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“A good place to stuff your gut”

Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant & Butik
Ranked #5 of 37 Restaurants in Sister Bay
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $10 - $15
Cuisines: Swedish
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Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine, Large groups, Families with children
Dining options: Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Description: Door County, Wisconsin's most well-known restaurant, established in 1949. From May through October, look for the live goats on the roof, on top of an authentic Swedish log building. Inside, there's a traditional Swedish atmosphere and Scandinavian food specialties, all served by waitresses in dirndls. After dining, visit Al Johnson's Butik, featuring a beautiful selection of Scandinavian products, including clogs, Swedish linens, books, clothing, jewelry, decorative items, books and housewares. Open May - October, 6 AM - 8 PM, And November - April, 7 AM - 3 PM.
Reviewed August 23, 2010

A busy, hectic place, full of tourists, but not really a tourist trap. Good stick-to-your-gut Swedish food. Gets busy, so get there early to avoid the crowd. We were seated quickly, since we said the counter would be okay.

Thank Frogee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,553 - 1,557 of 1,595 reviews

Reviewed August 18, 2010

I have been visiting Door County for many years. Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant and Butik (that is the correct name -- it's not "Al Johnson's Swedish Pancake House") in Sister Bay is eponymous with Door County for many people. Yes, it's the restaurant with goats on a sod roof -- causing tourists to gawk and take photos while slowing traffic to a crawl on Route 42. It's the place where you'll wait up to two hours for a table if you arrive at a busy time (which, in peak season, is almost all the time). It's a Door County icon, and one of the few places beloved and frequented by both tourists and locals.

Often places that are well-known don't live up to the hype. This is not true for Al's. You will get a good meal here, and good (quick, attentive) service once you're seated. The restaurant serves Swedish and American food and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is one of the few restaurants in Door County that is open every day of the year (well, it may be closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving, I'd have to double check). You can come here at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday in March (the slowest month for tourism in Door County) and be seated right away. The restaurant is housed in a log building with logs that were shipped from Norway. There is a gift shop to browse while you inevitably wait for a table. The waitresses are garbed in traditional Scandinavian attire, complete with wooden clogs. It is a clean, orderly, yet very busy and somewhat noisy dining room.

Because Al Johnson's is so popular, here are a few tips to make your experience easier.
1. If at all possible, go on a weekday. If you go here for Sunday breakfast, prepare to wait a long, long time. During peak season in Door County, there is almost always a wait here. It is shorter during the week, particularly in the middle of the week, and particularly in the middle of the afternoon, between the lunch and dinner rush. Yes, they serve breakfast all day; Swedish pancakes taste just as good at 3 p.m., and you might not have to wait at all if you come on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
2. When you arrive, immediately proceed to the podium by the cash register and tell the hostess your name and the number in your party so you can be put on the waiting list. You will be called when your table is ready, on an intercom, so it's OK if you sit outside or browse the gift shop; you'll still be able to hear your name called.
3. If you don't want to wait, consider sitting at the counter. There is a small diner-style counter in the back of the dining room. This is where many locals sit, especially in the early morning. Seating here is first-come, first-served -- it's not part of the wait list, so if you see an open stool, walk over and sit down.
4. Almost anything on the menu is good, but many people like to get the Swedish specialties such as pancakes, meatballs, open face sandwiches, etc. The food is good and prepared well, and a little overpriced, but it is not gourmet or creative/innovative.
5. With almost every meal, you will receive a small platter with limpa bread (Swedish Rye), flatbread and crackers, and a small dish of lingonberries. Lingonberries are similar to cranberries -- they are a little tart. Try them, you may love them! They are great on Swedish pancakes, with or without syrup.
6. Be prepared to order quickly. The servers won't rush you, but the frantic pace at which the servers and bussers work will make you realize this isn't a place to take a half hour to peruse the menu before ordering and/or linger for an hour after you're done. They turn tables around quickly. If you have to wait before you're seated, ask to see the menu while you're waiting so you can plan your order.
7. Don't ask to meet Al Johnson, the owner. Sadly, he died in June 2010. Diners in years past used to often be treated to the sight of Al in the dining room, busing tables and issuing orders to the already harried waitstaff. His family continues to operate the restaurant.
8. I would suggest not purchasing lingonberries, cookies, chocolates or other retail items here -- sold at the register or in the gift shop -- as they are easily purchased for a lower cost at any area grocery store or farm maket.
9. You don't pay your server; you pay at the register.

Enjoy!

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3  Thank Maenad1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 3, 2010

The goats on the roof are the greatest draw! This place is always busy so come early to avoid the meal time rush hour! Been there many times but only for breakfast. Pancakes are very yummy and filling!!

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Thank crzy4u2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 2, 2010

went there in july 2010 - 2 adults and 4 kids (ages 6, 4, 2, 9 mo.). went there for the kids to see the goats on the roof, which they loved! also went there for the food experience since we'd never had swedish food. went to al's on a weekday for dinner. got in immediately and the service was great. picked fish was great. gave a huge plate of crackers (different varieties) and limpa bread along with lingonberry (?) jam to eat while your food is coming. kids meals dont include a drink - just the one dish. i ordered the swedish meatballs and they were extremely salty - could be thats how swedish meatballs are, i dont know. swedish pancakes were good - but how could pancakes not be? :) the experience was great, the food fine, but very expensive - the most expensive place we ate in door co....around $85 for our family. yikes!

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Thank luvthecarribean!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 26, 2010

This place is one of the bests for breakfast. They have awesome choices and everything tastes VERY good. However, when I went there with a large group (10 people) we put our name down and they gave our table away! We ended up waiting an hour, which was not great since we had kids in the group. I highly recommend this place if you have a smaller group.

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Thank annas1984
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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