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Food for Thought

Twelve months of dining scene updates, broken down in one digestible review

Fresh Faces

Welcoming a new class of Fox Valley restaurants

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Bona Fide Juicery // Image by Theo Wecker

Bona Fide Juicery, Appleton 

When Chris Strauss traveled the West Coast, he was impressed by the prevalence of fast, healthy dining options. Strauss and his business partner Nicole Lindquist decided to bring the organic offerings he enjoyed on the road home to Wisconsin, where the fast food landscape consisted mostly of burgers and fries. The duo opened Bona Fide Juicery in De Pere in May 2017 and their second location on Appleton’s College Avenue opened in February. “Everyone is busy, so the philosophy here is quick, convenient grab-and-go health food,” Strauss says. The menu focuses on fresh juices, smoothies, toast with toppings and Instagram-worthy smoothie bowls. A smoothie bowl, which can be eaten as a complete meal, starts with the smoothie base and is topped with an assortment of ingredients like fresh or dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Strauss says the clientele at Bona Fide ranges from high school students to certified “juice freaks,” but it’s a great option for anyone looking to make small, yet significant improvements to their diet. “This is a good stepping stone for people to go in the right direction,” he says.

All Tied Up Floral Café, Darboy 

Life’s simple pleasures include cupcakes and flowers. When you are in need of either, head to All Tied Up Floral Café, which opened last October in Darboy. The cupcakery and cafe has an industrial feel, featuring weathered wood and metal decor against a cement floor. Despite this, the space is cozy with leather chairs, couches and table arrangements that accomodate about 20 people. The cafe offers scratch-made bakery items, with an emphasis on creative cupcakes, baked by co-owner Da’Neil Spencer. Each week, cupcakes come in not just standard flavors, but specialties like cherry cola, blackberry lemon and caramel corn. Guests can order handcrafted espresso from the full coffee bar as well as soup and salad from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Co-owner Aaron Phillipson heads the flower side of the business which includes floral arrangements for events, retail and floral arrangement classes once a month. Spencer’s vision for All Tied Up is “to expand and become well known in the community — to have regulars that come and hang out in our shop and enjoy the atmosphere.”

LevelOne Restaurant & Lounge, Neenah 

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LevelOne Restaurant & Lounge // Image by Jordan Ashwood

Since it opened on November 28, LevelOne Restaurant & Lounge in Neenah’s DoubleTree by Hilton has been serving contemporary American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The location was previously Remington’s Restaurant in the Riverwalk Hotel. The restaurant’s interior vibe is still upscale, but with more modern touches like straight back couches and pendant lights. Executive Chef Richard Milton developed the new menu. “One of my favorite dishes on the dinner menu is the seafood gnocchi trio,” he says. “We make the gnocchi in house. It has salmon, shrimp and scallops cooked in a butter, white wine and lemon sauce.” The menu also features more sandwiches, appetizers and fresh options, says Food and Beverage Manager Jessica Frizzell. The bar and lounge features a selection of craft beers, wine and cocktails. LevelOne will be hosting Easter brunch, with plans to offer regular Sunday brunch in the near future. (Remington’s had previously offered a popular Sunday brunch and locals are anxious to see something similar return, Frizzell says.) So far, Milton says the clientele has been an even mix of hotel guests and local residents. “We want the public to come in,” he says. “I know this was a big location before and I want it to be an even bigger location now.”

