Grand Opera House


Food for Thought

Growth Spurts

Big Pot & Grill, Appleton

Formerly Rice Market and then FOB Seafood Shack, Big Pot & Grill opened in November 2018, featuring a menu fusing Cajun flavors with Vietnamese food. Owner Yee Vue and her husband Thong Vue took over the restaurant from Yee’s brother, Lor Lee, and made some changes to the menu. Focusing on seafood boils flavored with Asian spices, the result is a Viet-Cajun fusion. “We didn’t want to focus on seafood,” says Yee Vue. “We wanted to focus on grilled food, things simmered in pots, a wider variety of items.” The name Big Pot & Grill was born. A popular restaurant for dinner, Vue says the seafood boil is the main dinner attraction, as it’s the perfect dish to enjoy and eat with friends or family. “It’s not finger food,” laughs Vue. “There’s not enough time for it during lunch.” The menu also offers a seafood combo. Their Cajun boil offers a few different flavors of spices, including garlic butter, lemon pepper, Thai chili, hot and sour, and lemongrass garlic. Modifications can also be made to accommodate a vegetarian diet. “We’re comfortable going out of the box,” Vue says. “Our seafood boils are very unique, with unique sauce flavors you can’t find anywhere else. The whole experience of it is really just enjoying seafood and having a great time.” -KY

Draft Gastropub, Appleton

Grand Chute’s Draft Gastropub was born out of a strong work ethic. Co-owner Shirley Bullock-Vasquez named the restaurant after her Belgium-born mother, who gained the moniker “Belgium draft horse” for her dedicated work ethic she displayed when she arrived in the United States following World War II. Located at 664 W. Ridgeview Drive, Bullock-Vasquez and the team at Draft Gastropub have presented guests in the Fox Valley an upscale, innovative menu with fresh and locally sourced ingredients since 2016. Their internationally inspired menu, craft cocktails, craft beers and high-end bourbons and whiskey have developed such a following that when space became available next door to Draft Gastropub, Bullock-Vasquez decided it was time to expand.

“We had to turn parties away because it’s very difficult for us to seat private parties because of the long wait times we have here,” she explained. “We were turning them away as many as three a day in November and December. Also, because we have such a long wait on weekends for people – sometimes it’s an hour to two hours to get a table – we really wanted to get those people seated earlier.”

The expansion into the space next door will allow Draft Gastropub the ability to have two separate dining areas, which will seat approximately 35 to 40 people. The space can also encompass one large dining area for wedding rehearsal dinners, larger groups or other events for approximately 70 people. When events are not scheduled for the space, it will be able to accommodate overflow dining during busy times.

Bullock-Vasquez is excited and eager to open the expansion, with early May the current estimate for its completion. The ability to expand just a few years into ownership of Draft Gastropub can be seen as a testament to the unwavering passion that was passed down to Bullock-Vasquez from her mother. What they have built at Draft Gastropub in the last three years reinforces her belief that family is important, hard work always pays off and that every dish is a creation that you want to be proud of.

“It’s a nice problem to have, a very good problem to have,” Bullock-Vasquez added of the need for an expansion. “We wanted to definitely be more accommodating to our guests.” -MD

Le Prince French Crepes, Kaukauna

After three years of being a well-known food truck, owner Amri Prince has transformed Le Prince French Crepes into a permanent restaurant in October 2018. “I had more clients and followers who supported my business anywhere I went,” Prince says. “I sold the food truck and now I am going to focus on my creperie.” With the big change from the truck to the restaurant, the menu will be expanding soon. Prince hopes to add new things such as fresh juice, smoothies and muffins. There are also plans to add a coffee shop in the creperie as well. “The clients’ only reason to come is the crepes, but I think the updates are needed,” Prince says. “As a small investor, it’s not easy to grow up fast so every step takes time.” Since it was hard to operate the food truck all year, customers will now be able to enjoy Le Prince French Crepes year round.” -SW

