Food for Thought

Posted on April 1, 2015 by Amy Hanson

Newcomers welcomed to Fox Cities dining scene

New restaurants reserved their place in the Fox Cities dining scene this last year as many opened their doors for the first time. Others made plans to welcome new ownership, expand or renovate. There also were twists by thinking beyond the menu and some dining establishments who said goodbye. Here is a sampling of the dish that took place in the area over the course of this past year.


Custom creations

Rye Photo by Julia Schnese

Photo by Julia Schnese

Rye Restaurant & Lounge

Located within the Copperleaf Boutique Hotel in Appleton, Rye Restaurant & Lounge is a mix of stylish sophistication and rustic undertones.

“We are right downtown College Avenue in Appleton,” says Manager Brian Johnson who notes the fine dining establishment is within walking distance of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. “Our menu has small, medium and large plates,” he adds.

Johnson describes Rye’s cuisine as classic American fusion with dishes from salads to seafood. The restaurant opened Nov. 3, 2014 and makes everything from scratch. Rye also serves craft cocktails and beers, along with an impressive wine list in a “great atmosphere,” says Johnson. The restaurant is closed Sunday evening, but open for brunch.

Green Gecko Grocer & Deli 2

Richmond Terrace welcomed a new tenant in November 2014. Green Gecko Grocer and Deli 2 moved into the first floor space in the residential/commercial building after being approached by tenants within the building who were looking for a business like Green Gecko to move in.

Owner Robert Wall was intrigued by the idea of moving and initially thought about a partner for the new location, but instead sought a small bank loan. The first Green Gecko continues at its spot inside City Center in downtown Appleton.

“We’re able to do the hot food that we couldn’t at the other location,” Wall shares. “We did this basically on a shoestring.”

So far, the string of new opportunities continues. Wall admits it’s been a bit slow this winter, but the business is open for breakfast and lunch and offers take-home options with its grocer and deli selections, too. Wall also is looking forward to summertime traffic with Richmond Terrace’s patio space on the corner of Richmond and Packard streets and plans for seasonal outside events.

“We want to challenge the residents of downtown to see if they’re really interested in fresh foods,” Wall says.

The Source Public House

Sourcing is the name of the game at The Source Public House in Menasha.

The Source Public House Photo by Julia Schnese

The Source Public House
Photo by Julia Schnese

“We source locally as much as we can,” says General Manager Tyler Rueth. “Our menu changes over the winter about once a month and then over the summer every two weeks.”

The new eatry opened July 24, 2014 and builds its offerings based on what’s available, primarily within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant.

“That’s one of his favorite things to do is come up with new things for our menu,” Rueth says of Head Chef Adam Devens. One example is a Specialty Grilled Cheese featuring local Asiago cheese on Manderfield’s Home Bakery sourdough bread.

Customers will find local live music and the works of area artists on the walls at The Source Public House. The restaurant also features a fish fry that changes week to week with Wisconsin perch, bluegill and walleye, and an off-the-menu brunch.

Riverview Diner

Riverview Diner is making waves in Little Chute. Attached to the Hawk’s Nest Bar, the restaurant was a work in progress for years that came to fruition on May 8, 2014 when it opened. The business is owned by Gary and Dorrie Konetzke.

“I worked for him for quite a few years tending bar and we thought this would be a good fit,” says Kitchen Manager Kurt Koehler who spent his spare time remodeling the space for almost three years prior to opening.

Riverview Diner serves breakfast and lunch all day, featuring omelettes, pancakes, sandwiches and specialty burgers, along with weekly specials. The restaurant has become a popular destination for third-shift workers, Koehler notes. You’ll also find a
Friday fish fry.

“I’ve had nothing but compliments on our food and service,” Koehler adds. “We have a beautiful view of the river. We’re looking forward to getting some boat traffic this spring and summer.”

