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 full schedule of country club-like events includes happy hour entertainment (anywhere from 5:30 to 9 p.m.) three or four times a week. Recent performers have included singer Bryan Clark, jazz guitarist Nick Bucci, soft-rock group Wheat Stone Bridge and Sean Reilly, a Frank Sinatra impersonator with a local following. The busy calendar also includes fashion shows, tours of area attractions, and crab feasts and lobster dinners on the front lawn.
Smith joined U&W two years ago after 12 years at the Wilmington Country Club, where he was a manager in the dining rooms. “Entertainment drives people here, and hopefully they stay for dinner,” he says. “It’s a good buzz to have.”
While U&W focuses on happy hour and dinner, weekday lunch is the major attraction at The Wilmington Club. According to the club history, noon brings anywhere from 25 to 75 members and guests, usually from downtown Wilmington or nearby offices. Members can reserve a table or join others at the main table. Menu favorites include crab bisque, breast of chicken with Smithfield ham, clear oyster broth and crème brûlée. Friday fixtures are clam chowder, California cold soup, popovers and roast beef. Sometimes there are pike or lobster quenelles, veal Holstein or Pojarski, and sweetbreads. The service has a reputation for excellence, and the wait staff knows members by name.
Special occasions bring out the true haute cuisine, according to the club history, which describes Christmas lunches of bouillabaisse, smoked eel and terrapin stew. The annual black-tie meeting in April begins with consommé Bellevue, followed by planed shad and roe piped with mashed potatoes. October’s anniversary dinner, another black-tie affair, features caviar and an oyster and clam bar.
Like U&W, The Wilmington Club does a healthy catering business, which many members use for holidays, birthdays and weddings. Since women were admitted in 1992, Club Nights, which formerly featured speakers on such diverse subjects as the Himalayan Mountains and UD football, now feature trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Delaware Park or a Blue Rocks game.
Rudy Hutz, a Wilmington attorney who has been a member since 2000, says he and his wife have taken club-sponsored bus trips—followed by dinner at the club—to Gettysburg, the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Flower Show. Because his office is in the Nemours Building, Hutz finds the club convenient for client lunches.
Until last year, Mark Mayr had been manager since 1969, when he came from the Elbow Beach Club in Bermuda to succeed William “Willie” Peemoeller, who had held the post for the previous 32 years. Peemoeller’s photograph hangs in the first floor hallway near smaller photos of club presidents. Bill Cupples has been head chef for 20 years.
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