The 3 Best Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants in 4 NE Wisconsin Cities

I’m going to go ahead and start this with my definition of a “Hole-in-the-Wall” restaurant. To me, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant is a place that is small with limited or no indoor seating. Typically a place where something about the restaurant is deceiving, AKA the food surpasses the expectations set by a usually lack-luster interior or exterior. A hole-in-the-wall to me has an infamous character, a place where not everyone within a 5 mile radius eats there, but everyone in a 5 mile radius HAS eaten there. Places that are either simply great quality, passionately patronized by droves of regulars, or carry a special history or reputation when discussed in conversation. I hope this list finds you well, and gives you a few spots to go next time you and you’re friends are on the road in an unfamiliar area, or you and your partner need a new spot in town to check out.

Green Bay

Al’s Hamburger Shop

Address: 131 S Washington St, Green Bay, WI 54301

Al’s is a Green Bay classic. In the heart of Downtown Green Bay and a few doors down from the Meyer Theater, Al’s has been serving up classic American fast food since 1934! That’s older than McDonald’s (Est. 1940)

Joe’s Texas BBQ

Address: 1800 S Ashland Ave, Green Bay, WI 54304

A quaint and long established eatery, Joe’s recently moved locations to be closer to Lambeau Field. They serve classic barbeque that surpasses the expectations of their small shop.

Taqueria Don Pancho

Address: 1807 N Irwin Ave, Green Bay, WI 54302

This “Hole in the Wall” is such a hidden gem, we haven’t heard from them online since 2016. Taqueria has very high reviews for their authentic Mexican Cuisine at very fair prices. Don’t be scared off by the exterior, the food gets high marks from their customers.

Appleton

Basil Cafe

Address: 1513 N Richmond St, Appleton, WI 54911

Basil Café is on the line as a “Hole-in-the-Wall” The location isn’t huge, but it’s big enough to accommodate, but the exterior makes the real deal feel like a mirage. From the outside, Basil appears to be basic, but once you step foot inside, you’re transported into another world! The food lives up to the expectation set by the interior. Highly regarded in the Appleton community.

Home Burger Bar

Address: 205 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911

Home Burger Bar is reminiscent of comfortable, delicious burger bars in larger cities like Madison and Milwaukee. Tucked in on College Ave Downtown Appleton, Home Burger Bar is clean, quirky, and delivers on their name sake, their burgers.

Mai’s Deli

Address: 104 S Memorial Dr, Appleton, WI 54911

Mai’s Deli is an awesome food shop with an awesome history. For years local immigrants sold their stuffed chicken wings essentially egg rolls but instead of the roll, the insides are stuffed into a chicken wing. Eventually, the family opened Mai’s Deli, and they’ve been consistently packed ever since. Very small, quaint location on the corner of College Ave and Memorial Drive. Mai’s Deli is a great spot for a tasty bite.

Oshkosh

Pete’s Garage

Address: 1514 Oregon St. Oshkosh WI

Pete’s has become somewhat of an unstoppable force in Oshkosh. The place barely has a chance to breath it’s often packed with warm faces, and happy customers.

Co-Owner Ryan at a Halloween event.

Leon’s

Address: 121 W Murdock Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54901

Leon’s covers the Northside of Oshkosh for it’s tasty fast food, and amazing custard needs. In fact, a custard machine from Leon’s was purchased by the Culver family for their first location. I don’t have a source for this, but I heard Craig Culver say this to the owner of Leon’s at an entrepreneurship event at UW Oshkosh (Craig Culver’s alma mater).

Ardy & Ed’s

Address: 2413 S Main St, Oshkosh, WI 54902

Ardy & Ed’s on the flip side, covers the Southside of Oshkosh’s needs. Ardy and Ed’s still has car hops on roller skates that serve their customers.

Sheboygan

Shulz’s Restaurant

Address: 1644 Calumet Dr, Sheboygan, WI 53081

Shulz’s has been around for DECADES! A truly classic American dining experience, and something that you have to see for yourself.

Chester’s Drive-In

Address: 1504 Eastern Ave, Plymouth, WI 53073

Not exactly in Sheboygan, Chester’s is a classic drive in with delicious American fast food and ice cream. The drive-in is over 40 years old.

Harry’s Diner

Address: 2504 Calumet Dr, Sheboygan

Harry’s Diner is a 1950 style diner open for breakfast and lunch. If you’re looking for a unique, quaint spot for breakfast in Sheboygan, Harry’s is a great place to start.

