BY KEVIN REVOLINSKI, DANIEL HIGGINS AND CHRIS DROSNER
The Door Cheese Trail
Just south of Sturgeon Bay along the highway, Renard’s (2189 County Road DK) is the cheese gateway to Door County. Stop and shop for their fresh curds and a wide variety of cheeses, from cheddar and Swiss to fontina and Gruyère, as well as other local products, like meats, sausage and wines to complete the pairings. You can also grab a sandwich or a bowl of mac and cheese at its Melt Bistro.
While best known for its pizza, Wild Tomato (4023 Hwy. 42, Fish Creek; 10677 N. Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay) has some of the best fried cheese curds anywhere. These large nuggets of fresh cheese are hand-battered and deep-fried to golden perfection. The Green and Gold pizza is topped with them, and don’t miss the bread basket, either.
You can see cheese being made at Door Artisan Cheese Co. (8103 Hwy. 42 N.) of Egg Harbor. Call ahead to schedule a tour of the aging caves packed with cheesy wheels. Vintage Cupola, a raw milk cheese Door Artisan made for Red Barn Family Farms, was rated second-best overall in the country at the 2023 US Championship Cheese Competition.
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Fried or Boiled?
One is a Wisconsin-wide fish tradition, the other is quite local.
The Fish Boil
BACK IN THE DAY, Scandinavian fishermen would cook up group meals of whitefish in a big pot over an open fire. The boiling causes less-appetizing fish oils to rise to the surface, and when the fish is ready, the boil master steps in with a bit of kerosene and tosses it into the flames, invoking gasps in spectators and creating a bit of a boil-over that spills out the oils.
Old Post Office Restaurant
10040 N. WATER ST.
Set in the historic post office in Ephraim, the restaurant features the waterfront background of Eagle Harbor. Add house-made breads and cherry pie to your whitefish, plus chicken and rib alternatives if fish isn’t your thing.
Pelletier’s Restaurant & Fish Boil
4199 MAIN ST., FISH CREEK
With four scheduled boils nightly, this traditional fish boil is the old reliable. It’s even in their name, after all.
I’ll Stick With a Fry
The Mill Supper Club
4128 HWY. 42
Right where Highways 42 and 57 split north of Sturgeon Bay, The Mill offers deep-fried perch, walleye, local whitefish and cod, as well as shrimp and scallops – and not just on Friday nights. The bar opens an hour before dinner, as is right.
Harbor Fish Market & Grille
8080 HWY. 57, BAILEYS HARBOR
Fridays offer fried whitefish and perch, but you can get anything from pan-fried walleye to lobster and scallops any night at this upscale option.
Come anytime to Door County for all things cherry, especially during the summer harvest, mid-July to mid-August, when a homemade holiday tradition also begins. The sweet, boozy cordial cherry bounce is made by steeping fresh-picked Montmorency cherries in a jar or glass jug of brandy, whiskey, vodka or rum. Some makers remove the pits; others leave them in for an almondy note. By winter, the bounce is ready to be sipped on the rocks at holiday gatherings or even poured over ice cream. The depitted cherries make boozy little bites, too.
What Are You in the Mood For?
Door County’s dining and drink destinations are nearly as plentiful as its cherry trees. What are you looking for?
Sister Bay Bowl
How do you inject more Wisconsin into a Friday night fish fry? Sip your old fashioned as you bowl a few frames before or after dinner. Expect all the classic supper club fare.
Donny’s Glidden Lodge
Nestled among cedar trees, Donny’s exudes upscale cottage charm with hardwood floors, fieldstone walls and exposed wood beams overhead. The menu features hearty Midwestern dishes served with a view of Lake Michigan.
A 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist, this restaurant uses key ingredients from the garden in the backyard and local farms. To take advantage of what’s in season, the menu changes regularly from a fresh lineup of appetizers and entrées to the seasonal vegetables served alongside the chef’s cut steak.
Alexander’s of Door County
An expansive wine list, specialty cocktails and chic modern setting makes this a popular fine dining destination. An innovative menu delivers on the promise of a special meal.
Bar & Grill
This quaint, nearly century-old bar off the beaten path north of town serves history (free of charge) with each drink. The original cooler behind the bar once used blocks of ice cut from the bay each winter to keep drinks cold. A limited menu includes a Friday night fish fry and fresh homemade bread on Saturdays.
A favorite local watering hole that’s been thrown into the spotlight by Packers running back AJ Dillon’s love of their hot wings, AC Tap delivers Northwoods bar charm along with daily food and drink specials including a Friday fish fry.
Home of Good Vibes
By the evening of day three of our four-day Door County family trip a few years ago, all three of us were a little sick of the others. We’d beached, hiked, zip-lined, shopped, ice-creamed and beached again. When we arrived at the Door County Brewing/Hacienda Beer taproom in Baileys Harbor, it all changed. My wife and I loved the beer and rustic charm. Our 10-year-old loved the cornhole. When they left to find dinner before bed, I stayed to bask in the perfect vibes and take in a set from a fantastic bluegrass band. Nodding my head to the rhythm, I’d found Door County bliss. – Chris Drosner
Door County’s Must-Eats
Weighing in at half a pound, these delectable fresh sticky buns merit a drive to Rowleys Bay Resort for Grandma’s Swedish Bakery. Bring friends: it’s always buy five, get one free. Pair them with a cup of Door County coffee, then take a stroll to admire the bay and Newport State Park across the water. Try cinnamon rolls or cardamom coffee cake if pecans aren’t your thing.
Cherry-stuffed French Toast
The White Gull Inn in Fish Creek opens up thick slices of egg bread and fills them with cream cheese and tart locally grown Montmorency cherries. They’re fried on the griddle until golden and served with local maple syrup.
These aren’t the fluffy stacks but a thinner, denser variety. And what better place for them than Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, with its must-see goats grazing on the roof? We’ll go with the classic lingonberry topping, but strawberries, cherries or even meatballs are pairing options.