Bring Your Appetite to Door County, Wisconsin
Last Updated on May 10, 2021 by Jody Halsted
My too short but food filled trip revealed Door County restaurants by the dozens, with something to please even the pickiest of palates.
If you've never visited Door County, Wisconsin you may be wondering just what type of food you can expect to find. You might have heard about the Lake Michigan Whitefish or famous Door County Cherries, but what else is there to eat?
Just one tip- arrive hungry!
Planning your visit?
Fun Facts for Your Trip to Door County, Wisconsin
Eating & Drinking in Door County, Wisconsin
Pizza Gets Wild
If you're picky about pizza then Wild Tomato, home of Door County's only wood fired oven, is the place to go. (Locations in Sister Bay, Fish Creek, and at One Barrel Brewing in Egg Harbor.)
Pizzas are hand tossed and the crust is perfection- crispy on the bottom with a beautiful chewiness in the outer crust. The restaurant's special cheese blend is wonderfully melty, with a stretch that will reach across your table.
Wild Tomato has all the topping you expect at a pizza place, as well as some you don't- like caramelized onions, pesto, goat cheese, and cheese curds.
Create your own pizza or choose one of the specialty pizzas for a unique taste experience.
What to eat: Try the Esquites (Mexican Street Corn) pizza. And get a Cherry Walnut salad for the table to share.
Breakfast or a Park Picnic
Julie's Park Cafe is easy to find- just look for the big purple chair in Fish Creek! This tasty favorite is only open for breakfast and lunch (open weekends only November 1 thru mid-February and closed from mid-February thru late April), but perfectly placed to offer sustenance for your Peninsula State Park adventures.
You'll find this cozy cafe does a brisk morning business, so if you encounter a wait just know it is totally worth it! The menu is pretty traditional, but has some fun surprises like Elvis French Toast and a weekly specialty burger.
Tip: Order salads or sandwiches online for carry-out and grab them as you enter the park.
What to eat: The California Chicken Omelet, topped with guacamole and served with a side of hash browns, is protein-packed perfection before an active day.
A Classic Diner
Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim has been a Door County institution since 1906. You can't help but be drawn in by the diner's red and white striped canopies, the ends waving in the lakeside breeze.
The menu could be called ‘All American Classics', with a variety of hamburger and hot dog options topping the list. Sandwiches are generously filled and sides are served to share.
While you may stop at Wilson's for a meal or two during your Door County vacation, you will be tempted, daily, to pop in for a treat from their old-fashioned soda fountain.
Choose a sweet little sundae, a shareable banana split, or a root beer float made with Wilson's home-brewed draft root beer. The choices are nearly endless!
What to eat: Ice cream (of course)! And order Cheese Curds on a Bed of Fries to share.
You can't visit Wisconsin without trying some cheese. In fact, Renard's Cheese welcomes you almost as soon as you enter Door County!
Overseen by Cheesemaster Chris Renard, this cheese factory produces over 3 million pounds of cheese each year – and plenty of it is available to taste in their tempting store. Pick a few favorites then enjoy a latte or lunch from the on-site deli.
Nearly every menu in Door County has at least one Whitefish dish. And while the name sounds like a generalization the Lake Whitefish, native to the Great Lakes, are related to salmon, but with a milder flavor.
While you’ll find Whitefish served a variety of ways- blackened, broiled, or in fish cakes- the Door County Fish Boil is definitely the most dramatic way to enjoy your first taste of the county’s favored fish.
What is a Door County Fish Boil?
It’s best to think of Door County Fish Boils as ‘dinner and a show’.
Where is the best Door County Fish Boil?
As with any ‘best' list, that is all a matter of what you are after. It's helpful to remember that a fish boil is fish, potatoes, and onions boiled in salt water and served with rye bread, coleslaw, and cherry pie (made with Door County cherries, of course!).
So what you are looking for is a good setting, maybe other dining options if you have picky eaters along, and a story to go with the boil.
My dining experience took place at Rowley’s Bay Restaurant, one of the peninsula’s vintage waterfront resorts.
Passing the boiling cauldron in front of the restaurant, we were welcomed into the bar where our group enjoyed a drink before decamping to Grandma’s Swedish Bakery (try the pecan roll!). Awaiting us was storyteller Charles Dickson, ready to embody Peter Rowley for whom the bay is named.
As Peter’s story of Door County is told the fish boil is prepared, each ingredient added in its time. First the potatoes are presented to the audience, followed by the onions, and then the fish.
After the fish is added it’s time for the spectacle: the boil over.
Kerosene is added to the fire causing the fats and brine that have gathered at the top of the cauldron to boil over in a very dramatic fashion.
Traditionally the fish boil dinner of potatoes, onions, and fish is served with melted butter and, more recently, tartar sauce. Rowley’s Bay Restaurant serves their fish boil on a buffet that also includes chicken, pork, and meatballs, salad, soup, and desserts.
Door County is a paradise for your palate and I promise- you won't leave hungry!
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