Door County’s food scene has been evolving rapidly during the last decade, so when the pandemic closed restaurant doors up and down the peninsula, the foundation had already been laid to support a very outdoor-focused culinary season. Al fresco dining has become ubiquitous throughout the county, and this year saw an increased – albeit forced – focus on expanding outdoor dining options and seating areas. Many are now permanent fixtures at some of our favorite restaurants.
In addition, circumstances pushed restaurateurs to reevaluate their online presence and begin offering multiple ordering and pickup options for diners. Ordering ahead – especially online – has become part of the Door County food experience more this year than during any other, and although curbside and contactless pickup may be short-term necessities, the added convenience and increased accessibility may be hard to let go of once they’re less necessary.
All of this is to say that the folks who create Door County’s distinctive food scene have been hard at work solving challenges with innovative adaptations and striving to deliver the highest-quality products to their guests in the safest ways.
In a year when nothing was certain from week to week, Door County’s restaurateurs re-invented themselves on the fly. The Door County Ice Cream Factory went takeout only, fine-dining stalwart Wickman House became a BBQ joint, and Chives became a mini food truck festival in Baileys Harbor. Inside, plexiglas became a coveted item and masks a part of server fashion, and in the kitchen, cooks got hoards of their least-favorite orders – to-gos.
Here’s a brief look at some of what we saw in 2020.
From the Podcast
Wickman House Becomes a BBQ Joint
Kaaren Northrop on Transforming Main Street Market on the Fly
JR Schoenfeld On the Summer Ahead at Chives
A Season On the Brink with Meredith Coulson-Kanter and Todd Frisoni
Flipping Grocery Shopping Upside Down
In the early days of the pandemic, no business was under more pressure than grocery stores. The Piggly Wiggly was an early adopter of masking, and put in place special hours for senior shoppers. In Egg Harbor, Main Street Market shut its doors to customers and its staff did the shopping for you to lower the risk of exposure. The great pains these stores went to exhausted staff, but brought great relief to community members.
Take-Home Meal Kits Shake Up the Kitchen
Meal kits such as the ones that Ohana Hospitality created and Bearded Heart Coffee sold are helping customers to shake things up in their own kitchen. Dining options for couples and groups – such as the Mother’s Day brunch kit from Chives – allow for interesting, family-style meals. And take-home cocktail kits from Chop are emerging as new ways to enjoy food and drink outside of the traditional dining room.
Farmers Markets Reformatted
Farmers markets drastically reduced their scope this year, but they nonetheless delivered the highest-quality fresh produce, uncooked meats, cheeses and preserved goods. With open spaces and plenty of fresh air, farmers markets provided an important outdoor alternative to indoor grocery shopping this year.
Outward Bound: Restaurants and Cafes Ramp Up Outdoor Spaces
Chives in Baileys Harbor set up its grill truck and pizza truck next door to the restaurant in a manicured green space that was perfect for lunch or dinner. Diners could also grab a cocktail from the full-service outdoor bar.
Judge Declares Gibraltar Food Truck Ban Unconstitutional
Door County Circuit Court Judge D. Todd Ehlers ruled that the Town of Gibraltar’s ordinance prohibiting food trucks was unconstitutional and had been enacted as a way to protect restaurant owners from competition.
“What is undisputed is that at least two of the five defendants’ town board members were either brick-and-mortar restaurant owners or affiliates, and that other brick-and-mortar restaurant owners in the town were up in arms,” Ehlers wrote.