Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurantis a Wisconsin Institution. I might argue its the best known restaurant in the state. Even if people don’t know the name, just say “the place with the goats on the roof” and they will know what you are talking about. We drove by Al Johnson’s on Sunday morning and saw a large number of people milling about on the sidewalk in front of the restaurants, obviously waiting for a table. Let me tell you, it really isn’t worth the wait. You can get a better breakfast with no waiting. Knowing better than to try to go to Johnson’s on Sunday (we had some very good coffee, scones and muffins from Leroy’s Water Street Coffee in Ephraim) we waited until Tuesday morning when we knew there would be no wait.
When we arrived we were promptly seated. It seems to me that the two the thing people are there for in the morning is their famous Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Sauce and to be able to say they ate at Al Johnson’s. The rest of the breakfast menu is fairly pedestrian and can be had at any other restaurant in Door County.
I ordered the Swedish Pancake Special which has pancakes, choice of meat, and 2 eggs for $9.95. I tried the Swedish Meatballs as my side dish because I can have bacon or sausage anywhere. Its not often that you can eat meatballs with breakfast. My wife seemed perplexed as to why anyone would eat meatballs for breakfast. The meatballs were decent enough with a nice gravy over them. The pancakes were as good as ever. I am not a regular pancake fan. I typically eat pancakes about once a year. However Swedish pancakes are different, and I think better. They are much thinner and have a different, almost crepe-like texture. The lingonberries mixed with their “Maple” syrup (its actually not true Maple syrup) provide a nice balance of tart and sweet. The American Fried Potatoes were excellent. They were perfectly seasoned and fried to a nice golden brown color. Even though we were stuffed from the pancakes we couldn’t stop eating these.
Service seemed to be good at every table but ours. Empty coffee cups sat waiting for a refill for way too long. So long in fact that I actually saw people in a different waitress’ section get refilled twice before ours returned with the coffee pot. It also took a while for her to bring the bill. Besides that everything was fine.
I have never tried any other meal than breakfast at Al Jonson’s so that is all I can speak to. While there are better breakfast places in Door County (The Cookery and Summer Kitchen come to mind) it is part of the “Door County” experience and I would recommend that you try it at least once as long as you stick to the Pancakes. You can buy the pancake mix, syrup, and lingonberry sauce if you want to try to replicate the pancakes at home. I tried this once and failed miserably. If you want my advice, leave it to the pros at Al Johnson’s.