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Introvert’s Guide to the Fox Cities: Dining! Part 1!

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Dan Meyer
Dinner for one, please!

Dinner for one, please!

Food is fantastic. Although the Fox Cities have popped up on the national radar as a bar haven, there are dozens of phenomenal places to eat. Unfortunately for many introverts, dining can be incredibly stressful. Going to any restaurant you’ve never visited brings its own set of questions that grow more stressful with each passing moment: How do I order? How much will I have to spend? Do they tip here? Where do I put my dishes when I’m finished? I can’t give answers to all of those questions for the restaurants I’m going to mention, but I can give options for dining that will appeal to introverts in a broad sense. Among other things, the main criteria I used when examining restaurants were:

  • Price Range: Medium-to-low prices were imperative. I’m looking for a good, low-cost meal, not an engagement dinner. Cheap, high-quality eats are ideal for an introvert that doesn’t want to break the bank.
  • Waitstaff/Lack Thereof: No, I’m not talking about quality of service. If you’re not keen on making conversation, “good” service can actually mean somebody giving you space to eat in peace rather than stopping by every few minutes to make small talk. Restaurants with minimal intrusion were valued over restaurants with more typical seating/waitstaff setups.
  • Seating: Some people may enjoy taking pictures of their food (a practice that warrants a different post entirely), but nobody enjoys being seen while they eat. Even the most extreme narcissist doesn’t enjoy being watched as they try to prevent enchiladas from spilling all over their shirt. Introvert-friendly restaurants offer relatively secluded seating so individuals can act like they’re not spilling their food and dining alone.

I could say that this is an objective, exhaustive list of introvert-friendly restaurants in the Fox Cities, but that just isn’t the case. This list is extremely subjective and is limited to restaurants in downtown Appleton. I’m not being paid to write this, so you’re going to be getting the full truth from me. I’ll be covering other restaurants outside of the downtown area in a follow-up to this list that’ll be posted in mid-July. For now, here are some of the great restaurants for introverts in downtown Appleton.

Brewed Awakenings

Other things that aren't introvert friendly: slow dancing, trust falls, and diets.

Other things that aren’t introvert friendly: slow dancing, trust falls, and diets.

Cafes are perfect for introverts. Sure, there are a lot of couples on Tinder dates and families, but there are almost always enough people sitting alone to prevent you from feeling self-conscious if you’re eating solo. It’s also acceptable to bring work or a book into the café while you eat, giving you the perfect distraction from how loudly you’re chewing. (Yes, it’s loud, and yes, everybody within a 400-foot radius is judging you for it.) Brewed Awakenings has comfortable lighting that won’t make you feel like you’re under a spotlight and the seating is spaced widely enough that you’re not sitting on your neighbor’s lap. The café is a little skewed towards the early birds among us as they tend to close earlier than some of the other cafes in Appleton. Brewed is one of my favorite places to visit on a rainy day and gaze out of a window while sad indie-folk-rock plays softly in the background.

When Can I Go and What Should I Know?

Brewed is your typical counter joint: order at the counter and seat yourself. There’s additional seating out back in the summer and you take care of your own dishes after you eat. Tip your baristas unless you think America’s national pastime is water polo. Open Mon-Fri 7a-5p, Sat 7:30a-4p, Sun 8a-3p.

Green Gecko Grocer and Deli

There are a few more things on the menu than there used to be. (via Green Gecko's Facebook page)

Back in the good old days before something called a “menu” took up all their chalkboard space. (via Green Gecko’s Facebook page)

Green Gecko is one of my favorite places to go for classic deli-style sandwiches. The food is always delicious and the owners are always incredibly friendly without being intrusive. The restaurant’s ambiance is markedly different from other restaurants on this list: the deli has high ceilings and natural light spills in through the large windows along Richmond Street. The main dining area is open, but manages to avoid being intimidating. Any overzealous planners or those with menu-obsession will be delighted to find their menu on their website.

When Can I Go and What Should I Know?
Seat yourself at the Green Gecko; after finding a table, someone will approach you and help you in traditional restaurant fashion. After finishing your meal, you pay at the register near the exit. Don’t worry about your dishes. Make sure you tip, assuming you’re not the type of person who puts vegetables on their ice cream. Open Mon-Fri 7:30a-8p, Sat 8a-8p. Closed Sundays.