SAP Brunch, Brown Bag & Bakery

“We had done it a few times before so each time it gets a little easier,” says Nicole DeFranza of opening SAP Brunch, Brown Bag & Bakery in Appleton. “You’re counting on a lot of people to get things done.”

The crew was basically at SAP around the clock the 14 days prior to opening the doors, DeFranza notes of the restaurant she co-owns with her sister, Kristen Sickler. SAP just happens to be right in the same area as their other joint venture, Carmella’s an Italian Bistro.

“Overall, my sister and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how things have gone,” says DeFranza. “We definitely felt that the need was there. You never know if that need will transfer to other people.  … There’s more and more people in the Fox Valley who are starting to eat like we cook.”

While SAP serves breakfast all day, DeFranza and Sickler are beginning to offer new entrees to entice the dinner crowd. Watch for expanded items in SAP’s deli case as well with more Grab-n-Go, brown bag options, DeFranza shares.

Brewed Awakenings

Nora Asplund Photo by Julia Schnese

Nora Asplund
Photo by Julia Schnese

Make way for a fresh start and changes at Brewed Awakenings in Appleton.

“We’re definitely going to be changing up the menu,” says Owner Nora Asplund who is glad to be back in the business’s former location after almost six years. “It feels really good. I’m very excited.”

Brewed Awakenings returned to the host of downtown eateries on Jan. 11, 2015.

Besides a cup of Joe, customers can expect new daily lunch specials and breakfast specials on the weekend, with more vegetarian and vegan options being explored for the menu as well. Brewed Awakenings also will serve at least one made-from-scratch soup a day, Asplund says.

Home Run Pizza

What started as a fundraiser for St. Joseph’s Church blossomed into a family business in Appleton.

“We named it Home Run Pizza because my husband taught my son baseball and we started it in our home,” explains Co-Owner Pati Reinke of the adventure the business has taken her on with her husband and Co-Owner Randy. Their son, Chris, is Home Run’s manager.

On Sept. 22, 2014, Home Run moved into its new location on Wisconsin Avenue and recently opened for the lunch crowd. Patrons are welcome to dine in; carryout fresh frozen, custom Take-N-Bake or Hot-N-Ready; or have their pies delivered.

Home Run Pizza Photo by Julia Schnese

Home Run Pizza
Photo by Julia Schnese

“It’s always better when the pizza comes hot to your table,” Reinke shares. “I don’t know of any other places that make their own crust from scratch.” Home Run is USDA-inspected and makes its own sausage and hamburger, too.

“I want to get back to the natural, better foods,” says Reinke. “I’m using all local suppliers. I believe in those people.”

It’s also a family friendly environment.

“People can bring their kids and feel at ease with that,” Reinke adds.

Tasty Treats & Eats

Tucked away under the green awning on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton, Tasty Treats & Eats has been luring in customers since Dec. 1, 2014 with homemade, specialty desserts for all, including doughnuts, scones, muffins, filled cupcakes and custom cakes. Among the selections are gluten-free, diabetic and low-carb options.

“We do everything from small cakes to 3-D treasure chests,” says certified Pastry Chef Amanda Theisen, who is also a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis.

“Baking has always been a passion for me and I’ve been cooking since I was a kid. … We wanted to offer people these options that still taste great.”

Tasty Treats & Eats Photo by Julia Schnese

Tasty Treats & Eats
Photo by Julia Schnese

Tasty Treats & Eats also is open for breakfast, lunch and to-go, with a focus on making things from scratch, with fresh ingredients, and also offering vegetarian and vegan choices. Soup is served daily with homemade stock, Theisen notes.

“The soups have really been the highlight,” she says. “Everyone who has tried them has said, ‘Wow, these are great!’”

The soups are made by Theisen’s mother, Tasty Treats & Eats Owner Sandy Theisen, who says the menu changes both weekly and seasonally.


Marc Waltzer opened his latest Fox Valley dining creation  — Parma—on March 16.

