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Fish Boil worth it?

judybird Aug 4, 2013 02:45 PM

DH and I will be making a first-ever trip to the Great Lakes region in September. I'm reading a lot about fish boils in Door County and elsewhere. Are they really worth it, or is this just a tourist trap thing, kind of like salmon bakes in Alaska? And if they are worth it, we'd appreciate a recommendation or two for where to go. We'll be visiting Door County and the UP, not sure what else yet, we'll have about 3 weeks to spend in the area.

  1. Fowler Aug 4, 2013 06:39 PM

    I used to own a vacation home in Door County and tried several fish boils with friends and family over the years. We all agreed they were dreadful. Bland, cheap, greasy fish with bland greasy potatoes.

    It is more of a show for the tourists. Like going to a Luau when visiting Hawaii.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Fowler
      judybird Aug 4, 2013 07:27 PM

      Luaus in Hawaii, salmon bakes in Alaska, now I can add fish boils in Wisconsin to the list of meals to be avoided. Thanks.

      1. re: judybird
        boagman Aug 4, 2013 09:29 PM

        I wouldn't completely write luaus off the list. While I've only ever been to one (and it was in Florida at that...), even as a not-as-picky-as-I-am-now senior in high school, I was pretty suitably impressed with the cuisine on offer that particular night. I remember everything being keenly fresh, well-prepared, and I even remember being semi-impressed with the "show".

        If anyone, anywhere can come anywhere *close* to impressing a 17-year-old with a Polynesian luau, they've gotta be doing several things *seriously* right.

        Oh, and by the way: in a fish "boil", where does the grease come from?

        1. re: boagman
          Fowler Aug 4, 2013 10:50 PM

          So boagman, what is your opinion on a Door County fish boil? Which would you recommend or avoid with your experience?

          1. re: Fowler
            boagman Aug 4, 2013 11:30 PM

            Oh, I wish I could tell you, Fowler! I've never been to one, and just sort of happened by this thread due to curiosity more than anything else. I'm a lower-peninsula dweller, so I'm not familiar with a fish boil. That's why I was asking where grease would come from in a fish boil. I honestly can't figure it.

            Follow-up question as well: what's the fish that tends to be boiled at these things?

        2. re: judybird
          kathryn Aug 5, 2013 10:47 AM

          However, there's a big difference between a touristy / hotel luau, and a locals luau in Hawaii. Ones given by a church or as a fundraiser are important, authentic community events.

      2. The Professor Aug 4, 2013 08:08 PM

        Boiled fish?? Sounds like it would just be a tasteless mess.

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Professor
          Scoutmaster Aug 6, 2013 04:05 PM

          ^ It is. Boiled fish, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. blahhhh and WAYYYY over-priced.

        2. d
          donw9876 Aug 4, 2013 08:29 PM

          Google it... there's lots of info online.

          This seems to be the only cuisine I have heard of that uses kerosene as an ingredient. :)

          Sounds horrid to me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: donw9876
            Scoutmaster Aug 6, 2013 04:10 PM

            Kerosene is not an ingredient. 8-| It's thrown on the fire to cause the flames and boil over.

          2. k
            kathryn Aug 5, 2013 10:44 AM

            I'm not from Wisconsin but my husband's family is. He took me to a fish boil at the White Gull Inn, and I thought it was pretty tasty. Tender buttery fish. Didn't seem greasy or gross to me.


            1. i
              INDIANRIVERFL Aug 5, 2013 11:17 AM

              When I am a tourist, I embrace the tourist experience. White Gull Inn is a fine example. I stopped at three pasty places in the UP and found them all bland and uninspiring. All recommended by locals. But I had them.

              Going to Door County and not having a fish boil is like going to Oktoberfest in Munich and not drinking a mass of beer because of all the tourists. For me, counterintuitive.

              1 Reply
              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                paulj Aug 5, 2013 12:26 PM

                When whe lived in Chicago, Door Cty was a favorite camping area. Especially when camped at Peninsula State Park, we'd eat a couple of meals in Fish Creek. We did While Gull fish boil once, but I don't recall details.

                Al Johnson's in Sister Bay was a stronger 'must do', especially for one of Swedish heritage.

                Fish boils had their roots in communal events using local white fish. But the fishing industry has declined significantly.

                A nice description of the fish, local fishing business, and the fish boil

                This article mentions Washington Island. The ferry ride to that island is well worth the time and cost. I don't recall eating at a restaurant (or fish boil) on the island. More often we took the smaller passenger boat to Rock Island State Park.

                The traditional Lake Michigan white fish trawl boat.

              2. paulj Aug 5, 2013 12:39 PM

                an earlier Door Cty report

                1. rainsux Aug 5, 2013 02:42 PM

                  It is something to try, once.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rainsux
                    Altoclefgus Aug 5, 2013 05:26 PM

                    I would go a step further:

                    It is something not to try, ever.

                  2. Living4fun Aug 5, 2013 06:00 PM

                    I think it is something to see for sure once. I don't like fish boils but it is special to Door County. I have attached a picture of a boil when the kettle boils over.

                    1. sunshine842 Aug 6, 2013 04:56 PM

                      skip the fish boil (which is traditionally boiled whitefish, but ymmv) and find a perch fry or the holy grail - a walleye dinner.

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