Door County Lingo

Art by Ryan Miller.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or someone who’s just moved here, you’ll likely receive advice about where to hang out and what to do from patrons at local bars, strangers at the grocery store or servers at restaurants. 

But their advice might not make much sense to you. As with any town or region, Door County is equipped with its own local lingo, and once seasoned employees or locals have adopted it as their own, they might not think twice when using it with others who are not acquainted with it.

To help newcomers navigate the native phrases, here’s a guide to Door County’s lingo.

You might hear someone say:

“I’m making a run to Nelson’s.” This doesn’t mean the person is running over to a buddy’s house, but rather to the hardware store in Fish Creek. And going there doesn’t necessarily mean he needs a hammer or a box of screws, although he might. He might also need a Nerf football for the kids, a beach towel, deodorant or even a U-Haul. As the locals say, “If Nelson’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.”

Or you might ask locals what you should do with the kids, to which they’ll reply:

“You should definitely take them to the outdoor.” And they’ll say this as though it should make perfect sense that you should take the kids … somewhere outside? Sort of. This means the Skyway Drive-In Theatre outdoor movie theater, which is definitely somewhere you should take the kids. 

Or maybe you’re sitting at a bar next to someone who needs cash. She’ll say:

“I’m going to hit the time machine.” This doesn’t mean your local friend is delusional. Folks here just still refer to an ATM as the TYME machine, which used to be the name for cash machines in Door County.

Here’s what else will start to make a little more sense once you’ve been around for awhile. 

Let’s go to Bowlsby’s tonight.”

Or maybe someone flips it to HuzBowl. Either way, it means you’re headed to Sister Bay to bounce between Husby’s and the Sister Bay Bowl, the village’s staple drinking establishments. 

“I’m Wimpy rich!”

This is for when you’ve obtained copious amounts of sliders from the AC Tap.

“I got it at Scand.” 

No, you didn’t steal something from the nursing home. You went shopping at Bargains Unlimited, the thrift store at Scandia Village.

“Let’s party at Camp David!” 

Alas, this is not the presidential retreat, but the housing and music venue in Fish Creek.

“Let’s go to Al’s.”

Shorthand for Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, it’s what tourists know as “the place with the goats on the roof.”

“I’m headed to Pebble for a few.”

You’re headed to Pebble Beach in Sister Bay for a few hours, either to swim or sunbathe.

“I got Oxidized.”

You had more than a few drinks at the Blue Ox in Baileys Harbor.

“I’m making a Bhirdo’s run. Need anything?”

You’re heading to Bhirdo’s Shell, the gas station and convenience store in Sister Bay that’s open when everything else is closed. 

“My August is showing.”

This is what service-industry people say when they’re burned out in August. 

“It’s on the west side.” 

That’s the west side of Sturgeon Bay, which will be confusing if you look at a map because logic says it should be called the south side. But it makes sense if you zoom in on the city. And no worries: If your roots go back far enough, you can just call it Sawyer. 

“I’ll meet you at the slide.”

This is for when you’re headed to the Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek.

“Let’s head to the park.”

This usually means Peninsula State Park. If it’s any other park, you have to specify. 

Give ’er at the river.”

When you cut loose and enjoy yourself at the Mink River Basin in Ellison Bay, you’re “givin’ ’er at the river.”

“Nothing but newlyweds and nearly deads here.” 

Come fall, the kids are back in school, so in the service industry, this is shorthand for the autumn crowd (no offense intended). 

Sorry I’m late – the bridge was up.”

This is what you say when you were delayed because the bridge was up in Sturgeon Bay.

I’m on Door County time.”

This one could mean either of two things: You’re on a relaxed schedule, or your contractor is on a relaxed schedule and in no rush.

“The New Bridge is up.”

That would be the Bayview Bridge, even though it’s not the newest, and it was actually built more than four decades ago. The Old Bridge is the Michigan Street Bridge, also known as the Steel Bridge. 

“We’re heading to the island.”

This always means Washington Island. If you’re hoping to end up on a different island, you’d better say so.