When the news broke four years ago that Alpine Resort was listed for sale, I think it’s fair to say that I was not alone in holding my breath while awaiting news of its fate. What would become of the Door County icon and the nostalgia it brought to the county when everything around it seemed to be changing and growing at such a rapid pace?
Personally, and maybe a little selfishly, I wondered what would become of the restaurant with its expansive, waterfront views and its Dirty Dancing-esque vibe – a favorite place to grab breakfast on the weekend, especially if my husband and I were entertaining any history-loving guests.
When I learned the restaurant would be reopening – and still serving breakfast – I was excited and intrigued about what the new waterfront dining experience would offer. It turns out that history and nostalgia are still a central part of the ambiance and the name: Burton’s on the Bay at Alpine Resort.
“Burton, or ‘Burt’ as he preferred to be called, was the new owner’s father,” said Jen Welsh, director of marketing.
Welsh described Burt as an avid and excellent golfer who captained the Northwestern University golf team during the 1940s. He also loved the water for both boating and fishing, had an ear for music and enjoyed parties of any size.
“All these elements exist at the Alpine and Burton’s as you roll off the golf course for dinner or come by boat and enjoy a drink,” Welsh said. “Burton’s is the crossroads of all the things [Burt] loved and enjoyed and would have loved to share.”
The newly renovated space, built by Bayland Builders and designed by Lauryn Pappas Design, reflects the careful thought and input gleaned from the team at Alpine as to how to breathe new life into the dining area while still preserving the simplicity and historical comfort of the spacious room, original hardwood floors and sweeping views. Original historical pictures on canvas adorn the walls, highlighting the lodge and its guests over the past century.
The new bar, moved against the back wall, preserves the view and opens the space. Custom smoked mirrors (arriving soon), high tops and tables create a sophisticated, but comfortable feel that beckons patrons to grab a cocktail and sit a spell. Future plans include reopening the fireplaces that bookend the dining room for use in spring, winter and fall, further accentuating the cozy lodge feel.
Although the menu offers a mix of fine dining and casual fare, the overall atmosphere is quintessential Door County: laid back and comfortable. You won’t find a dress code here – just good food, a good time and plenty of variety for all three meals of the day.
The decision to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner was based mainly on practicality.
“We have to offer all three meals every day since we are a full-service resort,” said Tony Gorham, managing director of kitchen operations and senior chef. “Guests do not have to leave the resort if they don’t want to and can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner on-site.”
On the breakfast menu, the diverse offerings include familiar and comforting standards such as biscuits and gravy, a selection of omelets and frittatas, and the restaurant’s spin on the classic breakfast skillet, featuring American fries, cheddar cheese, Southern sausage gravy, chopped bacon, topped with two eggs, plus a side of toast. Along with that morning cup of coffee, treat yourself to one of the “Breakfast Club” cocktails.
After guests have had a round of golf or time on the water, the lunch menu welcomes them with both hearty and lighter-fare choices. On the lighter side, steak bites, goat-cheese curds and blue-cheese chips put a tasty spin on standby snacks and starters. Meanwhile, the salad lineup features a classic wedge salad starring crisp iceberg lettuce, red onion, heirloom cherry tomato and pepper bacon; and a grilled romaine salad includes sautéed red onion, blue cheese, pepper bacon and a balsamic reduction.
Those who crave a juicy burger or piled-high sandwich won’t be disappointed with choices such as the Smokehouse Burger (cheddar cheese, pepper bacon, onion rings, barbecue sauce and housemade ranch on a brioche bun); fish tacos (panko-crusted pollack, coleslaw, Thai chili sauce, roasted corn and black-bean relish); or personal-pizza options (the smoked-salmon pizza layered with house-smoked salmon, goat-cheese curds, green onion, béchamel and arugula is not to be missed).
Come dinner, the nightly specials vary daily.
“I base my selections on interesting food items that I can find,” Gorham said. “One night it may be a fish or seafood item, the next night beef, pork or chicken.”
And, because we’re in Wisconsin, Burton’s also offers a weekly Friday fish fry with local ties.
“[Our] Friday fish fry consists of fresh Door County whitefish caught by Henriksen Fisheries,” Gorham said. “We will change the other fish weekly, which could be perch or maybe bluegill. You will have to join us to find out!”
Though concise, the wine list offers a satisfying mix of both American-produced and international varietals. The beer list comprises multiple domestics and a few imports and microbrews.
“I placed some classic ‘old school’ beers on the list as well, such as Blatz and Hamm’s,” said David Johnson, managing director of beverage operations. “As we move forward, both the wine and beer lists will expand to cover the broad tastes of our clientele.”
Now in its fifth week, Burton’s on the Bay at Alpine Resort is open seven days a week. And you don’t have to be a guest of the resort to enjoy all that the new face of a classic Door County dining location has to offer.
“We want to make all our guests, residents and visitors know they can have a wonderful dining experience – with a beautiful view – anytime in Door County,” Welsh said. “Relax, unwind and have a drink.”