Roots Inn & Kitchen has Fun Twist on Brats

By / Photography By Justin Anderson | November 13, 2017
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Sara and Collin Doherty.
Sara and Collin Doherty.


Collin and Sara Doherty are reconnecting with family roots in Sister Bay with the help of three Bs: beds, breakfasts and brats.

Specialty bratwursts, made by Waseda Farms, are the main food attraction the Dohertys serve to the public at their newly renovated bed and breakfast, Roots Inn & Kitchen (formerly the Inn on Maple). “Brats are a Wisconsin staple that you can pretty much add anything to, like a taco or burger,” explained Sara.

“We receive our produce from Hidden Acres Farm for the week and then we try to get creative,” added Collin. “We purposefully tailor our menu to what’s locally available.”

Baileys Harbor pears, Nueske’s bacon, truffle oil from Fish Creek, chopped cherry jam from Egg Harbor and vegetables from just down the road in Sister Bay fill in the cracks between the juicy brats and chewy pretzel buns. Each brat has a theme, a flavor profile the Dohertys concoct, some with more success than others.

At the top of Roots Kitchen’s popularity list: The “Brunch Brat” – cucumbers, onion, tomato, sprouts, herbed cream cheese and a fresh fried egg; Apple Dill – apples soaked in dill vinegar, with chopped cherry jam spread on the bun; and the “BLT” – bacon, tomatoes, spring greens mix, truffle oil and basil garlic aioli.

Not so popular was “The Elvis” – peanut butter, banana and bacon atop a brat.

“The people who tried it really liked it, but most people didn’t want to try it,” Sara said.

The Orchard Brat featuring pears, walnuts and blue cheese with house chips. Photos by Justin Anderson
The Orchard Brat featuring pears, walnuts and blue cheese with house chips. Photos by Justin Anderson

Accompanying the weekly rotation of two specialty brats is a small pub-style menu the Dohertys created for comfort: The food is easy for guests to enjoy at the end of a long day of sightseeing around Door County, and it’s easy for the Dohertys to prepare and make in their small commercial kitchen. Each Roots Inn guest wakes up to a breakfast made to order by the Dohertys. Sara and Collin cook up such deliciousness as biscuits and gravy; stuffed pastry with veggies, pesto and lemon hollandaise; and a “perfected” breakfast sandwich. The Dohertys continually tweak a menu their guests say makes them feel at home.

“Everything we serve is comfort with a little twist of our own,” Sara said. Those twists extend to Roots Kitchen’s beverage offerings, loaded with as many Wisconsin and Midwest craft beers as possible. The list rotates, with a consciousness toward offering unique beers not being served in other local establishments.

The only beverage that has remained constant is Blake’s “El Chavo” hard cider from Michigan, which fires up the tongue with notes of mango and habañero peppers. That cider is a light accompaniment to Roots’ WI Cheese: mac ’n’ cheese pressed in a waffle iron, cut into strips and served hot and crispy with a side of basil garlic aioli.

Buying a bed and breakfast was not a life dream for either Collin or Sara, both 34 years old. He graduated law school from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and worked as a general practice attorney for three years. She worked with youth and nonprofit organizations. She has a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Minnesota and an undergrad in elementary education. Both worked guest services for Vail Resorts in Colorado, taught English in South Korea for a year, and backpacked through Europe and Southeast Asia.

“We were looking for a business that would support the lifestyle we wanted to live,” Collin said. “We had been living the ski-bum life in Colorado, which allowed us to travel. We wanted to find a source of income that would allow us to travel. Colorado’s cost of living and real estate prices weren’t an option, and Door County is kind of like mountain living.”

A childhood of summers in Door County called Collin back to the peninsula. His grandmother Corrine was born and raised in what today is the “Sweetie Pies” house in Fish Creek. She and her husband, Fritz Woldt, built and operated the Lull-Abi Inn in Egg Harbor. After Fritz died young, Corrine ran the hotel, eventually meeting and marrying Johnny Vieth.

Johnny V’s in downtown Sister Bay, formally known as Johnny’s Cottage Restaurant, was a regular part of Collin’s upbringing, and its famous bread pudding is now its signature dessert. Sara had visited Door County on family vacations, but does not have the same deep family ties.

When looking at business properties to purchase, Sara and Collin waffled on buying a bed and breakfast business.

“We both have restaurant and hospitality business backgrounds,” Collin said. “We wanted to do a restaurant … and this B&B had a commercial kitchen. We toured it, and when we saw the property at the back of the house, we said, ‘We’ve got to get this!’”

Construction of the original building was completed in 1902 by Frank Jischke, a German immigrant to Door County. Jischke operated a meat market there until 1928; the building had survived the devastating fire that demolished much of Sister Bay in 1912, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

For 43 years the building was a bait shop and shoe repair business; then it was renovated into the Renaissance Inn and the White Apron restaurant operated from within its walls as well.

Small design changes were implemented by the Dohertys their first year of ownership (2016) – flipping the downstairs breakfast room and sitting room to take advantage of the commercial kitchen. They created the pub, mixing older furniture with up-cycled materials for the bar and tables.

The best part of the renovation? Finding original hardwood maple floors under the old carpeting. During the winter of 2016-17, Collin and Sara renovated the six guest rooms and bathrooms of the inn. Each room has a theme with touches of Sara and Collin’s lives intermingled. Antiques retained from the previous B&B owners, furniture, art and photographs the Dohertys have collected from their travels all add character to the guest rooms.

“We think each room should feel like a bedroom in our home,” Sara explained. Collin’s law degree adorns one wall of “The Study” room, one picture away from a photo of his grandfather, George, walking with former President John F. Kennedy.

Snapshots of Southeast Asia and Europe, maps of far-off places and nods to some of their favorite stops decorate “The Backpacker” room. None of the guest rooms have televisions, a conscious choice by the Dohertys. And the Inn offers a variety of room sizes.

“We have been seeing a ton of first-time B&B-ers,” Sara said, unsure exactly why. “It could be because we have decorated with a more modern, hip approach. And the pub attracts different types of people. Our guests love that they can simply walk to wherever they want to go in Sister Bay. We really try to highlight that Roots Inn is located off the beaten path, but still in the heart of Sister Bay.”

Roots Inn & Kitchen is open for guests year-round, 2378 Maple Drive, Sister Bay. Roots Kitchen serves lunch five days a week in the summer, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The Inn will be closed for two months in the winter and the Kitchen will have reduced winter hours. For up-to-date info, check out their Facebook page: Roots Inn & Kitchen; or call (920) 854-5107.

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