The restaurant is divided into three areas and features farm to table Italian cuisine in the main dining space, an Italian gastropub with 60 on tap specialty craft beers from across the country and separate menu, and a craft cocktail and martini bar with a large selection of bourbon, Scotch and whiskey.

“We make our own pasta every day, we fly in our seafood fresh every day and we source our items fresh in the state where possible,” explains Parma’s owner.

Parma also includes a display kitchen where customers can watch items such as pasta and gelato being made and purchase them to take home. The other side includes a to-go deli with Italian, dry-cured meats and cheeses, prepared pastas, sauces and other items.

Parma Photo by Julia Schnese

Photo by Julia Schnese

An outdoor, covered pergola space seats up to 60 guests when weather permits. Waltzer plans to bring in brewmasters for talks and dinners in the garden space, which features organic, heirloom vegetables and herbs that will be grown for the restaurant.


not your typical chain

World of Beer

Newly opened in Appleton, World of Beer is tapping into the restaurant scene with 52 beers on tap and just under 600 selections available for patrons’ drinking pleasure. Not sure what to order? Leave that to the knowledgeable staff who are educated in the selections to help you decide.

General Manager Partner Darold Doris describes the fare as “your basic comfort food infused with a beer twist.”

Tater tots and Guinness Brat sliders are popular selections, but customers also will find shareables including an Artisan Sausage Board and the signature German Pretzel.

World of Beer

World of Beer

“It’s very appealing while you’re drinking a beer,” says Doris.

World of Beer also has live music, weekly special events and trivia, along with its Beer Brunch on the weekend.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

You may have heard of Chipotle Mexican Grill before, but now there are two locations in the Fox Valley. The new addition on County KK in Buchanan opened Dec. 7, 2014. But, unlike its counterpart, you can partake of an alcoholic beverage with your dinner at this location since the restaurant serves both beer and margaritas.

Another menu item gaining traction are Sofritas featuring organic, shredded tofu made with braised vegetables.

“It doesn’t look like tofu, it doesn’t taste like tofu. It’s really, really good,” says General Manager Yeng Vang, who stresses that Chiptole uses humanly raised, GMO-free and rGBH-free products.


Maggie Kauer knew she wanted to own her own restaurant some day. She just didn’t know it would be in fast food until she became involved with the mentoring program through Culver’s. Kauer now owns the Wisconsin-based chain’s 518th location with her mentor, Glenda Woosley, in Little Chute.

“I was looking to grow and expand,” says Kauer who started working at Culver’s when she was 15 years old.

“Their values, my opportunity for growth, they take care of their team members, their guests” led Kauer to the decision to become her own boss.

“We knew we wanted to stay local, so we picked this location,” adds Kauer. “I think what sets us apart from the other locations is this mentoring program.


Moving up

Antojitos Mexicanos

Make way for changes at Antojitos Mexicanos in Appleton. The restaurant packed up its Richmond Street location of almost seven years in mid-March and is slated to open in its newly renovated location on College Avenue around April 21. The restaurant’s new home will feature rustic Mexican decor.

“The menu will stay basically the same, but we’ll be running a Mexican Fusion menu every week,” says Co-Owner Fernando Almanza of the restaurant he owns with his sister, Veronica Banda.

The front portion of the restaurant will be for dining with a bar in the back of the space. In addition to weekly dining specials, Almanza is looking forward to offering margarita flights that will change as well. Another new addition is Mexican brunch, which will be served on Sundays. The restaurant will be open on Saturdays for breakfast, too.


Owning their future


Following the death of Apollon Owner Stavros Kodis, the vision of the restaurant’s founder and chef lives on.

“We wanted to keep the tradition alive,” says Co-Owner Craig Persha who now operates the Appleton restaurant with Co-Owner Chef Modesto Santander. Both Persha and Santander, who took over the business in May 2014, trained under Kodis prior to his passing.

