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Sheboygan, WI eats


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I was going to post this in the WI roadtripping thread, but I thought it deserved one of its own.

I spent a very nice Thanksgiving weekend in lovely Sheboygan, WI, at the home of my in-laws. After a great Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, we went out for dinner on Fri night. We went to a pizzeria called Il Ritrovo. They were doing great wood-fired pizzas, the real deal...nice thin, crip crust, light tomato and high quality cheese, meat, & veggies. I had the Mediterranea, fresh mozz, shaved slices spicy salumi, kalamata olives, and thinly sliced onions. They also had a Bufala Mozz margherita that I wanted to try. Also on the menu were an assortment of apps, salads, & a soup.

Adjacent to Il Retrovo is a wine/espresso bar and small market. They had some really nice imported stuff...oils, vinegar, etc. as well as San Marzano tomatoes, polenta, pasta, and wine.

Across the street, the proprietors run a restaurant called Trattoria Stefano. I haven't tried that place, but if the quality of Il Ritrovo is any indication, I think they must do pretty good food there as well.

Il Retrovo, 515 S. 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081

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Cool. Although I still feel compelled to note that Sheboygan is the Mecca of bratwurst. :cool: Every time I've been there, I am too stuffed from trying to do a comprehensive 'wurst survey to even think about eating anything else.

--

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  • 1 year later...
We went to a pizzeria called Il Ritrovo. They were doing great wood-fired pizzas, the real deal...nice thin, crip crust, light tomato and high quality cheese, meat, & veggies. I had the Mediterranea, fresh mozz, shaved slices spicy salumi, kalamata olives, and thinly sliced onions. They also had a Bufala Mozz margherita that I wanted to try. Also on the menu were an assortment of apps, salads, & a soup.

Adjacent to Il Retrovo is a wine/espresso bar and small market. They had some really nice imported stuff...oils, vinegar, etc. as well as San Marzano tomatoes, polenta, pasta, and wine.

Across the street, the proprietors run a restaurant called Trattoria Stefano. I haven't tried that place, but if the quality of Il Ritrovo is any indication, I think they must do pretty good food there as well.

Il Retrovo, 515 S. 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081

I ate at Il Ritrovo in Sheboygan this evening.

Was fortunate enough to be sitting at the bar and have a conversation with the owner Stefano who is from the area and did a stint (non-cooking) in Chicago for awhile. He is looking to open a restaurant near Il Ritrovo that will feature all local/near local Wisconsin food. In speaking with him it was obvious that he had a real passion for the craft he was producing, it was very refreshing. We talked about all the choices of cuisine that Chicagoans are so fortunate to have. He also had heard about Pizzeria Bianco and wanted to get out to Phoenix at some point to try. He is also assisting in opening a Neapolitan pizza shop in Chicago.

For a starter I had the bruschetta. The tomato used was wonderfully flavored however; picture a nice slice of white crusty Italian bread with a lone 1/3 of a tomato in the center and some Italian parsley, garlic and olive oil over the rest of the bread. More tomatoes are needed, plain and simple. I felt quite cheated by this starter.

The Magherita pizza is what I normally would have chose but the special pizza of the day, a sauce less Neapolitan pizza with some smoked mozzarella, pancetta, porcini and chanterelle mushrooms (which were in season) called out to me. GREAT CHOICE!! The mushrooms being in season were outstanding along with the slightly smoked cheese. I was not that thrilled with the dough, I wanted more crustiness. Stefano said any diner can simply request that their pizza get crusty a bit and the chef will hold the pizza up closer to the wood fire to get it crispier. I will certainly do that next time.

I was too full to try anything else but am thinking of stopping by on my way home tomorrow evening even though it is an hour out of my way.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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I was too full to try anything else but am thinking of stopping by on my way home tomorrow evening even though it is an hour out of my way.

We used to drive from Milwaukee (Wauwatosa, actually) just to have dinner at Il Ritrovo so I understand how you feel.

It's a bit of a hike farther from Madison but I've been tempted.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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From the "paris of the great lakes", Sheboygan, here's a Stefano related rumor...The man behind Il Ritrovo and Trattoria Stefano, Stefano Viglietti, has recently purchased a bar along the Sheboygan river and is going to turn it into an english-style pub...i smell wood-fired, english beer brats in the future...heh...the brat thing probably won't happen, but i bet the pub will still be fantastic...since everything the man touches becomes fantastic.

Trevor Williams

-Kendall College-

eGullet Ethics Signatory

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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I just wrote up a summary of the better restaurants in the Sheboygan area. I've included links to their websites where available. I travel to Sheboygan frequently, and I've been to most of the better restaurants there.

Sheboygan seems to be an interesting town, kind of transitioning from a not-so-great blue-collar town to a resort town with upscale amenities. You can find out more information on the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce website.

Here are the best restaurants in the area, in order based on my personal opinion about them:

1. Margaux. Spectacular. See link above to my recent report. I can't say enough about how wonderful it was. It was fantastic!

