Cool Nights, Hot Bites

Area eateries make hot dinners easy with pick-up options.

Cold, dark winters don’t deter Fox Citians from stopping to pick up meals on the drive home! But dishes that don’t arrive hot on a snowy winter night can quickly spoil anyone’s dinner plans. Pick your platter and ready your fork. No matter the occasion or group size, area restaurants, delis and markets in the Fox Cities have “hot, to-go” covered.

Solo-size Servings

Whether you’re craving a snack-size option on the way to a game or a sit-down candle-lit entrée with that special someone, there are scores of local selections.

If you think pork loin with apple cider demi-glace sounds too fancy, you haven’t been to Zuppas in Neenah. Select any item off the menu at Zuppas and it can be ready for you to take home in a matter of minutes. Whether you’re shopping in the deli, making a selection from the daily special menu or choosing from the take-and-bake choices or café menu, local ingredients go into all of Zuppas’ entrées, according to owner Peter Kuenzi.

“You don’t have to wait 30 minutes to pick up or pay the price like in most high-end restaurants,” Kuenzi says. “We’re located in a residential neighborhood so you could pick up and be serving a hot meal at home in five minutes.”

If you’re in a rush and have milk and bread on your list, make a pass by the Valley Fair location of Copps in Appleton. The International Hot Foods Bar is the only one of its kind north of Milwaukee. More than 18 hot items line the bar for lunch and dinner daily with a menu that includes many options, which are rotated in and out.

“Everything served at lunch is taken down and cooked fresh for evening pick up,” says Larissa Engstrom, deli manager. From Firenze creamy shells and pork roast to eggplant Parmesan torta and sesame ginger stir-fry, it’s possible to satisfy any craving and any number of diners with its convenient compartmentalized containers.

When hunger drums up, stuffed chicken wings from Mai’s Deli, downtown Appleton, are perfect for hand-held dining. Carefully deboned, stuffed and grilled, the wings are filled with a mixture of bean thread noodles, carrots, onion and cabbage.

The deli introduced a new variety with the help of its customers last fall. “The newest stuffing includes shiitake mushrooms, red and green bell peppers and onions, as well as bean thread noodles,” says Thong Vue, deli manager.

The deli also offers easy-to transport egg rolls, which are stuffed with the same filling as the wings.

Eating on the run goes hand-in-hand with tamales. You can find them at Reyes Bakery in Appleton in two varieties, red and green, which are brought in from Appleton’s El Azteca Mexican restaurant.

But don’t let the colors fool you, says owner Maria de los Angeles. The red tamale is made with pork and mild Ancho and Guajillo chilis, tomatoes, garlic and special seasoning. The green tamale features a mixture of spicy green chiles, green tomatoes, garlic and chicken.

The soup is on at the Meat Block in Greenville. The made-from-scratch line includes chicken noodle, which is made with a heavier frozen dumpling noodle, freshly diced carrots, celery and onion or cream-based white chicken chili. This fall the deli added chicken tortilla soup to its daily menu. “We also offer soups of the week, including loaded baked potato or stuffed green pepper,” says owner Phil Schmidt.

The market also offers a diversity of frozen meals, including beef or chicken enchiladas, chicken Alfredo and stroganoff with beef tips, which can be baked at home for 35 minutes.

If you’re craving a single-serving of white chicken chili on your way home from the office downtown, Fratellos Riverfront has it ready for pick up complete with a crunchy tortilla bowl.

That’s not to say you can’t take other menu items hot to go. “All menu items are pick-up ready with a call 10 to 15 minutes before,” says Andrea Hanke, server at Fratellos. “I would recommend any of the seafood or pasta items [such as blackened chicken pasta] for take out.” She adds that all meals are individually packaged and served with soup or salad in addition to a loaf of bread.

Family of Fare

At Zuppas, large family-style menu items include four-cheese macaroni and cheese and take-and-bake lasagnas, such as classic meat, spinach-Portobello mushroom, seafood or vegetable lasagna Alfredo, all of which serve nine or more guests. “If you don’t have the time to wait for the take-and-bake lasagna to thaw [before cooking] at home, call in advance,” Kuenzi says. Zuppas will thaw and bake your selection for hot pick-up later the same day.

Victoria’s, downtown Appleton, also offers its full Italian-style menu for take-out orders and delivers pans of lasagna or other specialty pastas to businesses in the Fox Cities. Individual entrée orders are served with the same soup or salad and dinner roll, as you would get in the restaurant. You can also order a bottle of wine with an entrée.

If a pan of hearty lasagna is not on your radar, soup is a desirable option on a cold night. While Mary’s Family Restaurant, with two locations in Appleton, will make a full chicken dinner, its soup is also available in 60-oz. containers.

One type in particular––Mary’s chicken dumpling soup––keeps the cooks busy making several batches a day at each location.

“We sell the single 15-oz. pint of soup but our most popular is the family size container,” says Tim Huth, owner with his wife Sue. It can easily feed a family of five.”

In a matter of minutes it’s possible to bring the flavor of restaurant dining to your home without having to boot up the oven.

—By Jamie Popp

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