Food for Thought

Posted on April 1, 2024 by Grace Olson

Area dining scene updates, broken down in one digestible review

*Please check in with individual restaurants for updated days and hours of operation.


MAD Elephant, Appleton
It’s the collaboration we didn’t know we needed. Described as “Thai fusion,” Mad Elephant in Appleton opened in September of 2023, and is the best of the best from former area restaurants Taste of Thai and Houdini’s Gastropub.
“We are not only making Thai foods anymore, but we also have Houdini’s items too,” Chisa Jitmaiwong, Manager, says. “When customers come in, they will have more food options available to choose (from), such as Bam Bam Shrimp Tacos, Mushroom Swiss Burgers, Pad Thai or Mussamuss.”
Popular items at Mad Elephant include their appetizers Tuna Crunch (rare seared ahi, crunch, wasabi, kc slaw, pickled ginger, sesame soy); Brussels Sprouts (fried, gorgonzola, bacon, maple buffalo) and Rangoon (crabmeat and cream cheese wrapped in an egg wheat paper served with homemade sweet and sour sauce).
Favorite entrees include Khao Soi Chicken (Northern style of Thailand red curry with slow cooked chicken, egg noodle, shallot, cilantro, crispy egg noodle, broccoli); Oaxaca (Tenderloin, adobo, onion, cilantro, guac, sour cream, corn tortillas) and Vodka Tomato Shrimp (shrimp, penne, spinach, mozzarella pearls, vodka cream sauce).
“We have a lot of popular items… I couldn’t describe everything here!” Jitmaiwong says. “We will start to have weekly specials… and all the food will keep developing and updating. We are trying to bring new things to this town.”

Allchillakill & Ice Cream Cereal Bar by Frío, Neenah
Hugo Ramirez, owner of Frio Mexican Treats, came to Wisconsin 17 years ago and fell in love with the area. Now, families are coming to his ice cream shop and falling in love with his story and his treats.
If you’re one of those people—or want to be—and want more of a good thing, you’re in luck. The restaurant is expanding with a second location in Neenah called Allchillakill & Ice Cream Cereal Bar by Frío. The restaurant will bring some of Frio favorites, but also serve new treats as well.
“It will be a little different concept… definitely something unique for Neenah,” he says. “We will serve Chilaquiles, which is a traditional mexican dish, Churros, our organic mexican coffee brand and ice cream.”

Urban Market Neenah
Opening in early spring of this year, Urban Market Neenah is the best of both world when it comes to food: part grocery store, part eatery.
“It (will be) your neighborhood market and cafe,” Spencer Anvelink, General Manager, says. “Your corner grocery store meets your favorite cafe with a nice selection of natural/local and organic items.”
Amid everyday grocery items, Urban Market Neenah will have a staple menu and also offer specials throughout the year. Anvelink anticipates favorites being crepes, breakfast sandwiches and gourmet tacos.
“We are very excited to be a part of the community and a destination spot,” he says. “We are having a lot of fun putting together something very special for the community.”

Soda Bar, Appleton
If you like witty names on a menu and have a sweet tooth, Soda Bar in Appleton is right up your alley.
The tiny but mighty Soda Bar opened in July of 2023 and strictly offers desserts and beverages.
“We make ‘dirty’ sodas and treats,” Rod Richardson, Co-Owner, explains. “Think of coffee and specialty alcoholic drinks, then subtract the coffee and alcohol, replace with soda, and, presto, you have a dirty soda!
“One of our most popular drinks is the Dr. McDreamy. It’s a Dr. Pepper base with Strawberry, Coconut and Vanilla flavoring topped with half and half. Shark Bait is super popular as well… it’s a Sprite base with Blue Raspberry and a gummy shark. (For) root beer fans, Big Foot is popular. It has Vanilla and Toasted Marshmallow and Vanilla Cream.”
Soda Bar has a base offering and seasonal drinks, along with fun monthly specials. In February, specials included the Love Bug, Doll’s Delight and Just Beach specialty drinks. March offered the Shamrock Island and Leprechaun’s Beard.

592 Korean BBQ, Appleton
A “new and modern concept of culinary adventure” will arrive in Appleton in early May in the form of 592 Korean BBQ—replacing the former OSAKA Japanese restaurant space.
“Grill your own veggies and meats for a fun and interactive dining experience. Taste the sizzle, embrace the flavor!” Joy Wang, Co-Owner invites.
“Located in front of the Fox River Mall, 592 Korean BBQ is the premier destination for couples and date nights. Our inviting atmosphere provides a relaxing dining experience, perfect for hanging out with friends.
“Indulge in healthy Korean BBQ, the most popular Asian cuisine, while enjoying the company of your loved ones. Plus, take advantage of our spacious private party room, ideal for hosting private events and celebrations. With fresh ingredients and wholesome options, 592 Korean BBQ offers a delicious and nutritious dining experience that caters to all tastes. Join us for an unforgettable culinary journey in the heart of Appleton.”
Wang anticipates menu favorites to be their All You Can Eat Korean BBQ; Korean Fried Chicken; Homemade Bubble Tea; Unlimited & Complimentary Korean Appetizers and Fruit.