2. For "fine dining", in addition to Margaux, there are Biro and O, which are owned/run by Marcel Biro, who also has/had a cooking show on public television. Creative cuisine, and pretty good, but I think the food at Margaux is even better.

3. The American Club is a big, expensive ($400 plus per night) resort in Kohler, near Sheboygan, and it has several restaurants. Upscale, nice, and pretty good, but very conventional.

4. 52 Stafford, a combination Irish pub, upscale restaurant, and bed and breakfast in Plymouth.

5. Seabird, a decent seafood restaurant in the recently-developed waterfront development on Lake Michigan. I see from their website that they have added a wine and tapas bar since I was last there.

6. Bruce's, in Elkhart Lake. American food.

7. Richard's, an American restaurant in nearby Sheboygan Falls.

8. CityStreets, an American restaurant (prime rib, etc), also in the recently-developed waterfront development on the lake (but has been there a while longer than some of the others).

9. Thai Cafe Restaurant - Pretty good Thai food, not at all fancy though.

All of these restaurants are pretty good. The dining scene there is much better than you would typically expect in a county with just over 100,000 people. And, of course, it's only 45 minutes from Milwaukee, with its vibrant food scene.

I haven't mentioned the Osthoff, which is a resort in Elkhart Lake. In my visits there, some times they have had their restaurant open, while others they have only had food available there for room service and banquets. Other places I've tried include Nino's Steak Roundup (steakhouse), Brisco County Wood Grill (American food), and the Depot (a steakhouse in Plymouth); these are okay, but I don't think they're as good as the ones I've listed above. Also, Il Ritrovo specializes in Neopolitan pizza and is one of ~20 places in the country certified to do so by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, but I have not been there. (Sorry, but the deep-dish pizza is so good at home in Chicago that I never eat pizza when I'm out of town.)

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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  • 8 months later...

A few updates...

Biro has closed. O is still open.

There are multiple restaurants at the American Club, the most upscale of which is the Immigrant; I believe the one I visited (see comment above) was the Wisconsin Room.

I've been to Lake Street Cafe in Elkhart Lake, which I would rank just below Bruce's in the list above.

I have heard very positive reports about The Paddock Club in Elkhart Lake, and hope to try it on my next visit to the area. I've also heard good things about Trattoria Stefano, an Italian restaurant in Sheboygan.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

We enjoyed our two nights at the American Club in Kohler very much. When we arrived on Sunday evening, it was so cold that we couldn't fathom going out again, so we ate at the Hearth & Plow in the hotel, which was fine. Monday night, we headed over to Il Ritrovo, and it lived up to expectations. We truly enjoyed our meal, from salad to house made tiramisu. It's amazing that a place like that ended up in Sheboygan Wisconsin!

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It's amazing that a place like that ended up in Sheboygan Wisconsin!

Il Retrovo? No, not at all. Margaux? Maybe. Still, you must realize that Sheboygan is a resort town, not your typical small town. Granted, it has had its ups and downs over the years. But the presence of Kohler (the plumbing fixture manufacturer) and the American Club (the resort it created) have always brought an affluent recreational aspect to the Sheboygan area, as has the Road America racetrack in nearby Elkhart Lake. In recent years Sheboygan put a lot of money into redeveloping its lakefront district with tourist-friendly restaurants and shops, and that is now benefiting its nearby central business district as well.

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  • 2 months later...
I have heard very positive reports about The Paddock Club in Elkhart Lake, and hope to try it on my next visit to the area.  I've also heard good things about Trattoria Stefano, an Italian restaurant in Sheboygan.

I've just returned from another visit to the area. I went to the Paddock Club and it was very good, a welcome addition to the restaurant scene there. I had the shrimp pesto wontons special, the veal ragu pappardelle, a filet mignon special, and vanilla panna cotta for dessert. All were good and the panna cotta was spectacular. So add it to the above list.

I decided to walk around downtown Sheboygan and check out the other places mentioned here. I went to Il Ritrovo and found that the pizza descriptions sounded boring, plus there was a 30+ minute wait to sit (even though it was only 5:30 pm) and the entire smallish bar seating was filled as well, all of which was a big turnoff and not worth waiting for. I also checked out the menu at Trattoria Stefano, which was similarly uninspiring (I think they share ownership with Il Ritrovo). So I wandered a few blocks north to Margaux to check out the menu in the window. And as usual, Chef Hurrie had some wonderful dishes that beckoned, making my choice an easy one. I started with a baby spinach salad, which was good, but the main I selected just blew me away, it was so sinfully delicious. It was a "Duo of Certified Black Angus", a combination of hanger steak and red wine braised short ribs of beef which were exquisite. Equally exquisite, both beefs were served on a bed of mashed potatos mixed with crab and caramelized scallions, which added a slightly sweet touch, accented with a healthy dose of spicy black pepper. Total YUM! For dessert, I went for the "Chocolate Fantasy", four smallish chocolate desserts: a Jim Beam shooter, a truffle with Godiva liqueur, dark chocolate ice cream, and chocolate malted creme brulee. More total YUM! I also had a nice glass of Niagara peninsula icewine for one third the price I had paid for the same thing the previous week at a well-known restaurant in Chicago. Margaux is one of the very best restaurants around; this was my best dinner of the year so far. If it were in Chicago, it would easily compare well with the best casual fine dining restaurants in the city (e.g. Blackbird, one sixtyblue, North Pond, Custom House). It's worth a special trip from Milwaukee and even Chicago, and is a "must try" for anyone visiting the Sheboygan area.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Hittng town staying in Grafton, any must do places?

