If you’ve ever had a chance to “give ’er at the river,” you already know that you can count on the Mink River Basin – Door County’s northernmost sports bar – to be a place with a laid-back atmosphere and a great drink selection where you can watch the Packers, Brewers, Badgers and Bucks. It’s also open year-round with consistent hours – open at 3 pm Mondays and every other day at 11 am until close – which solidifies it as a true-blue local establishment.
Although the impressive beer list boasts 40 tap beers, and the whiskey list comprises more than 100 varieties – which are tough to outshine – the food menu comes close, offering a remarkable array of hearty options that venture beyond standard bar-and-grill food. You’ll find housemade soup selections, salads, freshly baked pizza, original sandwiches, a variety of tasty burgers, several baskets, classic and inventive appetizers, plus nightly food specials.
The current lineup of nightly specials looks like this: Monday is Monday Funday with foot-long hot dogs and pizza; Tuesday is Burger and a Brew Night; Wednesday is Asian Cuisine Night; Thursday is Barbecue Ribs Night; Friday means, of course, an all-you-can-eat fish fry; Saturday is Pasta Bowl Night; and Sunday – are you full yet? – shines the spotlight on prime rib and chicken & waffles.
The early arrival of winter blizzards triggered a burger craving, so I headed to Ellison Bay on a recent Tuesday to check out what the Mink had on offer for Burger and a Brew Night. This special delivers a free beer (or soda or rail drink) with any burger purchase. Diners have their choice of burgers that are available on the standard menu, plus several that are prepared specially for Burger and a Brew Night.
The Mink River Basin’s website claims to have the best burgers in Door County, so even on other days of the week, a burger is a safe bet.
“We have awesome burgers because we get the meat fresh from the Pig daily, and we don’t overseason the meat – just salt and pepper,” said owner Linden Ray. The regular menu features seven burger options, including the Impossible Burger, which uses a 100 percent plant-based patty. For Burger and a Brew Night, the specialty burger menu adds five more options.
I asked Ray to name his favorite specialty burger, and he chose the Dragonslayer: an impressive combination of lettuce, tomato, creamy buffalo sauce, jalapeños and pepper jack cheese on a fresh beef patty.
On the night when I attended, the Heart Attack Burger caught my eye and sounded like a sight that just had to be seen. It featured a beef patty piled with prime rib, bacon, American cheese, barbecue sauce and onion rings. For good measure, I substituted cheese curds for the included chips. I was not disappointed.
The behemoth of a burger dazzled me on arrival, looking every bit the part of a deliciously indulgent burger. After all, if I was endangering my arteries, at least I could argue that the burger looked irresistibly good.
Biting in the best I could, given its height, I found that the combination of onion, barbecue and beef hit the spot. The patty wasn’t overly seasoned, as promised, and nothing was overcooked or dry. With the side of cheese curds, it was a big enough burger for a doggy bag, and I wound up saving half for later (when it was still delicious).
As for the beer, I had my choice of the ever-rotating tap list, and Ray pointed out three of the more uncommon options currently on tap: Jai Alai, an American IPA from Cigar City Brewing; Jubelale, a winter-warmer style of beer from Deschutes Brewery; and Polygamy Porter, an American porter from Wasatch Brewery. Mink River Basin proudly bears the title of having the most tap beers in the county, so if those don’t sound tempting, there’s always something else that’s bound to appeal to you.
Besides the burgers and beer, the casual bar atmosphere offers a relaxing way to avoid cabin fever, and the nightly specials will keep you returning all winter long. Stop in any day of the week, and you’re bound to leave satisfied.