The food scene in Door County, Wisconsin, represents an exciting mix of nationalities, from traditional English fare and Scandinavian specialties to contemporary American steak and seafood to fish boils and supper clubs.
In the 1800s, Icelandic, Scandinavian, and European settlers began immigrating to Door County. Only in the last few decades has the region become a Midwestern culinary capital. Hyperlocal and hyper-fresh roots are the norm for this food landscape.
Local ingredients like meats, cheeses, and fresh produce are common. Door County boasts lake-to-table, orchard-to-table, and field-to-table styles of dining.
I selected some of these restaurants with the help of Destination Door County, which hosted me with participating businesses. Friends, guides, and other travelers recommended others. All opinions are my own. While each restaurant is numbered, there is no particular order.
1. Melt Bistro
While in Door County, I tried to find the best cheese curds in Wisconsin. I found the best warm, fresh curds at Renard’s Artisan Cheese in Sturgeon Bay. Their retail store offers samples year-round along with the Melt Bistro, where you can enjoy a sit-down meal or a quick snack.
2. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant And Butik
I came for the goats and stayed for the meal! Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik is known for live goats grazing on the building’s grass roof in downtown Sister Bay.
Al Johnson’s is a popular and busy restaurant. They know how to quickly turn around a table of diners without making you feel rushed. I sat at the counter as a solo diner and enjoyed personalized service.
What To Order
When I requested a “signature” traditional Swedish meal, this is what I received:
- Swedish crispbread rye crackers — a crunchy base for sweet and savory toppings
- Pickled herring, an omega-3-rich fish
- Swedish pancakes, like French crepes
- Swedish meatballs — you can’t leave without trying these
- Lingonberries — wild and organic… seem to go well on everything!
Pro Tip: Five to seven goats are usually on the roof daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the tourist season — May to October. You can see them on goat cam.
Known for steaks, seafood, and cocktails, Chop is open year-round and offers lake views on two levels with seasonal outdoor dining in the heart of Sister Bay.
This classic American Steakhouse features a display kitchen with a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Chop is a sophisticated destination without being stuffy.
It’s unusual to have Yorkshire pudding in an American restaurant instead of a breadbasket. This popover was yummy and light. It paired nicely with the cup of savory mushroom soup sprinkled with chives.
I ordered the crispy duck with Seaquist cherry demi-glace on a delectable mound of garlic mashed potatoes. This elegant meal was served with my favorite sauvignon blanc wine.
Pro Tip: Reservations are welcomed but were not required when I visited.
4. Door County Creamery
Smooth, silky gelato makes a great after-dinner treat along with a stroll down the main street in downtown Sister Bay.
Door County Creamery raises about 130 goats on its local farm and is known for fresh, handcrafted goat cheese. They also serve sandwiches, salads, wraps, and cheese. Here is a link to their menu. The physical store is open seasonally from May through October, and its online store is open year-round.
5. Husby’s Food & Spirits
With 14 flatscreen TVs outside and inside offering sports package viewing, Husby’s Food & Spirits in downtown Sister Bay is a popular crowd-pleasing destination. Door County’s original sports bar, Husby’s, is open year-round and is family-friendly with a kid’s menu.
During the summer, the outdoor patio comes alive with music at the Garage Bar and is the place for late-night entertainment.
I liked sidling up to the bar to eat an early dinner. With the waiting line out the door, quicker service was appealing.
6. The English Inn
The knight in shining armor clinging to a rearing steed safeguards the front entrance of The English Inn in Fish Creek. This fascinating display tucked into lush bushes and flowering plants sets expectations before entering the restaurant.
The entrance, bar area, and dining room by the front door are all the original 100-year-old lumber mill building. It became known as The English Inn 50 years ago.
Known for their traditional English fare and old elegant supper club feel, they offer daily beef, chicken, or salmon Wellington. Friday is an all-you-can-eat fish fry.
Once in the dining room, delightful views out the windows included flowering trees and bushes, rock waterfalls, and small fish swimming in a stream. What I liked the best was the horn instruments spouting water artfully displayed in the outdoor dining area.
