Gotta hand it to the French explorers. Not only did they map the inland waterways to reach today's Door County peninsula in Wisconsin, they rhapsodized about the food that they found.
Reportedly in the late 1600s, French explorer and fur trader Pierre-Esprit Radisson declared the region "a kingdom so delicious." Not to be outdone, 300 years later a National Geographic writer named Ellis quoted the earlier visitor in his story about Door County and titled it as an homage, "Wisconsin's Door Peninsula: A Kingdom so Delicious." Although the crops have changed over the centuries, Door County's reputation as a "destination delicious" just gets stronger.
Here are a few fun spots to stop to take a bite out of the Door's culinary history, without breaking the bank.
Enjoy an authentic Swedish breakfast experience at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant where live goats can be found grazing on a sod roof. Swedish pancakes are served with lingonberries. 920-854-2626, www.aljohnsons.com.
The White Gull Inn is a Door County legend, and its Door County Cherry Stuffed French Toast was recently honored as the winner of the Best Breakfast in America Challenge on Good Morning America - two golden brown slices of egg bread, with pockets of Wisconsin cream cheese and Door County cherries, served with real maple syrup. 888-364-9542, www.whitegullinn.com.
Let's do lunch!
Since 1906, Wilson's Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor has been a Door County landmark. No reservations. It features an old-fashioned soda fountain, home-brewed draft root beer, jukeboxes in the booths and ice cream specialties like Cherry Berry Delight. Scoops, sundaes and sodas are served with a jelly bean on top. 920-854-2041, www.wilsonsicecream.com.
Dining al fresco
The quiet atmosphere of a remodeled turn-of-the-century church makes a dining experience at The Mission Grille all the more memorable. The pulpit is now the call desk; the baptismal font holds menus and pews have been repurposed into booths. The Mission Grille is located in the Village of Sister Bay, which was recently voted the best small town for fine dining in Wisconsin. 920-854-9070, www.missiongrile.com.
Fred & Fuzzy's Waterfront Grill also is in Sister Bay and features casual cuisine — like Fred's Favorite — a scrumptious steak and Bleu cheese sandwich and the "Three Cheese Deluxe," a grilled cheese loaded with provolone, cheddar and Swiss—in a throwback, lakeside atmosphere. Live music, great sunsets and cherry margaritas, too. 920-854-6699, www.fredandfuzzys.com.
Head to Rowleys Bay Resort on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula for a fish boil to talk about back home. A storyteller weaves the folklore of the fish boil with local history while the fish boil master readies the open fire for the boil. When the fish is added, a bell is rung to announce that dinner is ready to be served. Bonus: Rowleys Bay serves a full buffet with the fish boil so the selections are many and house made. 800-999-2466, www.rowleysbayresort.com.