Little Diner Xpress

Nice try, salad. You're not breakfast food and you never will be. (Hey! This salad is from Little Diner!)

Nice try, salad. You’re not breakfast food and you never will be. (Hey! This salad is from Little Diner!)

I’m not going to lie: I love breakfast food. This isn’t the result of an obsession with Parks and Rec (although it’s a great show) and I’m not just saying it because I like eating breakfast when I’m hungry. When I say I love breakfast food, it’s because there is a special place in my heart reserved for omelets, French toast, regular toasts, biscuits and gravy, coffee, and every other breakfast item imaginable (that place, more specifically, is in my arteries). This deep and abiding love for breakfast naturally makes me inclined to appreciate diners like the Little Diner Xpress. Little Diner doesn’t just serve breakfast: they’ve got you covered on other staples like steak and burgers.

When Can I Go and What Should I Know?

Little Diner is a seat-yourself diner, with a waiter/waitress assisting you once you’ve picked out the perfect spot. After your meal, bring your receipt up to the register to pay. Tipping is expected unless you’re a mean person who insults puppies in your free time. Little Diner is open 24 hours, every day. Sorry, did you catch that? THEY’RE OPEN ALL THE TIME. One more thing to love.

Mr. Taco

You can eat until you're full, but you'll still want more. (via Ashlee Crosno on Facebook)

You can eat until you’re full, but you’ll still want more. (via Ashlee Crosno on Facebook)

Mr. Taco is one of my new favorite restaurants. When it’s “on,” it’s quite possibly some of the best Mexican food in the Fox Cities. The interior of the restaurant is worth noting: this place is not for the claustrophobic if you’re eating in. There are six seats at the main counter with another four along a separate counter that faces the opposite wall. This may be a turn-off for some diners, but the small interior is rather endearing. (If the size of the dining area is a sticking point for you, you can also buy for carry-out.) Although I have no spice tolerance whatsoever, I can’t imagine a future where I don’t visit Mr. Taco on a regular basis. I could simply order Mr. Taco’s milder dishes, but I’m willing to walk around College Ave looking like I’m on the verge of tears if it means I can continue to enjoy fantastic Mexican food.

When Can I Go and What Should I Know?

Order first at Mr. Taco, then take a seat. After you’re done eating, you can leave your dishes at your seat. Due to Mr. Taco’s location along the bar crawl and their late hours, families and the faint of heart might want to keep their visits to daylight hours. Open Mon-Thurs 11a-8p, Fri-Sat 11a-3a. Closed Sundays.

 My Lee’s Egg Roll House

"But Dan, where will I find the time to visit all of these great restaurants?" Relax. Great food will find you.

“But Dan, where will I find the time to visit all of these great restaurants?” Relax. Great food will come to you in due time.

My Lee’s Egg Roll House has a cozy interior; there aren’t more than a dozen seats in the building. As with any small deli, café, or restaurant, smaller seating areas are a blessing and a curse. If you seat yourself and eat your meal in the restaurant, you become painfully visible to other patrons. (Although if we’re being honest, most people are more concerned with eating their egg rolls than they are with that ugly shirt you’re wearing. You had so many options and you chose that shirt? Step your game up.) On the other hand, the seating area is small enough that it’s not strange if you order your food to go. No matter where you eat your egg rolls, the rolls My Lee makes are absolutely fantastic. My Lee’s Egg Roll House is introvert-friendly for another reason: the menu is much smaller than traditional restaurants. At My Lee’s, you can get great egg rolls and some delicious sides, but that’s about it. There isn’t any waiting in line, sweating and panicking as the people behind you wonder how a grown adult could be so cripplingly indecisive.

When Can I Go and What Should I Know?

Order at the counter when you visit Mylee’s. Tipping is suggested unless you think Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon is a cinematic masterpiece. They’ll bring your food out to you. Open Tues-Sat 10a-8p, Sun 10a-6p. Closed Mondays.

Hopefully this is a good start! Now go try something new so you can justify eating cereal for dinner every other day this week. I’ll be off next week but I’ll be back after that with some tips on solo trips to the beach!

What are your favorite introvert-approved eateries in downtown Appleton? Let us know in the comments!

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