Honorable Mentions

The Booyah Shed – Green Bay

Mr. Taco – Downtown – Appleton

My Lee’s Egg Roll House – Appleton

Rhapsodies – Oshkosh

Notes

Hole-in-the-wall restaurants are interesting because they are always changing. For example, Joe’s Texas BBQ, just moved locations. Plus, sometimes new joints emerge or old ones lose their consistency. As Venture Wisconsin grow, and we learn more about Northeast Wisconsin, we will share the knowledge with you! What’s your favorite hole-in-the-wall? Do you agree with our definition? Let me know in the comments.

8 Outdoor Things to do in Door County that the Tourists Don’t Know About

In 2016, I was a kayak tour guide for the summer. I lived among the locals for 3 months, and while there, I decided that I would find unknown or underappreciated gems in the county. Although this is a good list of some of the hidden gems in Door County, I had to leave a couple secret beaches out for the locals to continue to enjoy. So it looks like you’ll have to do some more digging if you want more true hidden gems. For now, enjoy these secrets of Door County that most tourists never find.

Door County Land Trusts

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Land Trust in Ephraim! Credit: Door County Land Trust

Starting with the Land Trusts is crucial. These are truly hidden gems! There are 14 land trusts in Door County, which are just pieces of land set aside for the public to enjoy that keep the native nature and wildlife in tact. These are all unique ecosystems with diffhttps://wordpress.com/post/venturewisconsin.blog/1690erent sights and trails to see. The Land Trusts are run by a non-governmental organization which is why they are under advertised.

Cana Island Light House

One of Door County’s 11 lighthouses (the third most lighthouses in any US county.) Being off the beaten path and on an island on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula, Cana Island is not as well advertised of an attraction. If you want a unique Door County experience, walk across the land bridge and explore the Cana Island light house!

Newport State Park

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Newport Nightsky. Photo by Denny Moutray

It’s hard to call a state park a hidden gem, but of the FIVE state parks in Door County, Newport State Park is the least know among tourists. A mile or two off the beaten path, Newport is actually IDA certified as a Dark Skies Park and Wisconsin’s only wilderness-designated state park. What that means is that Newport is a huge nature reserve that has very limited infrastructure, so that visitors can get a genuine nature experience!

Mink River Estuary

The Mink River almost cuts through the northern tip of the Door Peninsula. Located just West of Newport State park, the river is spring fed and runs into Rawley’s Bay. A Ramsar certified Wetlands of International Importance. Click the link and ctrl+f “Door County Coastal Wetlands.” The Mink River can be toured via your own kayak or canoe or rented from local companies. The Mink river is home to a large variety of birds and mammals, and is very pristine. SECRET: A hidden gem within a hidden gem is the grass beach and the only public place where you can access the Mink from land! Click the link for approximate directions!

Europe Beach

Another hidden gem on the East side of the peninsula, Europe Bay, Europe Lake, and Europe Beach are basically attached to Newport State Park on the north end. If you visit, you will find an intense and well maintained beach that overlooks the vast Lake Michigan. You will also find peace and quiet. This beach is much less visited, so if you visit the area, especially during the week, you may be visiting it alone. At least with many less people than say, Peninsula State Park’s beach. As for Europe Lake, it joins Clark Lake and Kangaroo Lake as the three impounded lakes of Door County. What’s an impounded lake? You’ll have to visit the nature centers and ask! Mention Venture Wisconsin if you ask. 🙂

Garrett Bay

I would argue Garrett Bay is in the top 3 for hidden gems on this list. It is a small, quick stop that has something for everybody. Just a mile-ish off the main path (Hwy 42), Garrett Bay has a public boat launch where you can skip perfectly flat rocks at the stone beach, launch you kayak, or just look across the bay at the Deathdoor Bluff. If you do bring a kayak or book a tour of the bay with a local kayak tour company, you will find the Fleetwing Shipwreck right off the shore and an amazing view of Door Bluff County Park and the rest of Door County to once you get around the corner. (If you read this far and are wondering which corner, it’s around the left corner.)

Door Bluff County Park

Right next to Garrett Bay, Door Bluff County Park is the hidden gem version of Ellison Bluff County Park. (Another kind of hidden gem you should check out.) The cliffs of limestone become more prominent as you travel north on the peninsula. So naturally Peninsula State Park is not the only spot where you can catch a beautiful bluff. Drive to the flat stone beach at Garrett Bay, skip some stones, and drive 2 minutes to the park to see trails less traveled and a unique perspective of Lake Michigan.

