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Aug 4, 2013 02:45 PM

Fish Boil worth it?

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.

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  1. 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

      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

        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

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

          1. re: Fowler

            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

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Professor

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

        2. 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

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

          2. 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. 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

                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.