By Lisa Truesdale
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Hungry for the finest of what Door County has to offer? Eat up these top dining picks along Wisconsin's storied Door Peninsula!
At Wild Tomato, nearly everything (including the hand-tossed crust) is made from scratch using fresh, local ingredients, with meats and produce sourced from farms up and down the peninsula.
Topping choices range from standard (pepperoni, mushrooms) to truly unique (cheese curds, vegan sausage). Each month, there’s a different specialty pizza called the “Donation Creation,” with $1 from the sale of each pie donated to local non-profits.
The menu also includes appetizers, salads (try the cherry walnut, showcasing Door County’s famous cherries) and sandwiches.
Insider Tip: If you’ve got little ones, eating at Wild Tomato doubles as entertainment. Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of watching the pizza chefs toss the crusts into the air in front of the roaring pizza oven.
Wickman House is a beautiful 1910 home set on four-plus acres of prairie land. The focus is on fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, including many from the large on-site garden and “chef-foraged mushrooms from a top-secret location.”
The menu varies based on what’s available, but favorites include melt-in-your-mouth steak frites (grilled hanger steak with chimichurri) and the surprisingly delicious and filling grain bowl, with quinoa, rice, kale, root veggies, house-made kimchee and citrus ginger vinaigrette.
For dessert, try the house-made ice cream sandwich, which is nothing at all like the kind you had as a child.
Insider Tip: The cocktail menu is truly a work of art, with so many tantalizing, creatively named concoctions that it’s hard to choose. The very popular (and tasty) rusty leaf is sweetened with house-made maple syrup, tapped from a tree just a few yards from the restaurant’s front door.
Everything about this place is authentic, from the décor and servers’ uniforms to the unique Scandinavian offerings sold in the adjacent "butik" (gift shop). In the busiest summer months, try to get there before 8 a.m., or you might find yourself waiting for two hours or more, although there’s plenty to keep you busy until your table is ready, with the butik, the historic buildings on the grounds and picturesque Sister Bay across the road.
Swedish pancakes are a must, served with butter, maple syrup, lingonberries and powdered sugar. Can’t get enough? Grab some pancake mix to take home; watch the short video playing in the lobby to find out how to make them the traditional way.
Forget the bacon or sausage; order Al’s Swedish meatballs. Yes, even for breakfast. At lunch or dinner, try the grilled havarti sandwich on limpa (Swedish rye bread) with pickled beets, or the Swedish sushi – house-made pickled herring.
On sunny and dry days from late-May to mid-October, those ARE goats you see grazing away on the iconic sod roof. If you miss this amazing sight, check out the goat cam.
Insider Tip: Al Johnson’s is the largest importer of lingonberries in the U.S. If you don’t order them with your meal, ask for a taster of juice and give it a try. One diner recently described it as “a combination of cranberries and pink lemonade.”
Door County Creamery is a cheesemaking facility, restaurant and retail store just down the road from the owners’ goat farm. Housemade cheeses include some you’ve heard of (chevre and cheddar) and some you might not have (wild ramp chevre, marinated feta, cave aged falltum).
The creamery is the perfect place to pick up fresh cheeses and meats if you’re headed out for a summer picnic; they’re happy to offer small samples before you commit. Grab a bottle of wine to go, too—the shop offers more than 30 bottles, all priced under $20.
Or stay and eat in the cozy space or out on the patio; you’ll love the tasting slates (meats, cheeses or a combo) and the hot baked artisan sandwiches. Try the cheese curd sandwich, with fresh, squeaky curds and truffle-roasted tomato spread.
Insider Tip: The case of colorful gelato, made in-house with the creamery's silky goat's milk, has quickly earned a reputation for being some of the tastiest around. Be adventurous and try the most popular flavor, roasted almond & fig.
Dozens of varieties of gourmet coffee are roasted on-site every weekday—just look through the large bay window and see for yourself!
This is a great place to get a handcrafted espresso drink and a pastry, but if you have time, stay for breakfast in the café. Everything is house-made from fresh, local ingredients and nothing is ever fried; even the bacon is baked.
The signature dish is baked eggs, a delectable combo of fresh eggs, cream cheese and Wisconsin butter, whipped together until amazingly fluffy and then topped with your choice of meat or veggies. Do not miss the hashbrown potato bake, with potato chunks, cheese, onions and a crunchy topping.
Insider Tip: Call ahead and see if the "Coffee College" will be in session during your visit, or find out about scheduling a private class for your group. You’ll learn about the company’s unique approach to coffee roasting and score a tour of the facility.
Villagios, run by a mother/daughter team, serves authentic Italian fare, from hoagies and pizza to classic pasta dishes, meats and fish. The house lasagna is several heavenly layers, but if you’re in a bit more adventurous mood, try the angel hair pasta limoné, with fresh-squeezed lemon and pine nuts, and ask the chef to toss in some grilled shrimp or chicken.
The interior is decorated with handpainted “trompe l’oeil” scenes that make you feel as though you’re dining in Italy, but the glassed-in wraparound porch also offers a cozy ambiance (heaters keep diners warm if it’s chilly outside).
The folks at Villagios are proud of the fact that Door County’s largest tree (and reportedly Wisconsin’s second-largest) is right in their front yard; it makes for a great photo-op.
Insider Tip: Kids eat free from the kids’ menu every Monday-Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Call ahead and make sure the concertina player will be strolling through the restaurant serenading diners with classic Italian music during your visit.
This historic 1880s building has always been a tavern with guest rooms upstairs; if you’re in the mood for a story, ask about the ghost who is rumored to be a permanent guest on the top floor.
You’d expect nachos on a pub menu, but theirs are no ordinary nachos—ranch kettle chips smothered in beer cheese fondue and topped with redskin mashed potatoes and housemade chili. Sandwiches include the southwest crab cake and a classic Wisconsin bratwurst.
If you can’t decide on one of the handcrafted microbrews, “walk the plank” with a flight of tasters and always include the seasonal selection.
Insider Tip: Sitting on the patio in the summer is worth the wait. That’s where you can people watch, enjoy the sunset or catch the live music on Thursday evenings that’s wafting over from the waterfront park across the road.
Three things set this restaurant’s traditional fish boil apart from the others—it’s offered several nights per week in the busy season, boasts a full buffet of other food selections and provides great entertainment with a historical re-enactment by a costumed storyteller as you watch your meal being prepared on the front lawn. Keep your camera ready so you can capture the dramatic "boil over" in the kettle at the end.
The restaurant and resort are a bit out of the way on the eastern side of the peninsula, but it’s worth the drive. As owner Jewel Ouradnik says, “People are either looking for us, or they’re lost.”
Insider Tip: Arrive early and explore the resort’s historic lobby, and check out the neighboring Grandma’s Swedish Bakery, where everything is still made from scratch using recipes handed down through the generations. Do not miss the must-taste cardamom coffee cake!
If you’re looking for reasonably-priced comfort food classics, this is the place. The scat mac ‘n cheese is a classic, with a homemade three-cheese sauce and bacon, while the ultimate Door County burger, served on a fresh-baked roll, is extra delicious because of the aged white cheddar melted on top.
After your meal, head into the adjacent bakery and marvel at the selection of breads, pastries and cookies, plus casseroles and soups to go (in case you don’t want to cook dinner). Scaturo’s is famous for opening at 5 a.m. year-round to cater to fishermen wanting to grab tasty provisions for the day.
Insider Tip: Locals know—and now you do, too—that Wednesdays are two-for-one bread days in the bakery.