Twenty-five years ago Gary and Mary Ann Guterman went in search of a mission – and they found it in Sister Bay. Purchasing and transforming the former St. Rosalia’s Catholic Church, built in the early 1900s, into the Mission Grille, a fine-dining restaurant complete with stained-glass windows and choir loft seating.
But over the years the fine dining segment has changed and the Gutermans’ felt it was time to give the restaurant an updated, more contemporary atmosphere that is brighter, more spacious and welcoming for the 21st-century diner.
“When we first opened in 1989, the clientele for fine dining was more formal,” Gary Guterman reminisces. “Men wore a suit and tie. There was an unspoken dress code. Today, when people call and inquire about a dress code I tell them that our dress code is just to always be dressed,” he says with a smile, “come as you are whether that is in shorts, jeans, or dressed-up, it doesn’t matter.”
Gone are the dark maroon walls, replaced with a light honey color. The floors are no longer carpeted, revealing richly dark-stained wood floors. The ceiling was dropped to add better lighting and to give a more intimate feel.
The Gutermans did most of the interior work themselves, Gary painting and staining woodwork and Mary Ann upholstering the seating and custom window treatments with a floral design that adds a casual elegance to the interior. Additional booths for seating were also added. Outside, a new deck with a nautical rope railing has been added to make the guest entrance more easily accessible to the two-tier outdoor garden patio dining area which is enhanced with fossilized stone and waterfalls.
The types of food guests eat have also changed and are reflected in the Mission Grille’s updated menu.
“Guests today want multiple types of offerings. Some like to eat lighter and healthier and others want traditional fare,” Gary Guterman explains. “There’s also sensitivity to cost and value.”
As a result, the Gutermans have revamped their menu offerings this season to include starters and sandwiches in addition to complete dinners. All the recipes are tried out first in the Gutermans’ home kitchen before debuting on the Mission Grille menu.
For early bird diners there is a three-course (starter, entrée, dessert) prix fixe menu offered Sunday through Friday, 5 to 6 pm, for $29. New menu items include the Caesar BLT salad, Better than British Fish and Chips and the Linguini & Boursin-Stuffed Meatballs.
A couple of the new value menu selections include a burger with fries and a side of garlic aioli for $14, and a chicken breast on a Ciabatta roll with fries for $13.
Other new offerings include sides such as kale and almond sauté, vegetable quinoa, blue cheese scallion potato cake, and fried apples, each for $5.
“Diners now have a variety of choices,” Mary Ann Guterman points out. “They can have a starter, a sandwich, or a full dinner. They can order a side with a salad. There will also be ‘off the menu’ offerings that change nightly.” A children’s menu is available too.
Additionally, The Mission Grille offers gluten-free and vegetarian options. Other new options: on Sundays diners receive 25 percent off a bottle of wine (they have one of the largest wine selections in Door County), Wednesday diners get half-off of house wines, Thirsty Thursdays sports $2 off draft beers and Saturdays is Prime Rib night.
“We love this business” the Gutermans’ add, “It’s what we’ve done a majority of our lives.”