The English Inn is open for dinner on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in winter. When I was there in the fall, we had sandwiches for lunch and cherry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
7. Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza And Grille
If you are looking for food entertainment, look no further than Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille in Fish Creek. A second location is Sister Bay’s Waterfront.
Known for their hand-tossed pizza, they also offer wood-fired bread, salads, and countless pizza toppings. I went for the premium toppings of a wild mushroom blend, caramelized onions, and cheese curds.
I almost wished I was a kid so I could order their peanut butter & jelly pizza from the Little Tomatoes kids menu. A wide selection of craft beer, white, red, rosé, and sparkling wines elevated the casual atmosphere.
I particularly enjoyed my front-row seat for the expert pizzaiolo hand-tossing my pizza.
8. Waterfront Mary’s
It’s not a dead end… it’s the road to the waterfront of Sturgeon Bay and Waterfront Mary’s Bar and Grill.
Boasting Door County’s Best Waterfront Fish Boil, Waterfront Mary’s didn’t disappoint. Many restaurants in Door County offer fish boils on select nights, but I chose Waterfront Mary’s because it was close to my lodging.
Mike Jansen, the Boil Master, explained that the Scandinavians found a way to feed many people with potatoes, carrots, and onions stored in root cellars. These vegetables are combined with lake trout and white fish from the Sturgeon Bay waters in a pot with boiling, salted water. That fish is fatty, bony, and greasy. It requires lots of work with very little reward, according to Mike.
At Waterfront Mary’s, they use cod because it has no bones and no skin. You can eat everything from the pot.
When the vegetables and fish finish cooking, the boil master throws kerosene on the flames so the grease from the pot boils over. The pot is then ceremoniously carried to the kitchen for serving set-up.
The meals are dished up onto paper plates and served with rye bread and melted butter. Door County Cherry Pie and vanilla ice cream always follow for dessert. Waterfront Mary’s sports a raucous and friendly vibe. I enjoyed the casual ambiance and the spectacle of the boil-over.
Pro Tip: Reservations are required. Get there early, so you don’t miss the ceremony. It’s all about the expertise of the boil master.
9. Island Pizza
Island Pizza is located at the Ferry Dock on Washington Island. While they are famous for their hand-tossed, stone oven-baked pizza, we grabbed a delicious fresh-baked sub sandwich to take on our Segway excursion around the island.
When it was time to break for lunch, we enjoyed the sandwich and chips at a picnic table at Schoolhouse Beach in Washington Harbor. Without sand on this picturesque rocky beach, we were entertained by a few hardy senior citizens swimming in the frigid waters.
Island Pizza maintains seasonal hours. In the winter, ice-breaking ferries ply the waters between the peninsula and Washington Island to keep the channel open for residents commuting to and from work on the peninsula.
Bonus: Door County Wildwood Market
Sometimes when you travel, you want to pick up some fresh farm vegetables and fruit to eat in your lodgings. Such was the case when I stayed in a VRBO overlooking the marina in Sister Bay. With a well-stocked kitchen, all I needed was a bowl to make a mouthwatering bowl of succulent petite tomatoes in a salad.
My visit to Door County Wildwood Market yielded much more than those little red and gold gems. A family history lesson and a stroll through the historic building that housed German prisoners during World War II made it a memorable experience.
Adolf Carlson, at age 19, came from Sweden in 1846 and settled in Sister Bay. The land Adolf originally purchased remains in the Carlson family to this day, making it an authentic century farm. Five generations of the Carlson family have called Carlson’s Island View Orchard home of the Door County Wildwood Market their own. They have been harvesting cherries on the farm since 1915.
Pro Tip: The orchard and market are open from June through October.
How To Get To Door County And Get Around
Door County is bordered by the Bay of Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east in the northeast corner of Wisconsin. Sturgeon Bay, the southernmost town in Door County, is one hour from Green Bay, two and a half hours from Milwaukee, three hours from Madison, four and a quarter hours from Chicago, and five hours from Minneapolis.
While there are taxi, bus, limo, and trolley transportation services to and around Door County, you’ll want your own vehicle to access all there is to see.
For more information on traveling to Door County, Wisconsin, check out these articles: