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Epic Door County Weekend Recap

Epic Door County Weekend Recap
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  • Epic Door County Weekend Recap

    Post #1 - June 17th, 2007, 8:08 pm
    Post #1 - June 17th, 2007, 8:08 pm Post #1 - June 17th, 2007, 8:08 pm
    Thought perhaps since this post is so lengthy and covers a variety of ground on the subject of Door County I should give it it's own topic, but, mods, feel free to merge with whatever existing threads it might better belong in.

    Mr. Bananasandwiches and I headed to Door County this weekend for some much needed relaxation and hit many of the "greatest hits" provided by fellow forum members both in Door County itself as well as to and from.

    Friday AM after dropping the pup off in McHenry with his "dogparents", the breeders who are kind enough to provide free boarding, we took a short jaunt over the border and hit Brass Ball Fruit Stand first. There were a few pies to be had as well as some pretty stellar looking tomatoes and other tasty bits of produce, but since we were on our way to a hotel we figured no sense in buying that kind of thing to have it sit around for a few days--though for a good moment there I contemplated some passenger seat pie-eating action.

    We grabbed a half-gallon of some tremendous peach cider to pack into our cooler, and made our way back to 94 to head North. When purchasing our cider we inquired about the availability of the Ho-Made Hot Garlic pickles (they were out) and the checkout girl gave us a card and encouraged us to call ahead next time if there was something in particular we were looking for--they keep the shelves pretty lightly stocked but can order things.

    The cider was peachy deliciousness, not too sweet, and was welcome refreshment on our drive as well as throughout the weekend--bringing a cooler was a smart move on our part and something I highly recommend.

    We then snaked our way North and up into Racine where we hit Kewpee just as the lunch rush hit. I was particularly perterbed that my camera had decided to give up the ghost only a few days prior to our trip--this is the kind of place that my memory just can't capture fully, and so much more than the sum of its parts. We sat at the counter and each ordered milkshakes, double cheeseburgers (the patties are of the thinner variety) and fries.

    The cheeseburgers tasted like what every cheeseburger probably tasted like in 1950 or so and what virtually none of the fast-service cheeseburgers in this country taste like anymore. The key was the beef--not too salty, not too fatty or too lean, not cut with fillers and preservatives and strangeness. It was perhaps the finest cheeseburger, of that thin-patty soft-bun style that I have ever had the pleasure of consuming.

    The shakes were also quite tasty and the fries were somewhat unremarkable--crinkle cut from a bag--but somehow they seemed to fit with the overall theme of cuteness and kitsch--but not that ersatz retro Ed Debevic's feel--this place is the real deal.

    We headed up to Door and checked into our lovely inn, The Pembrooke in Sturgeon Bay, and headed into town to assess our dinner choices. This being Friday in WI, however, Mr. B-wiches had his heart set on a fish fry. Fish boils are more the norm in Door County it seems, mainly for the spectacle of the final conflagration—but neither of us seemed too enthused about that on what was a very warm and muggy night, and after having spent several hours driving and walking around in our own funk we wanted someplace with air conditioning and booze more than anything.

    After consulting a few local shopkeepers as well as our inkeeper we freshened up a bit and headed over to the Nightingale Supper Club. Immediately walking in to the place you get a Sabatino'sesque preserved in amber old-school vibe that I'm sure is polarizing. We loved it. Sitting at the old wooden bar next to octagenarians drinking our gimlets, waiting for our table to be ready, sampling the free cheese spread and chicken liver pate, we knew we were in for a treat. We were definitely the only tourists in the place and the clientele was a great mix of large multi-generational families, older couples, and even a few 20-somethings like ourselves who were all there, it seemed for one of two things, either the Walleye dinner special, or the Prime Rib.

    Husband went with the walleye dinner and I decided on a fried shrimp dinner--a choice I ended up regretting not because the shrimp weren’t darn good, which they were, but because the Walleye was transcendently delicious—and this coming from a gal who has never, ever liked any other fried fish she’s ever tried—I chalk it up to bad fishstick memories from childhood. The walleye was moist, slightly sweet and flaky and ever so lightly coated in a very thin batter with a hint of cornmeal. Not fishy, not overly breaded, just fresh crisp pescatory perfection. Dinners come with the usual array of salad, coleslaw, potato choice all of which were well executed but unremarkable compared to the glorious splendor of the fish. My husband will, I’m certain, be forever comparing all other fried fish products to that Walleye. Walleye is on Tuesdays and Fridays only, they have perch the rest of the week which, if they use the same batter, would be equally worth your time. We also observed a table full of gentlemen each making short work of an obscenely good looking and large chunk of Prime Rib, rare, of course—also another specialty of Nightingale, if you’re more turfy than surfy. We capped off the walleye orgy with a very nice slice of, I believe, house made, cherry pie. Filling was a little more gel-y than I prefer but that’s more of a stylistic choice than a failure in execution, imo. All that said, This was the culinary and atmospheric highlight of the trip for us and I can’t recommend the place enough. Make sure to include a round or two at the ginormous bar as a part of your game plan either pre or post Walleye-fest.

