My Door County Top Ten this week was completed after several delicious meals throughout the Door Peninsula this season.
We are a resort community and the kitchen in the homes I sell, while very important in any purchase for future entertaining and for the simple act of eating or food preparation, are an afterthought when visited by children or grandchildren for an extended holiday, or if you are simply up for a weekend trying to unwind and get a few things done (other than wiping peanut-butter-and-jelly fingerprints off the granite counter tops). We like to eat out in Door County, and we have several nationally known restaurants that consistently “make the grade” year after year. One of my favorite questions from people who are looking at property with me is “Where should I eat”???? My response….”Where should I startJ?”
If a certain establishment isn't on my list, that doesn't mean it wasn't memorable or isn't truly fantastic. We are blessed with an incredible wealth of eating establishments on the Door Peninsula, and to be brutally honest, I cooked more at home this year than in the past two (healthy eating here sometimes triumphs over convenience and the desire for a JJ's chicken burrito). But of the 40-odd establishments I can purchase gift certificates from, these were the ones destined for memorable closings during the past year. These are in no particular order; they are all favorites, so each one is worth a visit. We have some GREAT new restaurants: Grasse’s Grille, Wickman House, and CHOP. Try them all. They all deserve a shout-out.
10. Northern Grill (Sister Bay). I'm not usually a creature of substantial habit, but if I go to the Northern Grill, I order two things. The Spicy Beef Sandwhich (Norwegians, Beware!) and a cup of their eclectic chili. The pizza is good, and the atmostphere is family-friendly, often with live music outdoors in summer. A good choice.
9. The Summer Kitchen (Ephraim). The menu was expanded a few years ago to include some truly delicous Mexican entrees, but my heart still lies very strongly with the breakfast menu here, the Benedicts, the quiche, and other homemade delights. Also some of the best chicken salad I've ever tasted, and those pitas are large enough for two meals, or to share. Definitely a favorite.
8. The Cookery (Fish Creek). One would think that maybe a devasting fire a few years ago would have daunted this fantastic establishment, but not. The new building is superb, and the food is as good as ever. I have been eating Tollhouse Pie here since a teenager, and I'm not about to stop now, especially after I've introduced the bakery items to my own girls. Delightful.
7. Pasta Vino (Ellison Bay). This "new kid on the block" isn't new---Pete D'Amico was just given the chance to expand his space and his menu, and he took that chance, ran with it, and scored a touchdown. I waitressed for Peter at one of his previous establishments in Sister Bay while I was in college, and his family's recipe for marinara sauce is the easily one of the best east of Sicily. The portions are huge, the menu is extensive, and you truly get your moneys' worth. Be prepared to wait, because Pasta Vino is not a secret anymore, and commands respectable crowds.
6. Alexander's (Fish Creek). Another prudent move, one that brought owners Bruce and Jill Alexander to Fish Creek several years ago when their old Du Nord lodge was purchased by a developer for condominium property. Fantastic food and beverages, great service, and a jovial atmosphere. Sunday brunch is fantastic at Alexander's.
5. The Wild Tomato. Exceptional pizza, casual atmosphere, creative menu. Central Fish Creek.
4. The Shoreline (Gills Rock). One word. Yum. Most people come for the spectacular water view and turn the food into a secondary experience. However, I grew up on and around the shore, so I don't notice the view or the charming commercial fish tugs going by as much as a visitor might. However, I do note several consistent things---the food here is fantastic, the service is exceptional, and I always know to expect a wait unless it is a weekday in spring or late, late autumn. Worth the drive to Gills Rock!
3. JJ's/La Puerta/Waterfront (Sister Bay and Jacksonport). I could separate these establishments into their own categories (Christine and James Johnson own four Door County eating establishments, if you count the combined 'JJ's/LaPuerta' as two (and I remember when they were separate establishments)), but as the sum of the whole, you can't go wrong here (and I didn't include the Sugar Shack, which is a seasonal cabana on the water). If I want a fun meal, I go to JJ's, where I'll run into several dozen people I know and be introduced to several dozen new ones to become future friends. Waterfront is an exceptional dining experience on its own and the food bedazzles as much as the sunset. Always a favorite for my customers and clients, too.
2. The Sister Bay Bowl (Sister Bay). Don't belittle this bowling alley that also serves food: it was recently featured in several "Best of Wisconsin" publications as well as a few national publications focusing on supper clubs. The perch is about the best I've ever had (I know the fisherman who catch it), the service is great, and the bartenders are as friendly and as large-as-life as you'll find for Door County characters. One of my buyers this year told me her most memorable Door County experience was getting a dance on the bar toward closing with her nanny. While I don't encourage that (bars tend to be slippery and you may fall), this is a FUN place with good food. Also great for quick business lunches.
"AL'S GALS" IN THEIR SWEDISH ATTIRE.
1. Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant (Sister Bay). What can I say about this little establishment that hasn't already been stated, other than...wow, does the Johnson family know what its doing with this business. From goats on the roof, to the thriving butik, to the waitresses and hostesses in their native gear---this is a Door County experience. The saddest thing? Many of the people I work with have driven by, have taken photos of the goats, but are too intimidated by the crowds to actually stop in. As such, this is almost always my favorite place to bring someone who is currently looking at Door County Properties, because nearly fifty percent of the time it is a first-time experience for them. However, they will be back. Large portions, exceptional service...and, of course, goats.
There are several places that I visited this year once or twice that are permanent parts of my life, also, deserve at least a "shout out" because they're fabulous, and that I plan to try to frequent more (I can only eat and go out so much). The A/C Tap, Fred & Fuzzy's, The Door County Ice Cream Factory, Husby's Food & Spirits, Pelletiers, Casey's, Blue Front, Inn at Kristophers, Mr. Helsinki's, Bayside, English Inn, The Viking Grill, Cornerstone Pub...this was going to be a short blog….sorry!
I don't really just sell real estate here, because this is mainly a secondary home community, but we also sell a lifestyle. There are fantastic food establishments up and down the Door Peninsula.