Tasty Thursday: Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

Our annual Door Country tradition is stopping into Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. Anything else we do fluctuates from trip to trip, but Al Johnson’s is non-negotiable.

And, random tidbit, I always end up thinking about my childhood church when we’re here, because the pastor’s name was Al Johnson.

Without fail on every trip, J and I still forget exactly where Al Johnson’s is, as we tour around Door County exploring various places and parks. Al’s is actually in Sister Bay, WI. 

We always stumble upon it. And it usually catches us by surprise.

IMG_3945It’s unmistakable when you come across it: a brown building covered by a grassy roof with goats chilling on it. Well, the goats are only there in the peak (and warm) tourist season.

In case you’re distracted and the towns in Door County start to run together, you’ll know you’ve found Al Johnson’s as the cars ahead of you start slamming on the brakes and people stare slack-jawed at the ridiculous site of the goats on the roof. Traffic jams happen as the surprise of goats hits people.

That’s exactly how Al Johnson’s hooked us on our first visit to Door County years ago. With such ridiculousness, how could J, Dad and I not stop to eat here?

Regardless of anything else, eating here makes for a memorable story and photos for later. Remember that time when we ate at the place with the goats on the roof?


The goats were enough to get us through the door once. The food is what keeps us coming back every year.

The Swedish meatballs were good. The fried chicken makes us crave this place.

I’m a fried chicken fanatic. I don’t eat it often anymore, because well, it’s not healthy. But, I love fried chicken. I grew up with it because my Southern family fried everything, including vegetables. It’s comfort, nostalgia food.

Al Johnson’s is my favorite place for fried chicken. Delightfully crisp, not overly greasy, and not over-seasoned. I’m not a fan of gobs of seasoning on fried chicken. Keep it simple, please. And Al’s delivers. I can’t make it as good as theirs, and that’s not said lightly. I make good fried chicken.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of their chicken. I was more excited about conversation and eating than I was about documenting the experience. (There’s something to be said for that mentality at times!)

Fair warnings: I’d prefer to share an order because their fried chicken dinner has more chicken than I can eat.

On our most recent trip to Al’s last fall, we arrived too early for lunch, and J and I discovered the wonders of breakfast at Al’s. The Swedish pancakes and bacon were fabulous. I generally hate restaurant pancakes because they seem sponge-y and overly sweet. Not so in the cast of Al’s — they were delightful in texture and rich in flavor. The lingonberries were a nice accompaniment to the pancakes. Plus, the bacon J and I shared was nice and crisp; I hate soggy, wilted bacon.

Now we have a dilemma for future trips to Door County: Al’s for breakfast or lunch?


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