From new digs to names changes, these standbys shook things up this year.
New digs: Wilder’s Cutting Edge Bistro, Appleton
On December 19, Wilder’s Cutting Edge Bistro opened in its new location on Oneida Street (formerly Mojitos Latin Cuisine). The restaurant had operated for seven months on Northland Avenue. Owner Terrance Wilder says the new space has a kitchen about three times the size of the Northland location, an outdoor patio and a back room primed for special events and caterings that he hopes to have running this spring. “I’m taking baby steps because it’s a lot of room to fill,” he says. The bistro’s menu focuses on comfort food that is “Cajun accented with Southern undertones,” Wilder says. Guests will recognize many of the items from the previous menu, with a few additions and plans to change things up more significantly come spring. A few popular dishes are the mahi tacos, lobster mac and cheese and house-smoked meats like tenderloin and ribs. Food and drink specials are offered monthly. “With specials, I push the envelope every month to see how far I can take it,” Wilder says, who points to the gyro burger made with ground lamb and beef topped with his spin on tzatziki sauce. Wilder runs a Southern special every month, like the Mississippi hot plate, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish, with flavors that pay homage to his family from Mississippi – Wilder says his grandparents are the ones who taught him how to cook. “You’ll see a hand painted picture of them when you walk in the door,” he says. “This is all because of them.”
New look: Kaukauna Coffee & Tea
Last November, Kaukauna Coffee & Tea (kc&t) got a makeover. The cafe, which had already leaned a little retro, got a 1950s redo with plenty of mid-century modern flair. “It’s been nine years since I took over and we’ve grown so much,” says Ali Zimmerman, owner of kc&t. “We had to modify to make the space work with what we’re doing.” Changes to the diner-style cafe counter and the kitchen area increased space and created a more efficient workflow. The restrooms were redesigned, moved and updated with new fixtures. More seating options and tables were added, along with a children’s play area. Fun touches like the red and Tiffany blue color scheme and antique furniture from Zimmerman’s family personalize the space. The renovation allowed Zimmerman to expand the breakfast menu and to bake more items in house. Zimmerman says the renovation was a long time coming, so it’s rewarding to have it finally complete. “It’s more open and brighter,” she says. “We are a bright spot.”
New digs: Il Angolo, Appleton
After operating for more than a decade at their Appleton Street location, the owners of Il Angolo Resto-Bar are moving the upscale Mediterranean restaurant to a bigger, more prominent College Avenue space. “The new space is two times bigger than where we are right now,” says Conrado Lopez, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Oscar. “We will be able to do more private events and serve more people in the bar area.” The move to West College Ave is planned for late March. The venue was formerly X-tra 920, a nightclub and bar that often hosted live music. Il Angolo’s change of scenery will also bring some changes to the menu. “We are going to change the wine list by adding more wines and have a bar menu focused on small portions, like a tasting menu,” Lopez says.
New concept: The Local Neighborhood Grill, Grand Chute
It’s been a year of change for restaurateurs Oscar and Conrado Lopez. The brothers, who also own Il Angolo Resto-Bar, decided to close operations of their Spanish restaurant, Castilla Bistro & Tapas, in favor of something a little more familiar to local diners. “A lot of our customers thought we served Mexican food,” Conrado Lopez says. “They didn’t know the difference between Mexican and Spanish food, so people were asking for chips and salsa.” Some customers embraced the Spanish-style tapas, small plates and paella, but not enough to keep the doors open, Lopez says. Castilla closed in mid-July and in December, The Local Neighborhood Grill opened in its place. The family-friendly bar and grill serves artisan pizzas, pastas, appetizers, wings, burgers, salads and entrees. The bar focuses on exclusively Wisconsin-brewed craft beers. “People are more familiar with [the concept],” says Lopez, who still enjoys offering guests a little something unexpected. “You can get a hamburger or pizza any place, but we try to make ours different. We use cheeses like blue cheese and asiago on our hamburgers and cured meats for pizzas.”
New look: Stone Arch Brewpub, Appleton
Stone Arch Brewpub in Appleton underwent some major changes this year. The building was built in the mid-1800s and was last remodeled in the 1970s, says Steven Lonsway, president and brewmaster. He says the restaurant’s small kitchen footprint had always been a challenge, so in February it underwent a complete remodel in just one week. “The walls are three-and-a-half feet thick, so we couldn’t expand the kitchen, but we reconfigured it to make it more efficient,” he says. “Working with an old building is a challenge, but it’s a challenge we love because it’s part of who we are.” The renovation included new equipment, including a smoker and pizza oven, that will allow the chef team to experiment with new techniques. Guests will immediately notice the bar renovation which was completed in October. Lonsway says everything in the bar is new except for the walls and ceiling. The carpeting that covered the floor and bar front was removed and the new bar front is made with from repurposed barrels. The bar’s back wall now features a stone arch that mimics the upstairs tap room. “I’d say it has quite a different vibe,” Lonsway says. “The bar renovation also allowed us to increase our on tap offerings from 11 beers and one root beer to 14 beers and seven gourmet sodas we make here,” Lonsway says
New owners: Koreana, Appleton
Last fall, Kou and Janey Lee took ownership of Koreana Restaurant, a longtime staple of the Appleton dining scene. The Korean restaurant closed in July due to the retirement of one of the owners. When the Lees reopened it in December, fans of the 20-year-old restaurant were thrilled. “My wife and I love hosting. Our passion is food,” says Kou Lee, who worked in grocery store management for the last 10 years. Visitors will be happy to see some of the same dishes they remember from the previous owners, who worked with the Lees through the transition. But not everything will remain the same. “Nobody can cook like your mom,” Lee says. “We will keep a lot of the traditional Korean dishes intact, but we promised ourselves that we would bring something new to the table.” Lee plans to infuse the restaurant’s menu with Thai, Laotian and Southeast Asian dishes. He also intends to expand the sushi menu and tap into the popularity of Japanese ramen. Lee hopes the restaurant will continue to be a place where people can meet their neighbors, which now includes his own family. “The reason we do this is to connect with different people, races and cultures, because food has the power to bring us together,” Lee says.