    It was around 8 or so when we were done with dinner and the sweaty weather had finally broken so we walked back into town after dinner in search of a nitecap. Most of the bars in Sturgeon bay are of the beer-and-shots type persuasion and all the coffee places close around 5 or so, and we were feeling like we wanted a calmer atmosphere so we sauntered in to the bar of Sage, a more upscale restaurant on Sturgeon Bay’s main drag that we had vetoed as a dinner choice based on our feeling that, if we wanted $12 crabcakes, we woulda stayed in Chicago. That being said the bar of the restaurant is lovely and all the plates that passed us by looked tasty. We each had a glass of wine from their well-honed wine list (which wines specifically escapes me) and it made for a very pleasant end to a great day, foodwise and otherwise.

    We woke up early the next day and enjoyed the breakfast at our inn—cherry-chocolate scones and fruit for me and eggs and such for Mr. B-wiches. Scones were fresh baked and darn good if you’re into chocolate chips in your morning meal which I certainly am.

    We drove up Hwy 57 to “The Farm”—a good stop for anyone with kids or an affinity for barnyard animals (leave it alone, I know what you’re thinking). It’s your basic petting-zoo farm-artifacts nature-trail kind of place complete with lots of happy screaming kids and baby goats that basically maul you for a handful of feed corn. We came, we saw, we pet some kittens and moved on out. Good clean family fun, if that’s your bag.

    We kept on moving up 57 and finally came to rest in Sister Bay, where we did the usual stroll around and look in shops full of things I can’t imagine anyone actually buys. We did, however, buy some pretty tasty fudge at an outpost of Door County Confectionery, which has stores in pretty much every town in Door County it seems. It was, well, fudgy and delightful and I’m sure I have a few more fatty corpuscles in the “fudge” quadrant of my thighs as a result, which, FYI, resides in between “French fries” and “Brie” in my fat globules, just north of “ice cream”. But, that’s whatcha do when you’re on vacation, right?

    We ate lunch at the Door County Bakery, both having pulled-pork on Corsica Bread. Corsica Bread is the Bakery’s signature offering and is trademarked, in fact, and is basically Italian bread that has been baked in olive oil. Fat? Plus Carbs? Where do I sign. The sandwiches were very good and enormous and all the other bakery offerings looked quite delightful as well.

    Believe it or not, about an hour later, in Fish Creek, we carved out some room for custard at Not Licked Yet. It was, well, custard. Good custard. At least as good as Scooters. Another good stop for those with kids in tow, they have a large playground and a garden gnome theme that the Osh Kosh B’Gosh crowd would surely enjoy—do kids still wear Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls, anyway?

    More driving, more towns. Fish Creek, Ephraim, Egg Harbor. Gift shops, lots of samples of cherry related products and olive oils and mustard and whatnot, finally stopping at Wood Orchard Market in Egg Harbor where I bought some Rhubarb-Cherry Jelly (I’m a rhubarb sucker) some cherries, dried cherries, and probably some other stuff I can’t remember that’s now sitting in a bag on my kitchen counter. They also had some of the Bea’s Ho-Made line of products but none of the hot garlic pickles either. The Bea's Ho-Headquarters is in Ellison Bay--we didn't quite make it that far north. Anyways, good looking pies, lots of Wisconsin cheese and a remarkable amount of restraint in the embroidered tea cozy/ snarky doormat category that every other store seems hell-bent on pushing in Door County.

    Again, it was hot and we were a bit wilty so after grabbing a bottle of Edna Valley Chardonnay (one of my standbys) at a grocery store in Egg Harbor we headed on back down the peninsula to find dinner and retreat to our room to drink in our two-person Whirlpool which is another one of those things you only think to do on vacation. We had a ho-hum dinner at some Neighborhood Pub place (I think that was the name) that, though right next door to The Nightingale had none of the atmosphere and about a ¼ of the tastiness. Applebeesesque. Friendly waitress. All you need to know.

