Wally and Barbara Obois and Don Grieves bought Ray’s Barbecue from Don’s father Ray Grieves in 1959 and renamed it House of Embers Supper Club. Barbara and Wally had met at another local restaurant while Wally was tending bar and Barbara was hostessing. Don partnered with the couple for about a year before Wally and Barbara took over sole ownership of the House of Embers in 1960.
The restaurant was not much more than a shack, complete with a dirt basement, and it held about 80 guests in its two rooms, one red and one green. While creating a menu, the couple discovered that a lot of people liked ribs, but they weren’t sure how best to cook the meat. After some trial and error, they found smoking the ribs over hot charcoal embers was the best solution. The restaurant’s name also stemmed from this decision.
In 1976, Wally and Barbara decided to build a new restaurant just behind the original House of Embers. The Oboises continued to operate while the new building was built and only closed for two weeks to move supplies before re-opening in the new restaurant. The picture of Wally and Barbara to the left was on the demolition day of the old building.
In 1998 Barbara and Wally Obois retired. Thier son and daughter, Mike Obois and Deb Christensen, took over ownership. Mike graduated from one of the best culinary schools in the world, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., during the 1980s before returning home to take over the family business. Deb, who earned her BBA in Finance from University of Wisconsin, Madison, now manages the business’ finances. Most evenings, you will see one or both owners in the restaurant.
Although Mike liked making deserts, he realized that the supper club’s staple is ribs. He understood that most restaurants should have a signature item that sets them apart and House Of Embers is ribs. A lot of places have ribs but what makes House of Embers’ ribs special is their secret sauce and the restaurant’s smoker. The House of Embers now smokes the ribs over hickory logs for half an hour before basting them and slow cooking them in an oven for three hours. The restaurant uses a unique dry spice blend, and they add ingredients to that blend based on what meat it will be put on. Another of the restaurant’s now famous items are mother Barbara’s cinnamon rolls. The recipe for the rolls, which food writers have called “airy” and “not heavy,” have been featured in “Bon Appetit” magazine. People like that they are homemade, which you just can’t get anymore.
In 2011 Mike and Deb added an outdoor dining and bar area. There is no better place to relax with a cold drink and great food in the Dells since the outdoor area was added. There is plenty of seating and a comfortable bar area. House Of Embers hosts weddings, rehearsal parties, holiday parties and more and will also cater to off-premise events.
Its specialty rooms are a highlight of the restaurant. The rooms, which hold two to eight people, have been popular.