisconsin roots, we are happy to return home and carry on the supper club tradition for the next generation.

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