Customers can expect “nothing to be different than it was before,” says Persha. “That’s what made it the Apollon. That’s why it’s been there 20 years.”

The restaurant will celebrate 21 years in April and continue to offer three-course dining “at a quiet, easy level,” notes Persha.

“It’s more about the social (environment) than the quick turnaround,” he adds.

Josef’s Gyros & Kabobs

“We’ve tried to keep it pretty close to the original,” says Owner/Manager Carl Sanderfoot of Josef’s Gyros & Kabobs in Appleton. “I always thought this was a cool little shop he had.”

Sanderfoot purchased the business in mid-July 2014 from Josef Sattakeh who opened the restaurant in 2004. Sanderfoot has added kabobs back to the menu and sources better, local ingredients, he says.

Sanderfoot also has owned New York Deli for almost 11 years and wanted to expand his business. Continuing Josef’s seemed like a natural fit to “let our staff grow and get out of their way,” he adds.

The Outpost Pub & Provisions

Chris Fiedler is bringing his famous fish fry to a new location.

“We’re known for our Friday night fish fry,” the managing partner of The Outpost Pub & Provisions shares. “We used to own Germania Hall.” Where one door has closed, another has opened for Fiedler in Sherwood with his new dining endeavor.

“Ours is an old-school fish fry. I have a recipe that I’ve been working on for 30 years,” he says.

Fiedler took over The Outpost Pub & Provisions on July 1, 2014 with three silent partners. He has since paved the restaurant’s parking lot, revamped the dining area and installed new kitchen equipment. A revamped menu also was introduced in March with healthy appetizer and meal selections, which was driven by customers, says Fiedler. Gluten-free pizzas, wraps, buns and breads are available with the new menu, too.

The restaurant also has its own in-house smoker where Fiedler is working on his “soon-to-be famous baby back ribs.”


Breaking new ground

Houdini’s Escape Gastropub

It’s not an illusion, Houdini’s Escape Gastropub in Appleton is undergoing some changes.

“We are expanding mostly to accommodate a new kitchen,” says General Manager Cole Plamann.

The current kitchen is expected to remain available once the new open kitchen is ready. The new space will feature an open design and will be four times larger. The interior of the restaurant will undergo some cosmetic changes and a reconfiguration of tables with more high-top tables added to the bar area. There also are some outdoor additions in the works on the Oneida Street side of the restaurant.

A 500-square-foot patio will include a fire table with a natural gas pit in the middle and include community-style seating. There also will be 15-20 tables for outdoor dining.

“We will have the patio ready for people to sit on by the time it’s warm around here,” says Plamann. The renovation project began mid-January 2015. “It was a matter of not turning guests away. … There are a lot of people who want to try the gastropub experience.”

Stone Cellar at Riverview Gardens

Sometimes happy accidents happen in life. For Stone Cellar in Appleton, when opportunity came knocking, Tom Lonsway didn’t shy away.

Lonsway owns Stone Cellar with his son Steve who also is Stone Cellar’s head brewer. In 2013, the growing restaurant was beginning to be stretched on space for gatherings and their regular customer flow. When Riverview Gardens approached them in July 2013 about operating the former clubhouse facility, once part of Riverview Country Club, it seems like a natural fit. The new venture opened in September of 2013.

“It’s just a neat thing to be involved in this program and help the people who need it,” Tom Lonsway says.

Recently, the Gardens Pub Room, available for special events, was opened to the public on Wednesday nights for small plates, a wine bar and soft music. In the summer, Tom plans to offer live guitar and piano music.

“We had so many former country club members coming to us and asking about the space,” he adds. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful building. It’s the best view in the Fox Cities.”

Riverside Bar and Grill

There’s activity going on at Riverside Bar and Grill in the historic flats area in Appleton.

“We just felt that our other patio was often full. And, we want to be known for games and music,” says Manager Jeanne Peskie of the new 25-foot-by-50-foot patio. The old patio, about a quarter of the size of the new one, will remain, too.

