The way Larry Rupp sees it, he’s just the right kind of guy to be in the profession in which he has worked his entire life.
“I love the people,” Rupp said. “I love meeting people. I love talking to people. I enjoy characters.”
Those are all good characteristics for someone working in the food and beverage industry as Rupp has done for about 40 years, give or take. As a matter of fact, he was washing dishes at a supper club at the age of 12 and had to be paid a few bucks in cash out of the pockets of the cooks because he was too young to get a work permit. He was fed a meal each shift, however, so he said it wasn’t a bad deal.
Most of the past decade has found Rupp the owner of Rupp’s on Washington— the Washington being 1102 W. Washington Ave. in the Manitowoc County village of Cleveland.
After years of working at and/or running restaurants in Sheboygan, Larry and wife Debe moved to Newton. The commute from there to Sheboygan was too far, but Larry was not ready to give up his food service passion. He found Paulies Palace—a small tavern in Cleveland with an attached residence—and worked on negotiating an offer to purchase. The two parties got within a few thousand dollars, deciding to settle the sale price over dice at the bar. Larry won.
That was about a decade ago. The Rupp family gutted the interior of the building, reconstructing it into a supper club which seats between 80 and 85 people, along with a bar area at the front of the building. Larry said people seem to be especially impressed by the well-decorated restrooms which feature a lot of attractive tiling. He said some people would even stop before the supper club first opened just to see the restrooms.
As diners in this supper-club-rich part of the state know, success in this business depends less on location and more on reputation and word of mouth. And those things are earned by offering quality food at a reasonable value, not to mention good service and a pleasant dining experience.
It has taken some time, but Rupp’s on Washington is getting that positive word of mouth advertising by offering all those things and more. Larry said business has been getting steadily better, noting that customers from Manitowoc—especially repeat customers—seem to be making the drive more often to enjoy what Rupp’s on Washington has to offer. Its location has even worked to its favor at times as a central meeting place for people coming from both north and south.
“A lot of people come here for different reasons,” Larry said. For some it is the steaks which are aged, whether it be a 32-ounce porterhouse, 18-ounce ribeyes, 20-ounce New York strips, or 14-to 16-ounce tenderloins. Golfers— amateurs and professionals—playing at nearby Whistling Straits have been known to frequent Larry’s on Washington.
Seafood also popular
The restaurant’s seafood also is popular, particularly its Friday night fish fry featuring perch and cod. Larry said some restaurants will prepare processed cod from China, but his place will not.
There are some unusual offerings as well, some not on the menu but offered as nightly specials. Those can include chicken livers, lamb chops, halibut, frog legs and kraut balls, the latter made with bratwurst meat, sauerkraut, cream cheese and spices.
Homemade pizzas are made on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and are gaining popularity, even selling out on one recent Tuesday night.
Rupp’s on Washington is a family affair. In addition to Larry and Debe, daughter Melissa helps cook and is known for her out-of-the-ordinary soups, including creamy swiss onion and black forest. “We try to keep things unusual,” Larry said with a smile.
Even the salad bar qualifies as unusual as Melissa and others prepare homemade French, thousand island and ranch dressings along with homemade pasta dishes, not to mention homemade desserts after dinner.
Grandchildren Nolan and Samantha also can be found helping out at Rupp’s on Washington, and nephew Owen cuts the grass out back. Larry added, “I could not have been this successful without great and loyal employees and surrounded by a beautiful family.”
Rupp’s on Washington is open for suppers only, opening the doors at 4 p. m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and at 3 p. m. on Sundays. Larry said they will host lunchtime parties, funeral meals, etc., but he said he does not like to close the dining room for private functions. A look at the restaurant’s guestbook shows diners coming from Milwaukee, Green Bay and Fond du Lac to eat, and Larry does not want to disappoint them.
Making people happy is what Larry likes to do, and he has done that well throughout his career. And he’s in the right business for that.