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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

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In Dining

The Summer Kitchen in Ephraim is a Door County landmark. (PHOTO: Barb Tabak)

In Dining

Co-owner Nino Jauregui waits on tables at the Summer Kitchen (PHOTO: Barb Tabak)

In Dining

Armando Jauregui, also a co-owner, runs the kitchen. (PHOTO: Barb Tabak)

Belly up to the soup bar in Door County


EPHRAIM – When the Jauregui brothers were growing up on a farm near Guadalajara, Mexico, they had never heard of Door County, soup bars or cheeseheads. But today Nino and Armando own one of Door County's highest profile restaurants.

Head north on Highway 42 out of Ephraim toward Sister Bay, and you will see the Summer Kitchen on your left. Its extensive plantings, hanging flowers and front porch dining deck snag the eye. Its signature soup bar is known throughout the county.

Although the restaurant was initially called the Farmer's Daughter, the buffet of soups has been featured since the eatery opened in 1975. As the Summer Kitchen, other items, including cashew chicken salad ($12.95), lasagna ($14.95), barbecued chicken ($15.95) and barbecued pork ribs ($16.95) became steady favorites.

The Jauregui brothers emigrated to California from Mexico, taking restaurant jobs in San Bernardino County. Nino was the first to move to Door County, encouraged by an uncle who was already here, and he continued his restaurant career. He found a home waiting tables at the Summer Kitchen, and Armando followed, taking a cook's job at the same cafe.

With his skills in demand, Armando also became head chef at the Greenwood Supper Club, an historic Door County restaurant. He cooked breakfast and lunch at the Summer Kitchen five days a week and dinner at the Greenwood six days a week. In his spare time he cut grass.

The siblings saved their money, and in 2008 they bought the Summer Kitcken, retaining all of the eatery's recipes and features, and adding Mexican dishes. You can still order the homemade granola with bananas, blueberries and cashews ($6.95), and the citrus french toast, dipped in cinnamon batter with a touch of orange ($7.25) for breakfast, but the Summer Kitchen also offers huevos rancheros and a ranchero omelet (both $8.95).

Other Mexican specialties for later in the day include beef and chicken fajitas ($15.95), beef or chicken chimichangas ($14.95) and chicken or veggie mole ($14.95).

Among the restaurant's traditional dinner entrees are deep fried Lake Michigan perch and broiled Door County whitefish (both $17.95).

For lunch and dinner, the extremely popular cashew chicken salad is offered in a pita pocket ($12.95), and sandwiches include a grilled cheese with tomato on sourdough ($10.95) and the Bay Farm, consisting of tuna salad, bacon, tomatoes and melted swiss cheese on sourdough ($13.95).

The soup bar, with five daily offerings, is still the center of attention at the Summer Kitchen, and sandwiches, salads, dinner entrees and Mexican items entitle a customer a cup from the bar. You can count on chicken dumpling, French cabbage and spicy tomato dill to always be on the buffet. The other two daily selections rotate, and the restaurant guarantees it will always have a cream based and a gluten-free soup on the bar.

Customers can sample all five soups for $15.95.

Like all of the baked goods served at the Summer Kitchen, the french bread included with the soup is home made. The restaurant is also known for its frosted cinnamon rolls ($3.95) and wide variety of pies ($4.95).

The Summer Kitchen takes the winter off, closing after Thanksgiving and reopening the first week of April. The shutdown gives the brothers time to work on the restaurant and rental properties they own.

The Jaureguis are family men. Nino's two teenage daughters hostess and wait tables at the restaurant. Sixteen-year-old Clarissa is a track star who went to state in the 800-meter competition.

"Our big satisfaction is to teach our kids how to work, how to be responsible with their lives," Nino said with a smile. He and Armando are certainly providing the example.


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