Ok, I admit it …if I was at the Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Door County, Wisconsin with Victor, I’d buy him a steak.
Victor is my 11-year-old poodle-cross and there’s a $16 steak on the doggy menu – yes, doggy menu – at the Harbor Fish Market & Grille’s pet-friendly patio beside the restaurant with an excellent view of Bailey’s Harbor. I’d likely follow up Vic’s 6oz tenderloin with a “Hank’s Chilly Paws” dog dessert frozen custard (actually, people custard).
And I’m a vegetarian … Victor is not.
Unfortunately, Victor isn’t with me this week, which means he missed out. But if you’re travelling through Door County, Wisconsin with pets you don’t have to.
“We added steak and mashed potatoes to our dog menu recently,” says Harbor Fish owner Karen Berndt, adding the doggy menu is a ten-year-old idea. “I can’t believe how many people are ordering it. We had a table with two dogs yesterday order two,” she laughs. “This is good steak,’ I thought.’ I eat that.’ But it’s selling.”
If double digit-priced dog dinners are a bit rich for your hound, other (less than $5) dog menu items include scrambled eggs, ground beef, hot dogs (all with a side of kibble) or just a bowl of kibble for the ‘table food off limits’ dogs. Dishes are served in fancy ceramic bowls (“We’ve upgraded recently,” Berndt says) topped with a fish-shaped peanut butter dog treat.
“We tried them in the kitchen and they’re pretty good,” Berndt says with a spirited shrug. Stove Dog Bakery, a local company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, makes the fish-shaped doggie cookie special for Harbor Fish.
The restaurant has been around for 16 years, but the pet-friendly patio for the last decade. “We started it when we recognized a need,” Berndt says. “People travelling with dogs didn’t want to leave them in the car.”
In Bailey’s Harbor, you don’t have to. During the summer, 30 to 40 dogs a week visit the patio, and there’s usually at least three there at any one time.
Of course, there are health regulations – staff must hand bowls to owners and they can’t pet the dogs. Also, you can’t eat with your dog inside the restaurant. Recently, one woman arrived at the restaurant with two dogs in tow stating she’d made a reservation. When she found out she couldn’t eat inside with the dogs, she left in a huff.
“We’ve had no problem with dogs,” Berndt admits. “We’ve had more problems with people.” (That’s something I hear often).
Don’t worry. The Harbor Fish Market & Grille – known to have the best fish dishes in Door County – has an exquisite menu for people too. Think lobster boil (a take on the county’s famous fish boil), Harbor Whitefish Chowder, Halibut Cheeks (house specialty) and, of course, Filet Mignon.
TRAVEL GUIDE: Door County is an outdoor adventurer’s (and dog’s) dream. Down the street from the Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Bailey’s Harbor, you’ll find Lakeshore Adventures. Here you’ll find a list of activities: clear bottom kayaking tours, charter fishing outings, zip line tours, diving and snorkeling, and paddle board and bike rentals. A little further north, is Whitefish Dunes State Park complete with dog-friendly beach.