    Woke up, re-sconed and checked out and headed back in the direction of Chicago, stopping at Sendik’s in Brookfield for some cheese-related presents for ourselves and our neighbors who were kind enough to watch our two felines. Great store, insane parking lot. Not quite as epic as the Peterson/Cicero Whole Foods but a very nice store, indeed.

    Then, stopped at Thompson Strawberry Farm in Bristol WI (thanks to Cathy for the rec in an earlier post) where we picked 2 gallons (yup, gallons) of pristine, juicy, nearly pornographic strawberries which we plan to consume some of as well as give some to friends. Remember to look UNDER the leaves—that’s where the good ones are.

    We returned to Chicago early this evening after retrieving the dog with a car full of loot, some nice color in our faces and a few more miles on the odometer. All in all an excellent weekend with some great food related stuff and some all around old fashioned American summer fun as well. We were surprised it wasn’t busier up there, if you’re looking for a fun summer diversion we recommend it highly as an alternative to the madness of the Dells or Galena.

    The Pembrooke Inn
    410 North 4th Avenue
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54235
    (920) 746-9776
    (888) 271-0585

    Brass Ball Fruit Market
    25600 75th St
    Salem, WI 53168
    (262) 843-3041

    Nightingale Supper Club
    1541 Egg Harbor Rd.
    Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
    (920) 743-5593

    Sage Restaurant and Wine Bar
    136 N 3rd Ave
    Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
    (920) 746-1100

    Door County Confectionery Sister Bay
    537 N. Bay Shore Dr.

    Door County Bakery
    10048 Hwy. 57
    P.O. Box 740
    Sister Bay, WI 54234
    Call toll free: 888.392.7323

    Wood Orchard
    8112 State Highway 42
    Egg Harbor, WI 54209
    Phone: (920)-868-2334
    Toll Free: (866)-763-2334

    18985 W. Capitol Drive
    Brookfield, WI 53045
    (262) 781-8200 Phone

    Thompson’s Strawberry Farm
    14000 75th St
    Bristol, WI 53104
    (262) 857-2351
  • Post #2 - June 18th, 2007, 10:03 am
    Post #2 - June 18th, 2007, 10:03 am Post #2 - June 18th, 2007, 10:03 am
    Great post! Thanks for sharing the details of your trip. I've been going to Door County/Sturgeon Bay with the family for over thirty years...We'll be heading up there next month with our group, which has turned into a large extended family, to stay at Bay Shore Inn. Needless to say, I'm really, really looking forward to it.

    Glad you enjoyed your dinner at the Nightingale. It's a great example of a WI supper club -- one of the best. I posted about it here in this old Door County thread: ... oor+county

    We've eaten at Sage several times in the last few years. The food is very good food, but I thought it was a little expensive. It's hard to justify those prices in downtown Sturgeon Bay...Frankly, I'm surprised that they're still around (when it first opened we opined that they'd never make it.)

    Another great alternative right in downtown Sturgeon Bay is the Inn at Cedar Crossing. Excellent breakfasts, of course. However, their dinner menu really is quite nice. They also have a small bar area that is a nice spot for a drink.

    The local bars definitely are "shot and a beer" type places, although I've been in a few of them over the years (Pooh's Corner, Van's - to name a few) and the locals always are friendly and/or minding their own business. In fact, my wife and I and another couple from our group went to Pooh's Corner last year (and, believe me, I stick out like a sore thumb -- looking like a typical FIB/yuppie Chicago lawyer), and everyone was really nice.
  • Post #3 - June 18th, 2007, 10:32 am
    Post #3 - June 18th, 2007, 10:32 am Post #3 - June 18th, 2007, 10:32 am
    Ron A. wrote:The local bars definitely are "shot and a beer" type places, although I've been in a few of them over the years (Pooh's Corner, Van's - to name a few) and the locals always are friendly and/or minding their own business. In fact, my wife and I and another couple from our group went to Pooh's Corner last year (and, believe me, I stick out like a sore thumb -- looking like a typical FIB/yuppie Chicago lawyer), and everyone was really nice.

