Worth the Drive: Sheboygan 

Sheboygan is called many things – the Spirit on the Lake, the Malibu of the Midwest, the Bratwurst Capital of the World – but “boring” is never one of them. 

Located about 70 miles southeast of the Fox Cities, Sheboygan sits on the shores of Lake Michigan about halfway along the state’s eastern seaboard. This coastal community of 50,000 residents offers perks typically found only in much larger cities, from a world-renowned art center to James Beard Award-nominated chefs. Combine that with the power of Lake Michigan, an abundance of pristine parks and a plethora of quaint shops, and you have a destination that is truly worth the drive.   

Dining To-Do List 

These eateries will keep you fueled morning to night

Breakfast: Make your first meal of the day count at Field to Fork, a favorite breakfast spot in downtown Sheboygan. Serving everything from savory frittatas to crème brulee-style French toast, this casual restaurant offers artisanal bakery items, raw juices and fair-trade coffee roasted in house. Fuel up for a day of exploring with a smoothie or locally-grown wheatgrass shot, then stock up on locally-raised meats and in-season produce from the restaurant’s market. (Make sure to check out the cheese cave built into the floor!) Another great option is The Weather Center Cafe, located on the Sheboygan Riverfront in a renovated fish shanty. This cafe with nautical decor and a climate-themed menu is famous for their bakery items made in-house daily.

Lunch: If you are seeking a classic Sheboygan brat (of course you are), head to one of Charcoal Inn’s two locations. The cash-only establishment has been heralded in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Money Magazine, particularly for its famous Sheboygan bratwurst grilled on charcoal and served on a butter-slathered Sheboygan hard roll. Sit at the counter for a front row seat to the grilling action. For some comfort food with a twist, visit The Black Pig on 8th Street. The menu features items like lobster and pancetta mac and cheese and duck fat fries. One particularly indulgent offering is simply a pound of smoked pork belly three ways: black pepper, brown sugar and chipotle. If you are in the mood for a lighter lunch, try the quinoa salad or vegetable flatbread. 

Dinner: Pizza making (and eating) is serious business at Il Ritrovo, a certified Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Neapolitan pizzeria. This means that the restaurant meets strict requirements that align with the traditional art of Neapolitan pizza making. And the proof is in the pizza. Featuring the freshest local produce and meats in conjunction with authentic Italian oils and herbs, the pizza at Il Ritrovo has caught the attention of foodies near and far. Lino Ristorante Italiano is another solid dinner option, with cuisine inspired by Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The restaurant is located on the Sheboygan River and offers two outdoor patios to best enjoy the view. The menu offers everything from salads to seafood and bread and desserts that are prepared fresh daily. Reservations recommended.

Meal You’ll Remember: Trattoria Stefano 

Chef and owner Stefano Viglietti operates four restaurants in Sheboygan with his wife, Whitney. Trattoria Stefano, his flagship restaurant, opened in 1994 followed by Il Ritrovo, Field to Fork and an English gastropub, The Duke of Devon. Viglietti’s restaurants have been featured nationally in publications like Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Apetit, Saveur Magazine and New York Times Magazine online. This year, Viglietti was nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of best chef in the Midwest for Trattoria Stefano. The restaurant specializes in authentic Italian fare fused with fresh, local ingredients. If you want to try a variety of highly seasonal specialties, a menu of small plates is served on Wednesdays alongside the dinner menu. The ambiance at Trattoria Stefano might be casual, but the food is nothing short of five-star. Reservations are recommended. 

Bottoms Up

Thirsty? Sheboygan’s bars and breweries can help. Sheboygan’s local beer scene has been flourishing thanks to 3 Sheeps Brewing Company which was established in 2012. Stop by the brewery’s industrial style taproom for a locally-brewed pint. In addition to 17 ever-changing beers on tap, visitors can sample taproom-only specialty brews and take a brewery tour on Fridays and Saturdays. Another Sheboygan beer haven is Craft30, where, you guessed it, 30 draught lines offer up craft beer as well as local craft wines, mead and liquor. The full-service bar is loved for its live music lineup and outdoor beer garden. If wine with a view is more your thing, try Lakeview Wine Bar located on the second floor of the Harbor Center Marina overlooking Lake Michigan. It offers a wide selection of wines, meads and micro brews, a cozy outdoor patio and live music every Friday and Saturday night. For a craft cocktail, Urbane is a local favorite. The extensive drink menu features creative concoctions made from scratch with fresh-squeezed juices, herbs and botanicals. The front windows of the restaurant pub fold open so in the warmer weather guests can have an open-air dining and drinking experience. 

Sheboygan Soul Food

Sheboygan takes brats seriously. The sausage is steeped in history and the region’s German heritage. The city won the title of Bratwurst Capital of the World in a 1970 court battle against Bucyrus, Ohio, which also vied for the accolade. To take some of the local flavor home with you, stop by City Bakery for hearth-baked hards rolls, the preferred vehicle for a Sheboygan brat. The hard rolls are made using the “sponge and dough method” where the sponge is mixed using flour, water, and yeast, and allowed to ferment for four hours. Next, pick up some fresh bratwurst at Meisfeld’s Meat Market. With more than 25 varieties to choose from, every brat lover will find something to satisfy their craving. We suggest the gold standard, the grand champion bratwurst. This variety is made with fresh lean pork and the Meisfeld family’s 60-year-old secret spice recipe. 

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Worth the Drive

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