McGuinness Irish Pub, Appleton

“The building, being made in 1880, has an incredible history,” McGuinness Irish Pub owner Matt Miller says. “We hope to pay homage to that, honor the past and to be a successful dining restaurant.” Miller purchased the building that housed both the pub and Mystic Ireland after the retail store decided to close, which happened in April 2018. Since then, the pub has expanded its space to include its new Harp Room, which is available for different events and parties. To preserve the authentic Irish feel, the room will be decorated with musical Irish items, specifically the harp, as it’s the national symbol for Ireland. McGuinness Irish Pub is also hoping to expand more inside with a bigger kitchen and outside with a beer garden near its back parking lot. The pub believes it will also be well-received with the Irish Festival coming to Appleton in 2020. “Not being a sports bar, we offer something different to downtown and we love being a part of the community,” Miller says. “We don’t want to lose what we have been doing, but rather expand it.” -SW

Jaripeo Mexican Grill, Appleton

After remodeling the old Happy Joe’s Restaurant on East Evergreen Drive to become Jaripeo Mexican Grill in 2016, owners Oscar and Laura Sandoval realized the bar area during  Happy Hour was just too crowded. In 2018, it underwent an extensive remodel that included backing up the entire extra-large bar itself several feet to the south and adding cocktail tables between the bar and the booths. The new bar side can now handle twice as many customers.  There is also a banquet room that can seat up to 115 people in the back for private parties.

Business continues to grow as more and more families utilize the soccer fields and Badger Sports Park, which is across the street from Jaripeo Mexican Grill, says Oscar. -CK


Apollon, Appleton

Apollon will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in Downtown Appleton this month. Apollon owner Craig Persha says, “There have been places that have come and gone, but we are one of the few places that have been downtown for that long.” To share its joy with the community, the restaurant will be creating a special menu that will be available April 8-13. Customers will be able to choose from an array of options that Apollon doesn’t normally have for a five-course dinner. Within the past year, there have also been a couple different changes to the menu as well. A popular update includes a new option of adding mushroom sauce-based filet dishes. “We just hope to keep doing what we’re doing and hit 25 more years,” Persha says. -SW

New Owners

GingeRootz Asian Grille, Appleton

GingeRootz gained two new owners, Dale Chu and Mylee Xiong, in March 2018. Chu and Xiong were both workers at GingeRootz before moving to co-owners. Over the past 15 years, Chu has transitioned from different jobs in the restaurant starting as a part-time server to full-time server, bartender, the first assistant manager and he has also helped in the kitchen. Xiong began working at GingeRootz four years ago, and was a kitchen manager before becoming co-owner. Chu says, “The biggest change in becoming the owner was gaining a broader view of the restaurant. Things that I didn’t think could get better can now.” One update GingeRootz has done is create a new carryout service in the front of the restaurant. It will also be undergoing a remodel that will be done in mid-April. The layout of the restaurant will be changed and will include brand new tables and chairs. One goal GingeRootz has for the future is to design and build a food truck for 2020. “With the level of service and quality of food, we have built up to a multi-million dollar business,” Chu says. -SW

New York Deli, Grand Chute

Just like the delis from an episode of “Seinfeld,” the Fox Cities has its own New York-style delicatessen with authentic premium Boar’s Head deli meats — the only kind you’ll find at iconic NYC sites like Yankee Stadium and Penn Station.

And it’s now owned by a native New Yorker.  Chris and Janet Gorden purchased the deli from long-time proprietor Carl Sanderfoot last year. Regulars at New York Deli for the past 10 years and the Gordens were aware of the many Golden Fork Awards it had earned, so when they heard that Sanderfoot wanted to sell, they jumped at the chance to buy it.  “It was a perfect match,” Janet Gorden says. “I spent seven years in restaurant management, and now that my children are in school, I wanted to own my own place.”

Everything at New York Deli is designed around a “New York State of Mind.” “I’ve tried to raise the bar even higher both in selection and in quality,” Janet Gorden says. “We carry more homemade salads, soups and pasta dishes than before in order to have that full NYC deli experience.”

Something that will add even more of a NYC feel to the place is a genuine piece of the World Trade Center from 9/11, and Chris Gorden, who is a K-9 Handler for the Neenah Police Department, donated it to the deli. He obtained a part of the wreckage and brought it to the Fox Cities as a memorial for the citizens and emergency personnel who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks. -CK

Bookmark this post.
Food & Dining

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.