    Yes, we definitely experienced the same thing--it's very easy to tell the tourists from the locals it seems. Us tourists are the losers looking for a latte at 9 PM :)
  • Post #4 - June 18th, 2007, 7:52 pm
    Post #4 - June 18th, 2007, 7:52 pm Post #4 - June 18th, 2007, 7:52 pm
    Next time you visit Door County add Mission Grill & Sister Bay Bowl to your list, both in Sister Bay. Mission Grill is a nice place, good food & drinks along with a great atmosphere. Sister Bay Bowl is a restaurant that's attached to the bowling alley. I had heard of this place from a friend and did not know what to expect. I ordered the ribs which were surprisingly good. Oh by the way, the Corsica Bread at Door County Bakery is AMAZING! :D
  • Post #5 - June 18th, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Post #5 - June 18th, 2007, 10:50 pm Post #5 - June 18th, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Saturday night, we had truly an excellent dinner at the Whistling Swan in Fish Creek. It's a very old inn with a lovely dining room. My wife enjoyed andouille-encrusted snapper with mashed potatoes, julienne vegetables, chive aïoli and red hot butter sauce, while I tucked into a caramelized apple-stuffed Royal Berkshire pork chop with Nueske’s smoked bacon, onion and spinach sauté, roasted potato wedges and currant gruyere sauce.

    Others in our party ordered Tasmanian salmon, escolar and snapper. Hot rosemary dinner rolls frequently were replenished. All the dishes were beautifully prepared and presented.

    With two bottles of Spanish wine (tempranillo and rioja), salads and 3 desserts, the bill for six came to $265 before tip. Service was gracious and attentive.

    While we don't usually go in for "finer" dining when we travel to Door County, we'll definitely return to the Whistling Swan.

    Whistling Swan Restaurant
    4192 Main St
    Fish Creek
  • Post #6 - May 29th, 2009, 3:56 pm
    Post #6 - May 29th, 2009, 3:56 pm Post #6 - May 29th, 2009, 3:56 pm
    My better half and I just got back from an extended Memorial Day weekend in Door County (our annual jaunt from Chicago). Here's our run-down.

    [*]Husby's in Sister Bay - great old-fashioned cheeseburgers, very plainly dressed but with a stong beefy taste and a surfeit of cheese.

    [*]Door County Ice Cream Company in Sister Bay - very comparable in quality to Homer's in Wilmette.

    [*]Mission Grill in Sister Bay - We hadn't been here in years but it was better than I remembered - I had a nice 12 ounce prime rib (rare, with a salty, tasty crust).

    [*]Saveur in Bailey's Harbor - a relatively new place. I had a very nice Wagyu burger on a Cibatta roll while she had fish/chorizo tacos. The place has quasi-Spanish decor. We must go back from dinner in the future.

    [*]Fish boil at Pelletier's in Fish Creek - the sine qua non of Door County fish boils. The whitefish steaks were perfectly flaky and the potatos and pearl onions were buttery and good.

    [*]The English Inn in Fish Creek - A true "old school" throwback that reminds me of what constituted "fine dining" back in the 50s, 60s and early 70s. I had a great beef wellington (!) - a rare filet covered with a mushroom paste and flaky puff pastry; just awesome. My girlfriend had very fine, deep fried locally-sourced walleye pike. Dessert was a nice 7-layer chocolate cake. Suffice it to say, we needed a doggie bag.

    [*]The Wild Tomato in Fish Creek (formerly Diggers) - I enjoyed my wood fired pizza with fresh mozzerella and Italian sausage (not as good as Spacca Napoli but comparable to Pizza D.O.C.). However, my girlfriend's walnut burger was out of this world - the best veggie burger that I've ever sampled - a symphony of creamy nuttiness on a nicely-toasted roll.

    [*]Not Licked Yet in Fish Creek - as someone up-thread already observed, this place serves the absolutely best frozen custard. On separate days (of course!) I had the vanilla and a carmel creation with chocolate chunks, both in house-made waffle cones.

    [*]Harbor Fish Market in Bailey's Harbor - a nice, quietly elegant place. I really enjoyed my pan-friend walleye pike (locally-sourced) and my girlfriend's boiled 1-1/2 pound Maine lobster was sweet and succulent (very good for the Midwest). This place may not get the publicity of the places in Fish Creek and Sister Bay but is very good nonethelesss.

    [*]Sampling the wares at various stores and farmstands - Wood's Orchards just outside of Egg Harbor was especially memorable - cherry strudel, cherry doughnuts, cherry and peach preserves, salsas, apple butter, etc., etc., etc.

    I now have to get back on the wagon after four days of gorging myself! :mrgreen:
  • Post #7 - October 14th, 2010, 8:21 am
    Post #7 - October 14th, 2010, 8:21 am Post #7 - October 14th, 2010, 8:21 am
    Heading up next weekend for our first vacation without our 20 month old. Looking forward to trying some old favorites (gotta do Al Johnsons, beer at Shipwrecked, Good Eggs, and pizza from Wild Tomato) but am trying to decide between Waterfront, T.Ashwells, Saveur, Alexanders, or Inn at Kristophers. Any strong recommendations? Leaning towards Waterfront or Saveur.
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