Appreciating the Quiet Side of Door County

It is Door County‘s version of the Second City. Baileys Harbor doesn’t get the pub of Sister Bay, which feeds off Al Johnson‘s, Kristofer’s and the Sister Bay Bowl. It lacks the postcard-perfect imagery of Ephraim, and it hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 25 years like it’s brother across the peninsula, Egg Harbor.

Unless you’re from Baileys, you tend to overlook it. It’s usually colder than the rest of the peninsula, and it’s just a little bit too far away for a quick trip.

But Saturday night my girlfriend and I met some friends for dinner at Weisgerber’s and spent the evening strolling around town. After 8 o’clock there were still plenty of people hustling around town, and a couple handfuls in the Yum Yum Tree, which I’m embarrassed to say I’d never been into before. It’s a great little place (if I were a cheesier writer – and 30 years older – I’d have said charming, but I’m not, and way too young, so I won’t), smells like candy and ice cream, not cleaning supplies. Had I grown up in Baileys, I’d have spent untold hours milling about and dreaming about bear claws and truffles, only to buy five cent tootsie rolls (I was an Egg Harbor boy, so I loitered at the Chocolate Chicken instead).

We walked the whole town, ending at the rapidly improving Anclam Beach at the south end of town. They’ve spruced up the shoreline and the landscaping remarkably. What I realized as I took a slow stroll through town is how amazing the buildings are on Baileys’ main drag.

The Fish Market, Restaurant Saveur, Nathan Nichols, the Blue Ox, Frogtown, the Blacksmith Inn – they’re all incredible buildings, the kind nobody builds anymore. But those are just a few. Even the private homes on the stretch are intriguing, with little touches on the windows and the often-ignored front stoops (the stoop adds so much to a building, yet today they’re all but ignored by far too many architects and builders. Imagine the Blue Ox without that great porch!).

Short of 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay, Hwy. 57 through Baileys Harbor offers the most interesting and diverse architecture in one short stretch on the peninsula – and easily the coolest Town Hall.

So after 30 years of knocking “the Haba,” I must acknowledge it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for – though I won’t be rooting for its county league team anytime soon.