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Home Cooked & Heartfelt: Door County’s Favorite Dishes


By Jennifer Billock

You may be heading to Door County for our forests, arts, and beachy lifestyle, but don’t forget to bring an appetite with you! Wisconsin — and Door County in particular — has a unique set of food traditions, whether it’s fish every Friday served at a supper club, a special type of chicken you won’t find anywhere else, cherry-popping goodness, or something else. Be sure to try out these food experiences while you’re here.

Friday Fish Frys

Little is more quintessentially Wisconsin than a Friday fish fry, and while Door County is more known for fish boils, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying all the crispy goodness of the daily catch. In the land of Sturgeon Bay supper clubs, you won’t want to miss fry-day at the Nightingale Supper Club, where you can choose from cod, perch, walleye, or whitefish, or the fish fry at The Mill Supper Club, where you can order fish, scallops, or shrimp. On the more casual side of fish-fry life, head to White Birch Inn’s Samuelson’s Creek Pub & Grill, also in Sturgeon Bay. They offer more than just the standard batter; you can have your walleye pan-fried with a pretzel crust, whitefish in a pecan crust, or the perch beer-battered. In Egg Harbor, at Stone Hedge Golf and Pub, you can play a Friday round of golf followed by fried cod or perch.

A Taste of Cherry

If you can only name one thing Door County is famous for, it’s probably cherries. The peninsula has 2,500 acres of cherry orchards; the fruit has been growing here since the late 1800s. When you visit, you’ll not only get the chance to pick your own fresh cherries (in season, of course), but you can also try many different cherry products. Take yourself on a short cherry tour by stopping at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market for cider and jam, the White Gull Inn Restaurant for cherry-stuffed French toast, Wood Orchard Market for cherry doughnuts (May through August), Julie’s Park Café for cherry crepes and burgers topped with dried cherries, Carrington for ribs with a cherry-barbecue sauce, and Sweetie Pies for cherry pie. And then, if you haven’t eaten through all the cherries you can handle, head to one of the local bars and try our favorite drink: Cherry Bounce!

Bloody Marys

When Wisconsinites have a Bloody Mary, they know to expect two things: a beer chaser and a filling selection of snacks toothpicked into the glass. Coyote Roadhouse in Baileys Harbor is a welcome addition to any Bloody Mary tour of Door County; there, you’ll get basically a full kabob of peppers, mushrooms, onions, and olives across the top of your drink. At Cedar Crossing Restaurant in Sturgeon Bay, you can enjoy their specially made house Bloody Mary mix in either a traditional Bloody Mary or a Bloody Maria, which replaces the vodka with cucumber-jalapeño tequila. But for those of you with the biggest hunger for alcohol-soaked treats, head to Kitty O’Reillys Irish Pub, also in Sturgeon Bay. The Bloody Marys here are famous for being loaded with all the Wisconsin bar snacks you could imagine: mozzarella whips, a beef stick, a pickle, asparagus, an olive, a mushroom, and a Pepperoncini.

Cheese Curds

Here’s a tip from those of us in the know in Door County: a fresh Wisconsin cheese curd should squeak when you bite into it! You’ll find yourself in squeaky cheese heaven when you enter the artisan cheese shop Renard’s Cheese & Melt Bistro in Sturgeon Bay. Inside is Melt Bistro, and almost everything on the menu has some cheese in it. Try the cheese-curd-and-bacon pizza or the cheese-curd-panzanella salad.

Broasted Chicken

Have you heard of the Wisconsin-invented broasted chicken? It looks like regular fried chicken, but we can assure you it isn’t. Instead of just being fried, broasted chicken (or pork chops) is made in a broaster, which is like a combination fryer and pressure cooker. The final product is crisp and crunchy outside and completely juicy and delicious inside. Get either chicken or pork chops alongside some cheese curds at Valmy Happy Hour in Valmy. On Sundays at Door County Fire Company in Sturgeon Bay, you can have the broasted chicken special with mac ‘n’ cheese or sautéed vegetables. At the Cornerstone Pub in Baileys Harbor, your broasted chicken comes with a side of slaw and choice of potato. Delicious.

Swedish Pancakes and Danish Kringle

Just like the rest of the Upper Midwest, Door County has a robust Swedish population. We keep the traditions of the homeland alive with our food and our holidays, like the Fyr Bal Festival every summer in Ephraim. At Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, you can enjoy your Swedish pancakes and limpa bread while watching goats roam around on the grass roof in the warmer months. Fika Bakery and Café serves up scratch-made Swedish delights like Swedish chocolate balls and almond cake. Sweden isn’t the only Scandinavian country represented, though. Wisconsin’s state pastry is the kringle (it’s like a mix between a strudel and a coffee cake), which is originally Danish and perpetually delicious.

Dished Up

In the Dished Up YouTube series, you’ll meet local chefs and restaurant owners who serve up signature dishes and create farm-to-table fare. 

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