Wild River Cafe, Appleton
Described by manager Ashley Lueck as “the best dam cafe” in the Fox Valley (do you see what she did there?) Wild River Cafe opened on February 21, replacing Cafe Aquila and previously River Thyme Bistro.
Focusing on coffee and breakfast and lunch, popular items have already proven to be their Cinnamon Honey Latte and Vanilla Peach Matcha Latte, as well as the Chicken Pesto Panini and Chicken Salad Sandwich.
“We will try to keep features rotating weekly,” Lueck says. “Usually, we like to have one gluten-free/vegan option and as the seasons change, our menu will as well.”

*The Good Yolk Pancake + Cafe is also new on the scene in Oshkosh.


Coffee Wizardz in The Draw, Appleton
Just two years after opening in Allouez, Coffee Wizardz has found a new location in The Draw in Appleton.
“We got a lot of feedback from our lovely customers in Allouez that they wanted another location,” Christopher Christen, Co-Owner and Chief Wizarding Officer, says. “We were considering this when we were approached by John and Linde from The Draw in Appleton in early 2023. They bought the building and were looking for someone to do ‘something like Coffee Wizardz’ at The Draw. They came to the realization that they could simply ask us—and the rest is history.”
Coffee Wizardz is known for making their own syrups and being intentional with their recipes, and offers a seasonal menu with staples like their Draft Latte, a semi-sweet latte infused with nitrogen (to give it a creamy mouthfeel) and served cold.
“Right now we have an Orange Cardamom Latte, a banana-infused Chai, and a special espresso tonic drink made with a hops-fermented coffee,” Christen says. “We change the menu every three months. This allows us to be inspired by seasonal ingredients, keep things fresh and make sure there are new experiences for our customers.
“We source and roast all of our coffees. We’re obsessed with quality to make sure that you get the absolute best cup of coffee possible. We know a lot of people say this, but we actually deliver. Come in and try something on the menu. Trust me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!”

Broken Tree Pizza Taproom, Appleton
Broken Tree Pizza is certainly not a new name in the Fox Cities. Having opened in 2014 with their trailer and subsequently starting their first restaurant space in Neenah in 2015, it’s become a beloved favorite amongst pizza fans. They believe in keeping their menu simple and doing what they do best, and that’s what guests can expect at their new Appleton location as well—plus a variety of brews and wines.
“The location in Appleton we are calling the Broken Tree Pizza Taproom,” owner Keith Schreiner says. “We have 48 taps. We have 4 nitro lines and 8 lines dedicated to wine. The remaining 36 are for beer and a couple sodas.
“We want this to be a taproom for all types of customers, not just beer enthusiasts. Customers can expect to see many different types of beer on tap. So far we have done really well with sour styles.  We carry beers from many local breweries across the valley and the state. We do our best to keep a rotation going since there are so many great things to put on tap out there. A customer should not expect to see the same beer line up every time they come in.”
Along with their well-known wood fire Neapolitan pizza, the taproom offers a sharable Burrata plate and plans on expanding their menu to entree salads in the future
Be aware: “We don’t recommend getting our pizza to go,” Schreiner says. “Neapolitan style pizza is meant to be consumed right after it comes out of the oven. We also don’t recommend adding too many toppings to a pizza like you might with a different style of pizza that you are used to. We are currently not accepting call-in to-go orders.”

Knuth Brewing Company, Ripon
Knuth Brewing Company originally opened in 2015, and just this January moved to a new space after “maxing out” on their brewing capacity.
“(It) also allows us to better serve our customers,” David Knuth, Founder, says. “We have a much larger brewery with the opportunity for tours and a larger bar and seating area with an outside biergarten.
“In addition to the increased brewing space and restaurant we also now have an event center for weddings and large gatherings.”
Most well known for their wood fired pizzas—with varieties like the classic Margherita and Pesto Chicken, as well as Big Ts Thai Chicken Peanut (olive oil, Thai chili sauce, grated carrots, fresh cilantro, crushed peanuts, and roasted chicken with mozzarella, parmesan and romano cheeses) and Blue Fungi with Prosciutto (olive oil base with portabella mushrooms, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses).
What’s better than beer as a counterpart to the above? Not much.
“Our best selling beer is our Blue Eyed Blonde named after my wife,” Knuth says. “It’s just an easy drinking beer that tastes good any time of the day and any time of the year and was my first recipe I came up with as a homebrewer.”

