Wisconsin: Edible Door Door County’s Grasse’s Grill: Built on Family
story by Sue Anschutz • photographs courtesy of Edible Door
Where we come from is just as important as where we are going. As a young boy growing up on his family’s 200-acre farm in northern Door County, Wisconsin, Chef Jimmy Grasse learned the value of hard work from his parents and grandparents and cultivated an appreciation for family traditions and made-from-scratch recipes that delights his customers and still influences his restaurant’s menu today.
Jimmy and Jessica Grasse are the owners of Grasse’s Grill, located in downtown Sister Bay. Together with a dedicated staff, they continue their family practice of thoughtful food preparation with the freshest ingredients, backed by a community-mindedness that emphasizes Door County and Wisconsin products in their modern signature dishes and traditional comfort foods.
Family is important whether it’s the photo of the farm on the menu featuring Jimmy’s Grandmother Grace or the network of families involved with the restaurant’s operation. There are six members of the Grasse family who currently work at the restaurant. Outside the Grasse family, there are three brothers in the kitchen and as well as another set of brothers. A pair of sisters is also employed by the Grasses.
“I had Jimmy say to me the other night that he was the only one in the kitchen without a brother,” said Jessica. “They are all family to us. Jimmy and I couldn’t do it on our own.”
The vintage farm photo featuring Jimmy’s grandmother also underscores the restaurant’s mission.
Chef Sara’s Cherry Pie
“We always talked about wanting to contribute to the health of people, so when we opened the restaurant, we designed a menu as well as a place where we would like to go to eat, offering quality and homemade food for our kids, or serving something quick and casual with micro-crafted beer and wines when relaxing and dining with friends,” she continued.
Grasse’s Grill offers both. The menu features something for everyone, including several vegetarian options, but with burgers and great ribs, too. According to Jessica, Jimmy still prepares food the way his mother does. Family recipes, including his Mother Iva’s Meatloaf and Jessica’s Mother Nana’s Mac n’ Cheese, are customer favorites.
Jimmy’s Grandma Grace tending to the garden on the family farm.
Blended into their lunch, dinner and carry-out dishes are area products representing generations of other local business owners. Trademark dishes like the Harvest Salad features Door County cherries, while the Apple Orchard sandwich incorporates fruit from nearby growers like Seaquist Orchard, locally grown baby spinach and Renards’ cherry white cheddar.
“Farm-to-table freshness and quality is important to us, and we buy from local farms and businesses whenever possible,” she added.
Charlie Henriksen from Henriksen Fisheries provides fish for Wildwood Whitefish and the Whitefish Reuben, and there is a burger option for customers using organic grass-fed beef purchased from Waseda Farms. Local breweries and wineries provide many beer and wine pairings.
At Grasse’s Grill, all soups, dressings, sauces and dips are made from scratch with recipes that Chef Jimmy has carefully refined. The Artichoke & Pesto Spinach Dip as well as the Eagle Trail Trio appetizer, including the Tuscan mashed chickpea hummus, are popular choices.
Menu customization has evolved over time by listening to and asking customers what they like. Staying fresh and innovative continues to be important, and the couple reviews and updates the menu annually using this feedback.
“We review with our staff as we get their input, too,” said Jessica. “And our chefs come up with great daily specials and do scratch-made desserts.”
The restaurant is housed in the building that in the 1930s was home to the Kramer-Grasse Dairy. Vintage photos and family heirlooms adorn the walls of Grasse’s Grill and capture moments of the family’s history. Each piece and picture has a place in the story that brought the family here. The homestead and dairy farm where Jimmy grew up is still his parents’ home. Instead of a dairy farm, it is now run as a hobby farm.
Jessica and Jimmy are celebrating their fifth year in business at Grasse’s Grill after moving here from Madison. While Jimmy’s roots stretch deep into Door County, Jessica is a Gurnee, Illinois, native but frequented Door County while growing up. They always knew they wanted to live and raise a family in Door County and said they are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped this dream become a reality. Most rewarding to the couple are the relationships they have established with their customers, staff and the restaurant’s vendors. A “We Love Local” brochure is available at each table so that guests can see who they regularly partner with.
“Our goal is to provide the community with a great place to dine, to provide our staff with a great place to work and to continue to be a quality business contributing to the good of Door County,” Jessica said.
“Real Food Rooted in Four Generations of Family” is written at the bottom of their menu and is a story about the Grasse family planting their Door County roots over a hundred years ago. This is not only where the Grasses have taken root, but according to Jessica, it is where they belong.
Sue Anschutz is a marketing and communications professional in Door County. Her love of the area merges with her desire to write about it. She and her family reside in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
This story originally ran in the Fall 2016 issue of Edible Door and is reprinted with permission.
Eagle Trail Trio.
If you go . . .
Located in downtown Sister Bay, Wisconsin, Grasse’s Grill is a seasonal restaurant open from April 30 through December. It will open for its fifth season April 30, 2017. Grasse’s Grill is located at 10663 N. Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay, WI. 920-854-1125 grassesgrill.com
For more culinary travel information about Door County, Wisconsin: edibledoor.com