Sabino’s Latin & Asian Bistro, Neenah 

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Sabino’s Latin & Asian Bistro

Neenah bid farewell to Cy’s Asian Bistro, a staple of its downtown, in 2016. Last August, Sabino’s Latin & Asian Bistro took over the location and retained some of Cy’s most beloved Asian dishes while infusing their own Latin staples. The restaurant is owned by Mari Ortiz along with her husband, Emilio Sabino, and his brothers, Alfonso and Joaquin. The brothers had been cooks for the former owners, Cy and Vong Thounsavath, who offered them the use of the restaurant’s name, menu and recipes, or the freedom to launch their own concept. “Originally we were going to do Latin all the way,” Ortiz said in an interview for our January issue, “but as we were remodeling, so many people knocked on the door or called asking what’s going on with Cy’s that we decided to do 50 percent of his popular dishes, 50 percent ours. [Emilio and his brothers] are from Oaxaca, Mexico, so we wanted to add some dishes from there.” Some dishes, such as the curry burrito, are a hybrid of styles. The Mexican-style burrito is stuffed with steak or chicken, rice, queso fresco, onions and cilantro and is drizzled with your choice of curry – red, green, sweet or fusion, which is a mix of red and sweet curry.

Harmony Pizza Cafe, Appleton

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Harmony Pizza //Image by Jordan Ashwood

Harmony Pizza Cafe opened on W. Wisconsin Avenue last December as a joint effort between Lawrence University professor Matty Burns and alumni Polly Dalton and Oren Jakobson. The group launched the restaurant named in honor of Appleton’s Harmony Cafe, which closed in 2014. Burns was inspired by Harmony Cafe’s “Check it at the Door Declaration” that called for patrons to leave all biases outside the establishment. Harmony Pizza strives to capture that spirit of inclusivity and safety that Harmony Cafe once offered. “We need to sell pizza to stay open, but more importantly we’d like to create a feeling of worthiness in everyone who comes to share in this,” he says. “That’s in everything we do, from the sourcing of food, how we treat each other, the pricing, everything. We are all in this together 100 percent.” The menu, executed by Harmony’s culinary team which includes Julia Blair and Forrest Bricco, offers about half a dozen Neapolitan style pizzas including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, a couple fresh salads and local beer on tap. Currently Harmony Pizza is open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday. Burns hopes to soon expand the hours of operation, eventually including breakfast, to more closely mimic the hours Harmony Cafe was open. The environment at Harmony Pizza is as special as the food. Community guitars are available for anyone to play and the work of local artists hangs on the walls. A “Pay it Forward Pizza” gift card sits at the front counter where orders are taken. Patrons can contribute to the card’s balance if they wish, allowing everyone the ability to buy a pizza when they need one. All of this exists, says Burns, to make the world a better place, one pizza at a time. “Good manners, good food and a happy life can be connected in some way by a deeper principle,” Burns says.

Wildflower Pizzeria, Appleton 

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Wildflower Pizzeria // Image by Jordan Ashwood

Rusty Leary cut his teeth in the restaurant industry as a server at Carmella’s Bistro and, later, as front of house manager at SAP Brunch, Brown Bag & Bakery, both in Appleton. The restaurants are owned by sisters Nicole and Kristen DeFranza, who Leary describes as “hospitality geniuses.” The experience and support Leary received during his six years working for the DeFranzas inspired him to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant of his own. Leary launched Wildflower Pizzeria, with a targeted opening of late March. “When you think of a wildflower, it’s this beautiful thing that takes absolutely no effort on anyone’s part to produce, but it creates a canvas of all these colors and textures and aromas,” he says. “That translates to the type of food we want to serve.” The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday as well as for Sunday brunch. The Mediterranean-inspired menu, which rotates weekly, features a handful of seasonal small plates, a couple of house-made pasta dishes and breads, entrees based on ingredient availability and about eight Neapolitan style wood-fired pies. “Neapolitan pizza is such a beautiful platform for the style of cooking that I love and that our team is really great at,” Leary says. “If you have poor ingredients, it shows, but if you have awesome ingredients, they thrive.” The kitchen team is led by Head Chef Megan Martzahl, whom Leary worked with previously at Carmella’s, and Kitchen Manager Ben Leanna. “Our chefs are passionate about the relationships with our farmers,” Leary says. “We want to use premium ingredients from growers who are passionate about their product.”

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