BLOG: Dining with your pet in Door County
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do while on vacation is eating. I am a foodie at heart, and I love researching restaurants in my destination, looking at menus and trying all types of food, especially locally sourced and made. Door County has a seemingly limitless collection of great restaurants. In my many years managing the resort and working behind the front desk, I can honestly say I considered very few restaurants in the county to have poor quality food. In such a competitive atmosphere, you don’t survive long if you don’t provide a quality product. That being said, not every restaurant is a good fit for every visitor. It is important to match your taste and preferences with those of the restaurants you choose. This is especially true if you are traveling with your dog and wish take them with you when you dine.
Wisconsin state law prohibits dogs from being inside establishments that serve food. This means your options with your dog will be limited to those restaurants or markets that provide outdoor seating. However, it is important to understand that just because a business has outside dining that DOES NOT mean they allow dogs in that area. It is up to each individual business to set their policy regarding dogs. The Door County Official Visitors Guide has a great Where To Dine section which includes a column indicating Pets Allowed Outdoor Seating. This is a great place to start, but if you have your heart set on dining at a specific place, I suggest calling ahead to verify their policy.
Some restaurants merely tolerate dogs in their outdoor dining areas while others truly welcome them. The Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Baileys Harbor is probably the most welcoming and also offers the most upscale evening menu. Dogs are welcome during breakfast, lunch and dinner when outdoor seasonal dining is available and they even have a Doggie Menu! You can enjoy lobster while your dog has his own beef burger!
Sister Bay has several dining options. Dogs are welcome on the patio at the Sister Bay Bowl and the Garage at Husby’s, but not on their elevated deck. Both are usually open only for dinner. Grasse’s Grill and Door County Ice Cream Factory offer great casual, locally made fare and outside tables. A special treat for my dogs has always been a kiddie scoop of vanilla ice cream from the Ice Cream factory while I indulge in some non-dog friendly flavor like Death’s Door Chocolate! If you are looking for a fish boil, the Viking in Ellison Bay is a good choice. You and your dogs can watch the activity in downtown Fish Creek from the outside dining at the Cookery. Door County Coffee & Tea in Carlsville offers breakfast and lunch, plus a great cup of coffee or latte. (As a bonus they are right next door to Pet Expressions, a great dog friendly gift and specialty shop.) Julie’s Park Café near the Fish Creek entrance to Peninsula State Park is a great spot to pick up some take-out items for a picnic in the park, or you can dine there at the outdoor seating. Remember that dogs are not allowed inside establishments that serve food, so even when you are ordering, they must remain outside.
In addition to restaurants, another option is to pick up food from one of the markets and share a picnic with your dog in one of the many parks. The Piggle Wiggly in Sister Bay and Main Street Market in Egg Harbor are both full service grocery stores, including delis and prepared foods. In my July post about activities you can enjoy with your dog, I provide more detailed information about the state and county parks where you could picnic with your dog.
Most of your outdoor dining options will be casual, and of course, weather is also a factor. Sometimes outside dining can be uncomfortably hot for humans if there is not adequate shade. This is doubly true for dogs that can’t sweat to cool themselves. If you wish to dine without your dog, be sure to check the policy at your accommodations regarding leaving dogs in the room alone. Of course, if you know your dog will bark or become upset when you leave them alone, don’t! Depending on the weather, it may be acceptable to leave them in your car while you dine but remember even outside temperatures in the 60s can be too warm if your car is in the sun. Check with your lodging establishment for pet sitting suggestions. If you choose to bring your dog along on your vacation, you must be willing to make adjustments to your plans to keep them safe and comfortable.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s outdoor dining season is limited, so in the colder months, your only option is to pick up food and dine with your dog back at your accommodations. Most all restaurants in Door County will provide take out. I like to peruse the menus online and then call in my order for pick up. Exploring unique takeout meals or splurging on items you might not order at home can be a great vacation experience with Fido at your side.