The American Club – Kohler, WI
In a world where a tire company publishes the foremost authority on haute cuisine, perhaps one shouldn’t find an ultra-luxurious resort, in rural Wisconsin, run by a company known for faucets so unexpected; yet during our second visit in as many years I still found myself caught off guard during check-in, complementary champagne in hand. Located less than three-hours north of Chicago, The American Club, in Kohler Wisconsin offers a wonderful and romantic resort & dining experience that should not be overlooked. Originally built in 1918 as a dormitory for migrant workers of the Kohler company, the sprawling, Tudor-style building has been transformed into a world-class destination, and one I am glad to have experienced.
Upon arriving visitors are greeted by smartly dressed bellhops, and walk up a short flight of stairs to the concierge and check-in area. We arrived around noon, on a cold November Saturday; the lavishly decorated sitting room opposite check-in welcomes guests like an old friend, with plush leather sofas, rich dark wood floors, and a fire crackling in the fireplace. The sitting area and adjacent library, complete with a library-bar that opens at 5:30, offer guests a preview for the luxury that awaits. I’m no expert on design, but to me the decor can accurately be described as ‘turn of the century aristocracy’, old books, rich leather furniture, ornate drapery- that is to say, I love it.
During check-in guests are offered the aforementioned complimentary champagne, which I of course took advantage of. The American Club is the only place I’ve ever been with this offering, and I appreciate it. As the only AAA Five-Diamond rated hotel in the Midwest, I like to think it’s the little things like this that make the difference between the forth and fifth diamond.
Both times we visited we arrived well before the room was ready and the champagne was a nice warm-up for a boozy-lunch at The Horse & Plow, the historic casual tavern located in the lower level of the building. Here you’ll find typical pub fare for reasonable prices. This past trip Allie and I split a bowl of beer and cheese soup and I had a buffalo burger ordered medium rare but ultimately served medium- I only point this out because the bartender noticed and apologized and ended up taking it off the bill. Fun fact, the Horse & Plow is where we went to celebrate with drinks immediately after I popped the question- though Allie won’t let me share the picture of us, as she had been crying (tears of joy).
The rooms themselves are as warm and inviting as the grand entrance. Our first stay we were in a standard room, though obviously ‘standard’ is a relative term, and during our most recent trip we stayed in a Superior room- similar to the standard but larger, with a seating area and a desk. The bathrooms are the real stars of the rooms though with heated marble floors, high-end Kohler fixtures, a large soaking tub, and a shower more akin to a car wash than a standard ‘shower’. We found both rooms comfortable and accommodating, with all of the warmth you’d expect based on the rest of the hotel.
What to do
The American Club offers a variety of activities, such as horseback riding, trap shooting, and golfing in the summer; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating in the winter, and of course a plethora of spa treatments at the Kohler Waters Spa- be advised to make reservations well in advance for any spa treatment. Unfortunately I can’t really speak too much in regards to the activities available to guests- our first trip there I was a nervous wreck with a diamond-ring in tow, and a singular focus- finding the right moment to propose and hoping I didn’t screw it up!
With far less on my mind, our most recent trip was more relaxing- an 80-minute spa and bath treatment for Allie ($265 + $50 hotel fee if you are not staying at the Carriage House- a fee I found unexpected and was hence waived), and for me 80-minutes reading fireside with an Irish Coffee in hand. Allie emerged from her treatment relaxed and refreshed, while I emerged from my Irish Coffee ready for another.
After lunch, but before the spa reservation we spent an hour or so at the Kohler Museum and Design Studio, about a block away from the hotel. The Kohler Museum, in the lower level of the studio, tells the history of the Kohler company and The American club- but really a monument to the Kohler family. Learning about the town and company you really sense the pride and caring the generations of the Kohler family have put into the products, employees, and resort- I feel it shows with every turn. The design studio is a hands-on, HGTV-lovers playground featuring the latest in Kohler kitchen and bath products, with a top floor dedicated to bathroom and kitchen vignettes, all designed by top-designers. We both enjoyed perusing the displays, gaining inspiration for our hopeful one-day dream home.
With everything I love about The American Club, my favorite aspect has to be the Forbes Magazine, Four-Star restaurant, ‘The Immigrant’, located in the basement of the main building. As someone who loves ambiance in a restaurant almost as much as the food itself, The Immigrant is if I died and went to restaurant heaven. The six separate rooms each pay homage to each of the six major immigrant groups who played such a vital role in the company’s early years. The restaurant is dimly lit, and has a warm and cozy feel, yet with ample room between tables, makes for a romantic and private dining experience.
The food is as rich and interesting as Kohler itself, with a five ($120), or seven-course Grand tasting menu ($200) as well as a full traditional menu. This past trip Allie and I started off with a cheese plate appetizer of Wisconsin’s finest cheddar at the adjoining Winery Bar before making our way to the dining room. For my entree, I ordered grilled Waygu short-rib, served atop black-truffle Parisian gnocchi with rappini and shaved European Fall Truffle, ($56). It was decadent; the waitress had mentioned it was more like a steak than what one traditionally thinks of when they think short-ribs and she was absolutely right. Had I not known better I would’ve thought it was a prime cut of beef tenderloin; either way though, easily one of the best meals I’ve had all year. Allie ordered the Mero sea bass served with baby-corn and sunchoke with smoked tomato beurre blanc and seared to perfection ($53). Both of us were delighted with our meals and the attentive, gracious service. Attire is more on the formal side as one would expect dining at a restaurant of this caliber- jackets are required for men, while Allie wore a dress each of our visits. Reservations are a must.
In addition to The Immigrant, guests may also choose to dine at The Wisconsin room, located on the main level. Described on the American Club site as ‘farm fresh cuisine served in an elegant yet approachable atmosphere’.
Whether a special occasion, or just a romantic getaway, the premiere and historic resort experience of The American Club and fine dining at The Immigrant is a combination that should be on the ‘must visit’ list of every discerning Midwesterner. From the moment you arrive, to the moment you depart you’ll be treated to impeccable service, warm, welcoming luxury, and historic charm that will linger in your mind, and have you planning your return visit.
Five out of five stars.
$240-$1000 per night depending on the room.