The new patio is expected to open in May and feature a tiki bar, shuffleboard court, live music and patio furniture.

“We just pride ourselves on good food and good drinks and think this will be something fun for the area,” Peskie shares.

GingeRootz Asian Grille

After starting to construct a new outdoor space in the summer of 2013, GingeRootz Asian Grille in Appleton officially opened the outdoor room in spring of 2014. The previous space was half the size, hidden and lacking in atmosphere, says Owner Doris Ng.

The new rectangular space is divided into two areas for dining and lounging. It includes a retractable roof, heaters and curtains on all sides so the chance of showers doesn’t effect dining.

“It’s a very calming area for them,” says Ng of her customers. “They like just hanging out there. It gets them away from the outside, even though they are outside.”


Tempting Tastebuds

Village Hearthstone Restaurant and Catering

What better place than the middle of a farm field to hold a dinner? It’s these types of ideas that are getting Village Hearthstone Restaurant and Catering in Hilbert noticed.

“I was just looking, and I’m always looking for ways to portray rural culture with food and dining,” says Tracy Darling, general manager
and chef.

Darling tries to host an event once a month, which has ranged from farm-to-table dinners to “The Sweet Life” — a six-course dinner featuring honey in each dish. She’s also planning a dinner for Cinco de Mayo to bring in other cultures. Colectivo Coffee will be there and a beer will be created from the skin of the coffee bean.

“We’re also looking for ways to marry modern interests with the rural culture,” Darling adds. Upcoming event information is available online.

Menasha’s Farm to Table Dinner

Last September, Menasha brought community members and leaders to the table for its second Farm to Table Dinner.

“It was a great way to bring people to Menasha to showcase the area and our great chefs and farmers,” says Mayor Don Merkes.

The event is anticipated to return mid-September for its third year. Details are still being determined.

“It was a wonderful event last year,” says Joanne Roush, Menasha Farm Fresh Market manager. “We tried to bring together a really dynamic group of people and I think we succeeded in that.”

Red Ox Seafood and Steakhouse

“We try to lean heavy to the seafood end,” says John Hayes, owner of the Red Ox Seafood and Steakhouse.

He offered his customers oysters a few years ago and then stopped since it became overdone. Now, they’re back and running from the second week of September through the last week in May.

“We like the East Coast oysters because of the water temperature,” Hayes shares, adding that he sells them at cost to his customers. “We look at it as a bar draw.”

The oysters are available each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 5 p.m. Customers are encouraged to place their orders by noon the day before to ensure their catch.

Bartender Jerry Ewig continues to shuck the oysters that are flown into Milwaukee from Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.

“Jerry was into it and I said, ‘Well, I’ll do it if you’re going to shuck them,’” Hayes shared with a chuckle. “I think there are a lot of people who look at it as they only ever have them when they’re on vacation. … They’re consistent, they’re delicious.”

Spats Food & Spirits

After a long week at the office, sometimes you need to unwind. Spats Food & Spirits in Appleton has created a draw to their establishment.

“Ten dollars gets you anything you want to drink and a 10-minute massage,” says owner Bill Neubert. “Something different, something to get people out.”

The idea started to help a friend who had received her license in massage therapy. Three years later, it’s still going strong once a month — on the last Tuesday. Neubert is hoping to put more dates on the calendar and move massages back out to the Spatio once the weather heats up for the summer. There will also be live music featuring mostly local beginning and established artists.


Say Goodbye

The past year also marked the closings of the following restaurants: all locations of Aspen Coffee & Tea, along with Fresh and Aspen Landing. Blueberry Hill Pancake House also flipped its last flapjack. The Flying Dutchman Supper Club & Lounge, Germania Hall, Menasha Grill, Kangaroost and the Kangaroostaurant food truck, and all Harmony Café locations also closed to customers in the Fox Valley.


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