Welcome to the Club
Delaware’s two dining clubs may have a reputation for stuffiness, but, having kept up with the times magnificently, that rep is undeserved. Peek inside the new University & Whist Club and the kind-of-new Wilmington Club. Wine, anyone?
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The clubhouse dates to 1766, when Bancroft Woodcock, a prominent Quaker silversmith, constructed a small house on the property. Subsequent additions and renovations have produced an imposing three-story, mostly stone structure with a tower on the Ninth Street side, a carriage house and a wall surrounding the grounds, which include colorful flower beds and oak, wild cherry and dogwood trees.
The club’s extensive art collection includes many valuable pieces and paintings and etchings of the building itself. Its several rooms—lounge, bar, casual and formal dining rooms, grille, ballroom, and meeting rooms—each have their own distinctive look.
The dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, children are welcome, and happy hour entertainment, networking breakfasts and special dinners are regular events. The club also hosts weddings and business meetings.
Anyone 25 or older can apply to join U&W, and there are a wide variety of membership categories. Individual dues are typically $2,380 a year, but those under 35 who join currently pay $250 for the first year and $500 thereafter. The Wilmington Club, on the other hand, accepts only those proposed by a member, with seconds by two members and supporting letters from six others, except that non-resident and direct descendants of a member need only three supporting letters. In 2005 dues were $2,400 a year, with a minimum charge for food or drink of $350 each six months. According to a board member, dues have changed little since, but mum is the word.
The main attraction of both clubs, of course, is fine dining, with all that implies: service, ambience, camaraderie and, especially, good food.
Dr. Stuart Septimus, a Wilmington pediatric cardiologist, has been a member of U&W for about 10 years. “To me, the food is better than the Green Room, the Brandywine Room, the finest restaurants in town,” he says. His favorites are the osso bucco and short ribs. His wife, Karen Galanaugh, enjoys the Chilean sea bass. Like many members, their favorite appetizer is the bang-bang shrimp, which are lightly breaded and fried with a spicy Thai-like sauce. “The bang-bang shrimp will never be off our menu,” says general manager Jason Smith.
Septimus and Galanaugh also take advantage of a major benefit of membership: wine at cost plus 10 percent. U&W holds regular wine dinners, tastings, shows and sales, and some members stock their entire wine cellars with bottles purchased at the club.
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