Can you can you imagine eating dinner while goats graze on the roof above your head? That’s exactly what happens when you dine at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Arguably one of the most famous restaurant in the state, Al Johnson has had the animals munching on grass for many years.
The Johnson family has deep Swedish and Norwegian roots, so having a turf roof on the restaurant is not unusual. Up through the 19th century, it was common in Scandinavia to build roofs from sod. This was a common way to insulate and waterproof the roof. When the restaurant was built, it drew on this Scandinavian heritage.
The goats themselves, however, are a little more unusual. In 1973, Al redid his roof. His neighbor pestered him to put goats up there. Al resisted the idea, but his friend was determined to see the animals grazing on top of the restaurant. One day, the friend grabbed a goat, climbed a ladder with the goat under his arm, and placed the goat on the roof. The neighbor promptly fell backwards off the ladder and broke several ribs. Nevertheless, the tradition was born.
Thankfully, ladders aren’t used anymore. A ramp and steps have been built for the goats to get up onto the roof. Each morning during the tourist season, the animals are brought in from a nearby farm and spend the day grazing on the lush grass. When the goats are up there, you can even go online and watch the goat cam.
Here’s the link to the video where you can watch the Johnson family members talk about the tradition of goats grazing on the grassy roof. It’s sure to be your most unique dining experience ever.