Food for Thought: The Tales of Two Coffeehouses

A pair of coffee shops get added to the Fox Cities lineup

White subway tile? Check. Reclaimed pallet wood tables? Check. Organic, fair-trade espresso beans that get turned into carefully crafted beverages complete with photo-worthy latte art? Check and check. South Kaukauna experienced a bit of a heatwave last August with the opening of Wildfire Coffeehouse, a modern rustic cafe located at the corner of CE and Highway 55.

Via Wildfire Coffeehouse on Facebook

Caleb Fidlin manages the coffee house owned by his parents. His father, Steve Fidlin, also owns 3:13 Sales Groups in Appleton. Wildflower currently has seven employees including Fidlin, who made a bit of a pivot coming from a career in construction. “My girlfriend and I were toying with the idea of opening a coffee shop sometime down the road as a side business. The next day my parents said we are opening a coffee shop and you’re going to run it,” Fidlin says. “It was kind of spontaneous. We started pricing things out in April and we opened in mid-August.” The menu features salads, soups, sandwiches, paninis and Breadsmith bakery items such as scones, muffins, cookies and dessert breads.

Via Wildfire Coffeehouse on Facebook

Fidlin says the coffee house panini is one of the menu staples, as is the s’mores-inspired Wildfire Mocha. Wildfire serves fair-trade coffee beans from Terra Verde Organic Coffee Roaster in Chilton and all the meats and cheeses on the menu come from Cedar Creek Meats in Appleton. Supporting local businesses was important from the start, Fidlin says, because it aligns with Wildfire’s mission of being a community-minded coffee shop. “I like coffee, but I’m a big people person. I love the idea of having a community space and that’s our focus here,” Fidlin says. The Kaukauna location temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but will resume operations with a limited schedule on April 28. Takeout will be offered Tuesday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m and Saturday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. A second Wildfire location with a drive-thru is planned to open in Kimberly.

Meanwhile, downtown Menasha got a coffee shop makeover with the opening of Koi Coffee and Tea last August. It replaced Your Daily Grind, a coffee shop that operated in the same location since 2016. Husband and wife team Derek and Ashley Lund own and operate the cafe, which is their first food service venture. Ashley’s background is in engineering and design, Derek works as an auto electrician. They both maintain full time jobs outside of the cafe, but spent the last five years dreaming up their side business. “Doing a coffee shop was our first idea,” Derek Lund says. “We pursued this aggressively and within that fifth year of looking around, this spot opened up and it’s right down the road from our house so we just went for it.”

Via Koi Coffee and Tea on Facebook

The Lunds added new signage, replaced the bakery case and installed self-ordering kiosks. The back hallway will soon feature work by local artists in a gallery and market space. Koi Coffee and Tea offers a collection of 25 teas and a rotating lineup of six to 12 Counter Culture brand coffees daily. Lund says Counter Culture offers coffees with unusual notes that coffee nerds will appreciate which made it a perfect addition to the menu. “We have some fun stuff,” Lund says. “We have things like really high-end matcha and beetroot lattes. I recently found coffee tea, which uses the leaves of coffee plants to make tea from it.”

Via Koi Coffee and Tea on Facebook

The recently expanded food menu includes wraps, paninis, breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Bakery offerings, made by Ashley, include croissants, bagels, scones, pies, cakes, muffins and brownies. Lund says the Keto-friendly waffles and bakery items have been especially popular. The coffee shop in now offering takeout and delivery options. Orders can be made through their iOS/Android app, website, or scheduled for delivery on Eat Street and Uber Eats. Bakery boxes and custom KETO bakery boxes can be deliver as well.

Get more dining scene updates in Food for Thought, available May 1.

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