Sister Bay Bowl, Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Rating: 5 out of 5 Old Fashioneds
Relish Tray: nope
Ice Cream Drinks: yes
Price Range: about $10 to about $25
Ambiance: A Supper Club meets a Bowling Alley, so just about perfect
We visited Sister Bay Bowl back in February, well before businesses started closing due to COVID-19. For some reason, we’ve just been a little slow to write this post. Could it be the world-wide pandemic? I suppose. But we’re back! And so is Sister Bay – they are doing curbside carryout!
For our birthdays, we almost always end up at a supper club to celebrate. While I seem to always end up at The Butterfly Club in Beloit, this year we knew we had to finally make the trip up to Sister Bay Bowl for Owen’s birthday. For one, it had been far too long since we had been to Door County. More importantly, Owen loves bowling. A supper-club-bowling-alley combination is really the only place that it makes sense to celebrate his next trip around the sun.
Sister Bay Bowl is right in the heart of Sister Bay. We spent the day walking around the town and enjoying the views, and dipped into Sister Bay Bowl for a nice early supper. From the first sight of the interior, I knew this would quickly become one of our favorite supper clubs.
We entered through the bowling alley, which was hopping early on a Saturday evening. More on the bowling alley to come
The bar area had everything you could want: a large oblong bar with a “wooden” formica top, a couple of booths and tables, a couple of patrons in matching Piggly Wiggly shirts, and a very friendly bartender who was happy to share about the history of the supper club or bemoan the new real-estate developments in Sister Bay. She told us how the supper club started as a hotel, but once they opened for dinner, they stopped hosting visitors. We also talked about double-edged sword of tourism in Door County. The sky-rocketing price of real estate means it is harder and harder for permanent locals to live in the area. However, Sister Bay also depends on the tourism industry to stay vibrant. She also made a mean old fashioned, with plenty of bitters and a nice meaty pickled mushroom to cut the sweet.
After throughly enjoying the bar for a couple old fashioneds, we made our way to the dining room. We were there early, but some other early birds had gotten the prime tables by the window overlooking the town. Not that we were disappointed at all – we thoroughly enjoyed sitting among the bowling decor.
Our meals started with your standard side salad, and a fun little loaf of bread. Owen is easily charmed by any establishment that offers a generous amount of bleu cheese in his favorite French Bleu dressing. Both rye bread and a typical white bread were baked together in one little loaf – quite inventive – and tasty!
The birthday boy, of course, ordered prime rib. He was so excited that it came with both au jus and horseradish, we could have just ended the night there and he would have been perfectly content. When it arrived at the table, he said “I’ve ordered myself a bit of a project here!”. I guess the cut was a bit more generous than he was expecting! The hash browns were unbelievably crispy, like a single unit of crispy potato goodness. They made a wonderful breakfast the next morning (not that I ate them, or anything).
I tried another Wisconsin supper club classic, the broasted chicken. It was deliciously crispy, and served with a bit of cranberry sauce. I wouldn’t have thought to invite cranberries to this party, but they were a very fun addition. One addition I would love to see at more restaurants – the wet wipe served with the meal. It’s like a little permission slip to eat your dinner with your hands.
After dinner, we came back to the bar area and bowling alley. We had put our names down for a lane before our meal, and they were ready for us by the end of dinner. Earlier, the bowling area had been busy, with a couple groups waiting for lanes. A couple hours later, the bar area was bumping, while the bowling alley had cleared out.
The bowling alley at Sister Bay Bowl is a little bit of everything we love. Owen loves to bowl. We are both drawn to classic, no frills establishments with a sense of history. And in our younger days in Milwaukee, we fell in love with the oldest sanctioned bowling alley in the United State and an all-around wonderful place, the Holler House. Compared to the Holler House, the lanes at Sister Bay are pretty new (automatic ball return! Six whole lanes!) there are still some old fashioned touches that we just loved (keeping your own score, self-serve shoe ‘rental’).
Normally, I bowl with a bowling ball that I found at a thrift store with the name “Marge” engraved on it. Marge has become a bit part of my bowling identity. While she had stayed home for this trip, I was just delighted to find “Rhonda” to fill in for the night.
I know some folks would not be thrilled to keep their own score (some folks named Owen even), but I really enjoy when I get to keep my own score at a bowling alley. It’s not too much math that a bowling beer gets in the way, and the challenge of remembering the scoring rules keeps me engaged in the game in a new way. And I even won one game! By one point. I swear, it’s not just because I was scorekeeper.
Hopefully, we will all be able to go safely back to supper clubs soon. When that happy day arrives, Sister Bay Bowl will be one we will want to visit again soon. A combination of two quintessential Wisconsin gathering places – the supper club and the bowling alley. It’s a Wisconsin treasure.