Mr. Brews Taphouse, Oshkosh
It may be new having opened in January, but Mr. Brews Taphouse in Oshkosh is naturally significant.
This is considered our ‘signature’ location and our flagship pub,” Henry Schultz, Director of Operations, says. “We have 57 tap lines, which are constantly rotating to best suit our guests’ tastes while also supporting some of Wisconsin’s finest breweries… we will (also) be utilizing this location as our menu innovation and testing center.”
Mr. Brews Taphouse is known for their popular “Kentucky Bourbon Burger” and will also offer unique menu options not available at other locations.
The Oshkosh location fits 100 guests inside, and plans on opening an outdoor patio to accommodate an additional 50 guests—of all ages.
“It is our intent to be a community gathering area, while we are a ‘taphouse,’ we are also family friendly!” Schultz says. “We offer ‘kids eat free’ on Sunday (with the purchase of an adult meal) and plan to have live entertainment monthly including music, tap takeovers, bingo, trivia, etc.”

*Diablo’s Tacos, Apple Valley Pancake House, Bona Fide Juicery, La Baja and Mad Chicken have also moved or added locations this year.


Calavera’s Fine Fusions, Appleton
After serving strictly cocktails for three years and a move to their current location in May, owners Bekki and Edgar Garcia felt something was still missing.
“We introduced food in August 2023 for Mile of Music,” they say. “Our current concept is tapas; however, we are looking at expanding our kitchen, menu and hours this spring.”
Popular items include flatbreads like Shrimp and Chorizo, Jalapeno Popper and Blackberry and Bacon, as well as their Loaded Tots or Nachos.
Sama Special (Tequila, Tamarindo Fusion, Vida de Sanchez, Grapefruit and Fresh Lime) and  Mexican Lollipop (Watermelon Liqueur, Mango Nectar topped with tangy Tajin and an actual lollipop).
“(They) each have a variety of options to customize to your own taste including meat and gluten-free options,” the Garcias say. “Our menu changes seasonally to be able to keep a fresh taste no matter what time of the year it is!”


Sai Ram Indian Cuisine
Sai Ram has been a longtime Fox Cities’ favorite since 1999, having last updated their interior in 2012.
“We are targeting to complete the remodel by July 2024 without closing the restaurant for renovation,” Owner Priya Sivakumar says. “We are entirely doing the modification of the restaurant and bringing the best Indian traditional look. We want Sai Ram to be one of the best Indian restaurants in the USA.
“We want to give the best fine dining experience to all our wonderful customers. (The remodel) is giving our customers the experience of Indian food along with culture.”

Antojitos Mexicanos
Antojitos Mexicanos has been open since 2007, having moved to their current location 9 years ago. They’ve had a renovation in mind for years, but wanted to make it special.
“We purchased the building 5 years ago and the idea was to add on, but things got in the way to do it right away,” owners Fernando Almanza and Veronica Banda say. “But we are happy we waited this long to do so.
“I’m a big fan of big city life venues,” Almanza says. “I’ve been focusing on creating a vibe, a great atmosphere, great kitchen items and cocktails. Basically, bringing big city life to a small and attractive city.”
Antojitos menu favorites include Tacos Mexicanos, Shrimp/Fish Tacos, Enchiladas Poblanas and Tamales.
“We are adding some other fun creations and we hope that the Fox Cities appreciate new unique items!”

Batley’s Grill & Bar, Neenah
The Ground Round in Neenah is no longer, and in its place is Batley’s Grill & Bar. The brand change became official in November of 2023, having replaced the former restaurant of 20 years. Both menu changes and renovation updates have been made.
“The restaurant’s interior has recently been updated and refreshed along with extensive additions to our outdoor patio,” Ryan Batley, General Manager, Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel & Conference Center, says. “This includes a Rainbow Playground, Basketball Hoop, Giant Checkerboards, additional fire pits and other family activities in addition to a Pickleball League. We also have a private party space, The Joe Bowers Room. We plan to expand our Sports Lounge by the end of the year.”
New menu items to look forward to at Batley’s include Hand Pattied Butter Burgers, Fresh Breads and Buns, House Made Dressings, additional fish offerings, Meatloaf and Prime Rib.
“Batley’s Grill & Bar will continue to feature a blend of its menu favorites while adding new dishes and drink offerings. From our signature 22 oz Old Fashioned, Friday Fish Fry and Burgers, there will be something for everyone,” Batley says.


Batley’s Grill & Bar will continue to accept Ground Round Gift Certificates and Gift Cards and will continue with new daily specials and their current Loyalty Program.

We are sad to see that these establishments have closed:

Houdini’s Escape Gastropub
Snaps Wraps’ Neenah location
Legacy Supper Club
New York Deli
The Grand Meridian
Pho Papa
Home Run Pizza
Famous Dave’s
Barrell 41 Brewing
Mena’s Place
Sticky Fingers
Cafe Aquila

Bookmark this post.
Food & Dining

Leave a Comment

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