Explore the nautical heritage of this port town, known as Wisconsin’s Maritime Capitol in honor of its shipbuilding past and present, located along 20 miles of western Lake Michigan coastline.
Dining To-Do List
These eateries will keep you fueled from morning to night.
Breakfast: Dali’s Café is a local favorite with spectacle. Once a bank building, it’s easy to get lost in the high ceilings and marble aesthetic, which pairs well with the restaurant’s breakfast fare, such as eggs, pancakes and french toast. If you’re more of a coffee connoisseur, you’ll feel right at home at Manitowoc Coffee with their selection of house blends as well as lighter food items like parfaits, oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches. Plus, the downtown location makes it convenient to go sightseeing, caffeine elixir in hand.
Lunch: Some say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and the same applies for lunch in Manitowoc. Since 1948, Manitowoc locals have frequented a little spot called Late’s thanks to its small-town diner atmosphere and food. Everyone loves the burgers, and supposedly, they go through seven tons of cheese curds per year. Late’s only takes cash, so plan ahead or use the restaurant’s ATM. Another popular spot, Wrap it Up, locally sources many of its ingredients and has an organic focus. It’s also great for health-conscious travelers as their wide selection of wraps – hot and cold – prominently contain lean meats and lots of veggies. For the signature Wrap it Up experience, try the Texas Ranch chicken wrap. Legend Larry’s in Manitowoc is just one of four Wisconsin locations, but its passion for serving great buffalo wings has resonated with people in town, winning the the Herald Times Reporter’s “Best Wings” award over 10 times since 2006. The restaurant offers regular and boneless wings as well as breaded shrimp which can all be coated in one of Legend Larry’s over 10 sauces from mild to “D.O.A,” and BBQ to garlic parmesan. There’s a wing for everyone, but for a definitive Larry’s experience, be sure to try either medium, hot, extra hot or BBQ, all of which have won awards at the National Buffalo Wing Festival in New York.
Dinner: With downtown fine dining, a built-in microbrewery and a charming legal theme, Courthouse Pub offers an atmosphere you can’t quite get anywhere else. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the Pub’s selection of house salads, burgers or steaks. For newcomers, go for the “Testimonial Evidence,” a sampler tray of the month’s craft beers on tap. Ryan’s on York offers a range of recipes that blend American, Cajun, Greek and Asian traditions, making for an eclectic eating experience. Burgers and fries are a classic combo, of course, but Ryan’s shakes things up by giving fries a whole menu section you can get Greek, Bangkok, Cajun, BBQ-glazed smoky fries and more. Naan bread is at the center of several menu items, topped with flavors such as kimchi pork, jambalaya or raspberry bleu cheese. Opening last December, Holla is a promising downtown restaurant focusing on international farm-to-table cuisine. The menu changes on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis, making repeat visits uniquely rewarding. Entrees have included chicken milanese, veggie stir fry and several varieties of wood-fired pizza. To get regular updates on the menu, follow Holla’s on Facebook.
Meal You’ll Remember: Brian’s Smokehouse and BBQ
This authentic Southern BBQ joint is all about the meat. Co-owner and pitmaster Brian Kooker started barbecuing in 1986 after joining the Marine Corps and moving to North Carolina. Offering traditional pulled pork, brisket, chicken, ribs and sides along with twists on old favorites, Brian’s is the place locals take out of town guests to show off Manitowoc’s burgeoning culinary scene. Here the meats come sauceless so customers can experiment with their own creations. Just be prepared to come back again and again – apparently one trip to Brian’s is never enough. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
For those who like to do their own cooking on vacation, Manitowoc is a great destination due to its many local grocers, particularly for health-conscious folks or Mediterranean dieters. The Hearty Olive is open Monday through Saturday and specializes in olive oils, balsamic vinegars and locally sourced foods including pastas, sauces, spices and many other makings of a delicious meal. For fresh fruit and vegetables, venture out to the Manitowoc Farmers Market on Saturdays May through October from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at 720 Quay Street.