Family heritage matters to the thirtysomething couple. So does the bounty of local farmers and work of local artists. That’s why their one-year-old business is called Roots Inn and Kitchen, but it’s not your average bed and breakfast lodging.
For starters, they are a generation younger than the average B&B operator. They decorate with vintage equipment from sports they love – snow and water skis, tennis racquets – instead of doilies and lace. Breakfasts are unconventional: One example is cheddar-crusted french toast, topped with sauteed sweet peppers and hollandaise.
Besides maintaining six guestrooms, the innkeepers serve lunch from a 20-seat nook attached to the B&B. On the menu: Mac and cheese pressed in a waffle iron. Tacos filled with Asian-marinated cauliflower and walnuts. Bratwurst from nearby Waseda Farms, served with unusual toppings, Thai to Italian.
“Having the inn allows us to be creative in the restaurant,” Collin says. Most recipes are Sara’s. There is no deep fat fryer.
The signature dessert: bread pudding, topped with whipped cream and surrounded by a warm lemon sauce. The recipe comes from Collin’s stepgrandfather, Johnny Vieth, who drew raves with it at his Door County restaurant after wife Corrine Waldt, now 97, challenged him to lessen the amount of bread wasted.
The family ran an apple orchard where Sweetie Pies bakery now stands, and the Lull-Abi, an Egg Harbor motel that still exists, but under other ownership. So Collin’s Door County roots are deep, and this is where he spent much of his summers as a boy.
He and Sara, childhood friends, after college bummed around in no-stoplight Colorado mountain towns for a couple of years, taught English in South Korea, backpacked through Europe.
Then they returned to school: He got a law degree, she got a master’s in education and work began in jobs they describe as high-stress and all-consuming. Sara worked with the chemically dependent; Collin’s family law work meant “people weren’t coming to you at good times of their life.”
“The B&B life just kind of found us,” he says. They could afford the business investment because of their successful rehab of a house in West Bend, their former home. Living in Door County felt right because of his family history and their time in quiet ski towns.
The B&B and pub-style restaurant, in a 1902 building on the National Register of Historic Places, had prior lives: meat market, shoe repair shop, boardinghouse and, mostly recently, the Inn on Maple.
A mix of oldtime family photos, travel photos, local art, consignment shop treasures and repurposed materials define the space: Wooden spools for electric wire, for example, are varnished and used as dining tables. It seems wrong to put new things here, the innkeepers say.
The young couple, in some ways, hasn’t worked harder: “It’s just a two-person operation for 80 percent of the year,” Collin estimates, but “I’ve never felt happier or healthier.”
Overnight rates at Roots Inn and Kitchen, 2378 Maple Dr., Sister Bay, are $115 to $150. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; closed Wednesday and Thursday. The business is a block from Hwy. 42. rootsinnandkitchen.com, 920-854-5107
Rare is the Wisconsin B&B or homelike inn with a restaurant license to serve meals beyond breakfast. Here are six exceptions.
Baker House, Lake Geneva: Settle in for tea, treats and a guided tour of the 1885 Queen Anne mansion on a Saturday, or visit for brunch with champagne on a Sunday. Above the ornate, first-floor lounging and dining areas are four posh bedrooms to rest that weary head. The mansion looms atop a downtown hill, with unobscured views of Geneva Lake. historichotelsoflakegeneva.com, 262-248-4700
Brambleberry B&B, Taylor: Expect a Scottish theme to décor, livestock and treats at the five-guestroom, farm-based inn that also is home to a winery. Murder mystery dinners happen during cold-weather months; pizza, nachos and other nibbles are sold at the winery on weekends. brambleberrybandb.com, 608-525-8001
Brewery Creek, Mineral Point: Inside the three-story limestone building are five plush rooms for guests, above a popular brewpub that does not keep late-night hours. Think hewn timbers and exposed stone walls. The brewmaster specializes in European-style ales; the menu is big on steak, seafood and pasta. Add a side of sweet corn souffle. brewerycreek.com, 608-987-3298
Green Fountain Inn, Waupaca: Near downtown is a century-old house with baby grand piano, 1920s décor, four upstairs bedrooms and a busy downstairs kitchen known for its bakery, plus gourmet dinners on Friday and Saturday. An indoor-outdoor café serves salads, soups and sandwiches on weekdays. greenfountaininn.com, 715-258-5171
Inn at Cedar Crossing, Sturgeon Bay: In the downtown historic district is an 1884 brick building with many past purposes. Since 1989, the downstairs has been a restaurant that today serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, burgers to pan-fried walleye. Upstairs are nine well-appointed bedrooms. innatcedarcrossing.com, 920-743-4249
Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield: The historically elegant, laid-back and massive Victorian inn has room for one dozen overnight accommodations and a much-loved restaurant whose menus are a mix of French and American cuisine. Go a la carte or indulge in a fixed-price, five-course dinner. rittenhouseinn.com, 715-779-5111