In the dead of winter, to reinvigorate our bodies and souls, we venture outside, hiking in the woods, skiing trails and admiring frosty water views. In Northern Door County these activities are apt to leave us at least a little chilly. And then there are the days the wind howls and the snow whirls, and you couldn’t imagine leaving a nice warm hearth. Thanks to the stout-of-heart cafe owners and baristas of the northern peninsula, there are year-round oases of warmth and caffeine where locals and visitors alike can thaw their feet and sip a delicious coffee.
A visit to Base Camp on the north end of Sister Bay will recharge you. This supremely cozy coffee bar is tucked in the lower level of the old Sister Bay town hall building, situated on the corner of Highway 42 and Hill Road. As you descend inside, the warmth of the oven, smells of baking pastries and aroma of Wisconsin-roasted coffee envelope you. Spend some time inspecting the bakery case and reading the French-inspired menu, chalked on blackboards. Definitely try a Kouign Amann, a flaky, sugary pastry from the Brittany region.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 13 minutes (9.7miles)
Tucked away in Sister Bay’s Country Walk shops, tiny unassuming Discourse is a wonderland of discovery for the senses. Owner and drink-slinger Ryan Castelaz is conducting an ongoing exploration of not only flavor, but also aroma, texture, sensation and visual appeal. His “drinks” feature cousins of the caffeinated beverages you came for. For example, on a recent visit I tried the “Montezuma.” Billed as a “drinking chocolate,” the Montezuma comprised three liquids: a thick hot cocoa spiced with cinnamon and other mysteriously warm notes, a miniature carafe of a mild but flavorful coffee and a pipet of ghost pepper tincture. With these ingredients, I, the drinker, could choose my own adventure, tasting all the elements separately and adding them to each other to achieve a sweet and spicy drink that warmed me from within. If experimental coffee drinking is not your speed, Ryan’s more traditional fare—lattes, macchiatos and the like—lack nothing in the flavor department. Discourse is not a grab-and-go coffee shop, but it is a truly unique gastronomical experience.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 11 minutes (8.7 miles)
If your schedule does necessitate a quick coffee, Skip Stone Coffee Roasters has you covered with a delicious brew and a self-checkout station. Across from its sister business, Wild Tomato in Sister Bay, Skip Stone has a full menu of espresso including specialties for the espresso aficionado, like a lungo, or long-pull espresso, or the flat white, a warm milk-and-espresso beverage without the froth. Aside from delicious coffee and espresso, Skip Stone’s baked-daily pastries do not disappoint. I was especially pleased with a savory scone containing bacon, cheddar and chives.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 11 minutes (8.9 miles)
While Baileys Harbor’s Bearded Heart Coffee may be tiny, this cafe is mighty. In their drip coffee pots, find brews from Midwestern roasters like Ruby and Dogwood. Their espresso menu is both sophisticated with the “Le Coeur à Barbe,” a latte with notes of anise, and cheekily local with the “Beautiful Burnt Goat,” a goat milk latte. Bearded Heart’s food menu is nothing to scoff at; they have fresh daily pastries and delicious made-to-order tartines topped with avocado, chevre and more. On sunny days, find a seat in Bearded Heart’s front yard and watch the world go by.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Walkable in 3 minutes (.2 miles)
Leroy’s Water Street Coffee in Ephraim is hidden in plain sight just set back from the road off of Highway 42. This log cabin-turned coffee house serves expertly crafted espresso drinks and fresh drip coffee that you can take with you or enjoy before the crackling fire in Leroy’s hearth. Give in to the temptation for one of the delicious morning buns on the counter—they’re worth it.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 12 minutes (8.5 miles)
Post-cafe, you’ll need a cozy space to wind down. The Blacksmith Inn on the Shore’s rooms with views and hearths are just the ticket. Check our availability for your caffeine-fueled adventure.