Pick Thimbleberries

Thimble berries are unique to the great lakes region, and are relatively unknown within the general public as they are not sold at many market places. These sweet red berries are widespread in the norther half of Door County. If you are a visitor, a common place you will find them and didn’t even know it is Whitefish Dunes State Park along the hiking trails! Note: They are very soft, so don’t be concerned if you think they are too ripe.

Thimbleberries on a leaf
This is what Thimbleberries look like!

This article should be titled, “The Lake Michigan side of Door County.” Most of the larger towns, shops, and attractions are on the Green Bay side of the Door Peninisula, so don’t be afraid to explore the East side and use these suggestions as an excuse! I hope you like this list and at least check out a few of these awesome things to do outside while you visit one of the Midwest’s favorite touring regions! If I missed any or you try them out, and want to share your tips and experiences with others looking for the less traveled trails of  let me know in the comments.

10 Outdoor Activities to Get You Outside… That Aren’t Hiking

Forest Floor

Even the most seemingly boring places that you may live in this world have parks, trails, and natural areas full of potential and unique wildlife. The reason people don’t visit new parks, nature and wildlife areas, and trails is the same reason people don’t read blog posts word for word, it’s not convenient enough for our instant world. A great way to have the desire to explore new places more often, is to have something to do when you get there. Here are some suggestions of activities and hobbies that you can adopt to motivate you to utilize the outdoor areas in your local area.

Don’t just read the headers, find an activity that jumps out at you and plan a day trip around it for next weekend!

1. Climbing

Climbing can be as professional and dedicated as rock climbing or as simple as finding trees to climb. Climbing a good tree is a childhood activity that gets put on the “adults don’t do this” shelf, and really can be a fun way to interact with nature. Exercise caution while climbing, and climb within your abilities.

2. Hammock

If you don’t like exercise, you like to push the boundaries of extreme leisure, or you just enjoy relaxing, hammocking is a great and low key way of getting outdoors more often.

Hammocking/Extreme Leisure Over a Cliff
Extreme Leisure. Photo by Sebastian Wahlhuetter Photography

3. Canoe or Kayak

If you or a family member don’t already have one, a canoe or kayak can turn a local river, even a brook or stream into a new adventure. You can always get a cheap or inflatable kayak or buy a used boat if you’re budget is low.

4. Swim (Be creative)

As with many of these outdoor activities, the more you do any activity, the more doors open to do more of everything. This happens by being becoming more creative and in better shape. For swimming, you don’t need always need a beach, but you may have to become more comfortable with silt or water that isn’t quite as warm as a hot tub. Swimming creatively could involve a ledge dive, cliff dive, skinny dip, or Frisbee. Be creative and careful and you won’t be disappointed. Skinny dip only where it is legal of course.

5. Slackline

All you need is a heavy duty truck strap and two trees to go and slackline. This is another easy activity that can scale as simple or extreme as you’d like.

Person tight rope walking or slacklining
Slacklining

6. Fishing

Fishing is a popular way of getting outdoors for its enthusiasts, but anyone with a license can fish with an old pole, a bobber, and a worm. You can use a boat or fish off the shore. Fishing is a great way to combine two activities. You can fish from the hammock, fish from the kayak, or hike to a fishing spot.

7. Hunting

Although expensive and not for everyone, hunting or trapping is a great way to get in touch with nature and be outside. Especially a good activity during the colder months leading into winter.

8. Break Out a Camera

Taking pictures is a great excuse to get outside and appreciate the small details of nature. If you don’t like hunting or it’s out of season, photography is a great excuse to sit in a blind and wait for animals to show themselves. You don’t need a DSLR or professional setup. Go out and use your phone or digital camera that’s been in your cabinet since 2007.

Girl holding a camera.
Source: Pexels

9. Biking

Biking is limited to trails if you respect the landscape, but consider looking up mountain biking trails in your area or planning a trip. You never know what you’ll find.

10. Wading, Snow Shoeing, or Cross Country Skiing

These are mixed season suggestions, but trudging through a body of water and walking or gliding on snow is a creative way to have fun, see new things, and be outdoors. Once again you can combing these with other activities like photography and fishing.


Here are ten of unlimited activities that can give you an excuse to visit your local parks and small natural areas. This is a list of things that you can do just about anywhere.

Let us know your favorite outdoor activities. They may even be featured in our next post.