Many Cincinnati families know Door County, Wisconsin for its many lighthouses, quaint towns and those famous cherries. Beautiful Peninsula State Park, live theatre and galleries rank high on many visitors lists-even in the winter months, but among the experiences you will remember are the culinary delights that await you and there are no shortage of great chefs in the area.
From the fine dining to casual fare, there is something for everyone and this is just a drool-worthy sampling:
The Inn at Kristopher’s (Sister Bay) offers classic dining with menu highlights including Vegetable Napoleon and Walnut Encrusted Door County Whitefish. Located along the water, the views from the tables are nearly as good as the views on the tables.
Sweet delights are found at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor (Ephraim). Fresh brewed root beer, burgers and cheese curds (you cannot come here an not eat at least one) highlight the menu, but you’ll find it a challenge to order a meal once you get a glimpse at the sky-high ice cream desserts that await you. The atmosphere is casual and fun, the staff attentive and the juke box is a firm reminder that you can leave you r worries behind and relax.
Casual dining options abound including these unique restaurants who all add their personal flair to classics: Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza & Grill ( Fish Creek) offers up hand-tossed crusts and the pizzas are baked in a wood -fired oven using fresh, locally grown ingredients. Julie’s Park Café and Motel is a great place to stop for any meal and their simple, chic rooms are a hit-not to mention their convenient location at the entry to Peninsula State Park (Fish Creek) which beckons everyone to stop and have their picture taken in the giant purple chair out front. From their homemade meatloaf to the Czech roast pork dinner, there is certainly comfort in her food. Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grille (Sister Bay) is located along the bay and has a great cherry margarita, relaxed beach dining and stunning sunset views. For a decadent snack, visit Sweetie Pies (just south of Fish Creek), home to dozens of fresh-baked pie varieties including raspberry cherry, apple caramel and chocolate chess. In winter months, they even offer pie making classes.
Many people enjoy a visit Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik (Sister Bay), not only for the good food, but to see if it’s true. Yes, those are goats grazing on the roof! The roof is covered with sod and the goats (weather permitting) enjoy the fresh air and attention. If you don’t believe me, you can check out the goat cam on their website. An authentically owned Swedish family restaurant, they’ve been serving up delicious fare for years including pancakes with ligonberries and Swedish meatballs.
The Door County Trolley company features several tours, among those are their winery and culinary tours. The winery tour allows you to tour the “Boutique Winery” area of the Midwest. Each of the four award winning wineries included on the tour is unique with a range of tasting options including reds, whites and fruit wines. Even traditionalists cannot help but to enjoy the varietals of cherry infused fruit wines. The tour includes the chauffeured trolley, tours/tastings and a gourmet lunch. For a moving feast, consider the Door County Culinary Trolley Tour. Get behind-the-scenes access and participate in tastings at five unique culinary destinations. Door County Trolley is just south of Fish Creek at the Orchard Country Winery. The Winery itself offers tastings and a vast gift shop featuring fruits, juices, candies and more.
When you need a caffeine boost, step into Door County Coffee and Tea Company (south of Fish Creek). Their café is terrific with a wide variety of meal options (including breakfast) and there are many coffees to choose from. They produce more than 100 different coffees right on the premises and you can take home your favorites from their very own shop or have some shipped home.
For an added culinary experience, head to Ellison Bay where you’ll find the Savory Spoon Cooking School. Owner/chef Janice Thomas has turned an old post office into a trendy market with kitchen wares and gourmet treats including Wisconsin Artisanal Cheeses. Plan ahead for one of her classes (seasonal) and test your talents by preparing Tuscan classics, Moroccan dishes and so much more!
There are so many gastronomic treats in Door County and you’ll be hard pressed not to pass an orchard without stopping to try a fresh apple or the cherries this region is known for. Seaquist Orchards Farm Market (north of Sister Bay) is a great place to grab some cider, baked goods and fruits and prepare a picnic or a spread to eat in front of a fire on a crisp fall evening. And this is Wisconsin, of course, so don’t forget the cheese. Renard’s is a family operated business in Algoma and they offer a cheese curd bar where you can flavor your own curds to eat now or take with you.
Many restaurants have embraced the field to table movement and much of the fish served is locally caught-including that served at a traditional fish boil, which is an event in itself as fish and vegetables are boiled outside and then comes the fabulous (and flaming) finale! Finishing off this meal is cherry pie, of course.
There is pride in every bite and every glass of wine, so often, the owner is right there and at the ready to discuss the community and the menu with you. So delicious, so Door County. Your taste buds will want to head north!
For more information and seasonal hours of these locations and many more, visit
Door County is easy to reach from Cincinnati utilizing the Appleton or Green Bay Airports.