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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I'm not much help as I've never been there, but since you'll close enough to Milwaukee, I'd maybe look for a place there you'd like to go to. Alas, no suggestions there either. Now, if you were coming to Madison, I'd be able to help! Good luck!

Erin

"American by birth, Irish by the grace of God"

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Must do? Probably not, however, if you're in the area:

1) Field to Fork: Local meats, local cheese, local produce.

2) Charcoal Inn: Don't expect much here other than the local "specialty." Brats on a hard roll.

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One of my favorite restaurants anywhere is in Sheboygan: Margaux, serving contemporary American cuisine with global influences, from the gifted hands of Executive Chef/Owner Rob Hurrie. I go there about once a year, and every time it's been one of my very best dinners of the entire year, better than most restaurants in Chicago, where I live (we have quite a few good ones).

Margaux

821 N. 8th Street

Sheboygan, WI. 53081

920-457-6565

www.dinemargaux.com

BTW, how come you're staying in Grafton? That's not very convenient, about 35 miles south of Sheboygan. There are decent hotels in and around Sheboygan in all price categories (including the ultra-posh American Club resort in nearby Kohler).

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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I think the presence of Kohler, more than an other single factor, is responsible for Sheboygan having more good restaurnts that most cities its size.

That's highly debatable. The American Club has been there since 1918, and it's almost thirty years since it was renovated into what it is today. The development of a wide variety of dining options in Sheboygan (aside from those at the resort), including higher-end and creative options such as Margaux, is a very recent phenomenon, almost entirely in the past ten years.

Ten years ago, the best places in Sheboygan were the "supper clubs" featuring American comfort food, along with the usual pizza/Italian restaurants, and was no different from other similar-sized cities throughout Wisconsin. Around 15 years ago, the city of Sheboygan began a huge development of the harborfront area. That was a big spur to development elsewhere in the community, including downtown Sheboygan, which changed the image of Sheboygan from a run-down working-class town to a resort community on Lake Michigan. That development included the opening of some nice (but not particularly unusual) American restaurants, City Streets and Brisco County. What really put Sheboygan on the culinary map was the opening in 2002 of Biró (since closed), a contemporary French restaurant whose owner, Marcel Biró, also had a cooking program on public television, "The Kitchens of Biró". Rob Hurrie worked briefly at the American Club (so yes, there's that) before opening a deli and catering service in 1999, and it was only when he opened Margaux in 2005 that his contributions to the Sheboygan dining scene made their mark. Similarly, Stefano Viglietti founded Trattoria Stefano, a conventional Italian restaurant, in 1994, and it was in 2000 that he decided to bring authentic Neopolitan pizza to Sheboygan and opened Il Ritrovo across the street.

So what really brought some fine, fine restaurant options to Sheboygan was a combination of, first, the economic development that attracted the upscale customers who would fill those restaurants, followed by the efforts of several entrepreneurs in starting up the restaurants that would appeal to that clientele. Not because of the longtime posh resort nearby.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Thanks for the perspective, Nxtasy. I was looking beyond the pioneering chefs and entrepreneurs, and instead looking for the basic economic reasons as to why they decided to stake out their claims. Since I've only visited Sheboygan once (though I certainly intend to return), I was unaware of the economic development of the city as a resort community.

Ah, supper clubs. Though I'm not native to Wisconsin, I'm a frequent visitor and I love the concept and, in most instances I've sampled, the execution. Nothing like a relish tray filled with celery, carrots, radishes, scallions and olives, all atop crushed ice! And a martini.

Are there any classic supper clubs left in Sheboygan?

And, if anyone is still interested in pizza, here's Il Ritrovo's version of margherita (with anchovies I ordered as an addition):

pizza-1.jpg

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Are there any classic supper clubs left in Sheboygan?

About the closest thing right in Sheboygan is Nino's Steak and Seafood, which has been there since 1970. But it's not all that different from an old-time American steak and seafood restaurant that you'd find anywhere in the country.

One authentic supper club that I can vouch for is in Elkhart Lake, about 15-20 minutes drive west of Sheboygan (and the home of Road America, a major motorsports racetrack). It's called Dutch's, but going back decades until this past year, it was known as Bruce's (Bruce recently sold it), and I bet most locals still call it by its former name. Another supper club type place is in Plymouth, just south of Elkhart Lake, and is called the Depot (920-893-8212).

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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