From Chicago To Door County, Wisconsin
My family and I just returned from a one-week trip to Door County, Wisconsin, and I have some recommendations for that area and for the trip there.
First, if you're heading to Door County from Chicago on route 42, take a lunch break in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, at Phil Rohrer's Lunch, right on 42 in the downtown area. It's an old-fashioned diner with small booths and a counter. My wife and I each ordered the baked chicken lunch, and it came with delicious stuffing and (real) mashed potatoes. Even the chicken fingers we ordered for the kids were better than usual. Be sure to order a side of the "raw fries." These are akin to cottage fries - or at least that's what we call them in Chicago. Unfortunately, the waitress told me the pies weren't homemade, so I didn't partake.
Once in Door County, definitely try the pies at Sweetie Pies, right on 42 outside of Fish Creek. It's a tiny place, and the pies are displayed on shelves where you wait to order. The intoxicating smell of baking pies fills the room, and you can order them whole, by the slice, or as mini-pies called "Cutie Pies" for $7. Whole pies range from $16 to $18, and a slice is $3. We tried peach and cherry slices and liked them both. The man at the counter warned me that the cherry pie is made without corn starch - just cherries and crust. So there's not as much filling as one might be used to. Great nevertheless.
We enjoyed the ice cream at Wilson's in Ephraim - just about the biggest scoops I've ever had. I couldn't even finish mine, and that never happens.
Fish boils are advertised everywhere, but we only went to one and I recommend it highly - The Sandpiper in Bailey's Harbor. The place advertises its fish as freshly caught right in Lake Michigan (just behind the restaurant) and from the flavor, I believe it. The fish is accompanied by potatoes and onions, and there was a good slice of cherry pie for dessert. For those with kids who don't eat fish (and that applies to us), you can order a pizza. My four-year-old told me it was the best pizza he'd ever had, but take that with a grain of salt, because he says that every time he eats pizza. The ambience is perfect, as well. A big room full of long tables. Everyone lines up at the front for their food.
On Washington Island, we had a very enjoyable lunch at a place called the Sailor's Pub in the southeastern part of the island, with tables on a deck overlooking the harbor. The fried perch lunch was quite memorable. I didn't find out if the perch was fresh, but I'd be very surprised if it wasn't. The view over the water while you eat is also nice. My wife enjoyed her entree, as well, but I forget what she had.
Unless you have kids, my advice is to skip P.C. Junction. It is great for kids, though, who love the train that serves them their food and the playground outdoors.
For breakfast, I recommend Carroll House Restaurant on 42 just south of Sister Bay. The sign says, "Try our Waffles" and that's what you should do. They're thin and crispy, just the way a good waffle should be, not puffy and airy like the "Belgian" waffles served all over the place.
Another great breakfast can be had at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim. The hash browns, my wife and I agreed, were the best we'd ever had. Very crispy and flavorful. And the canteloupe was juicy and sweet. The pancakes were also top-notch.
Zoe's is a nice but not extremely memorable dinner and lunch place in Sister Bay. Avoid the overly hyped Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. Very crowded and the service wasn't too good. The food was fine, just not worth the hassle.