SPECIALTY GROCERY STORES OFFER UNIQUE ITEMS FOR COOKING UP SOMETHING SPECTACULAR
It’s a delicious time to live in the Fox Cities. From Asian markets to organic grocers, the area is teeming with small markets that offer unique food items, whatever the niche may be. Here are four worth checking out before giving up on those hard-tofind ingredients.
Niemuth’s Southside Market
Whiskey lovers and craft beer snobs will find a land of enchantment at Niemuth’s in Appleton, which boasts one of the area’s largest beer selections and has emerged as one of the major players in the Fox Cities’ single-barrel whiskey game.
With over 17 years of operating the market, owner Richard Niemuth has seen many changes, particularly in consumers’ beer and liquor tastes.
“The market has almost flipped entirely from 24-packs of Coors to sixpacks or single cans of craft beer,” he says. “Craft beer people are always looking for something new.”
In addition to a heavy focus on craft beer, Niemuth’s has partnered with several distilleries and currently offers about 25 exclusively bottled and labeled single-barrel bourbons. A diverse array of meats and seafood is another of the store’s celebrated hallmarks. The market receives fresh seafood deliveries four days a week, so there is always something new to try — cold water lobster tails, wild Gulf shrimp, Chilean sea bass and sushi-grade tuna, to name a few.
“We always smile when people come in around lent and ask for specials,” Niemuth says. “It’s a special every week and we do it year-round.”
From Wagyu beef to water buffalo tenderloin to “octopus the size of a volleyball,” adventurous shoppers will be delighted by the variety of products from which to choose. Looking for something in particular? Special orders are accepted too.
The Free Market
What The Free Market doesn’t sell is as important as what they do — you won’t find artificial colors, flavors, MSG or preservatives in the products at this Appleton market. Instead you will find an abundance of organic, allergen-free foods from more than 70 local farmers as well as home and personal care products.
“We feel that our job is to try to save the world by feeding people the most healthy food available,” says Cindy Weinfurter, who has co-owned the market with her husband, Kevin Hamm, since 2003.
The store’s fresh produce section is one of the most popular, especially since the onset of the pandemic.
“Everybody wants fresh food,” Weinfurter says. “We’ve taken our health for granted and COVID has been a wake up for all of us that maybe we aren’t taking care of our bodies.”
About 99% of The Free Market’s produce is organic and much is from local farms like Park Ridge Organics in Fond du Lac and Ledgeview Farms in De Pere. The market has begun offering Olden Organics’ ready-to-use items, like spiralized zucchini “noodles” and sweet potato fries, which have proven to be popular with shoppers looking to make a quick and convenient meal.
The Free Market is a must-visit for foodies who want to be in the know. The market works with many local food producers in debuting their products. For example, when Appleton resident Yaw Asare launched his line of vegan, all-natural and preservative-free Ghana-style peanut brittle, The Free Market was one of the first to carry it.
“A lot of times when an entrepreneur in Appleton decides they want to create something on the healthier side, they come to us. We help them to understand how the business world works,” Weinfurter says. “Those little companies grow and supply other stores too, but we are often the starting point.”
Long Cheng Marketplace
Long Cheng Marketplace tucked away on Appleton’s Lawe Street is one of the Fox Cities’ tastiest hidden gems. Maiyoua Thao opened the marketplace with her husband, Chungyia, in 2011 as a cultural hub and small business incubator.
“Our vision was to help develop small businesses that don’t have the capital to start something big, as well as create a foundation for the Hmong community,” Thao says.
There are currently eight family-owned and operated businesses within the marketplace including those that offer traditional Hmong clothing, food items and health and beauty products. The market also houses two restaurants, May’s Kitchen and Chef Happy Tummy, as well as Jasmine Leaf, a bubble tea stand.
Home cooks will especially appreciate Pahoua’s Supermarket which offers ready-to-eat items like steam rice rolls and pork buns, fresh produce, meats, seafood and Asian pantry staples. Whether you have a specific recipe in mind or just want to do some casual shopping, it will be hard to leave the marketplace empty handed.
Thao says many of the supermarket’s items, especially the seafood, are not typically found at standard grocery stores. For example, at Pahoua’s Supermarket you can find whole catfish while most grocery stores will only carry catfish filets. Other popular items include oyster sauce, fish sauce, noodles, seasonings and vegetables.
As spring turns to summer, shoppers can expect to find more exotic fruits such as lychee, dragonfruit, rambutan and fresh durian. Keep an eye on the Long Cheng Marketplace Facebook page for details on its summer farmers market.
LexMax African Caribbean Market
Alberta Tete-Lartey moved to Appleton in 2012 for her husband’s job in health care, but found herself missing the foods she grew up eating in Ghana.
Accessing ingredients to cook traditional African and Caribbean dishes like fufu (dough balls made from plantains or root vegetables that are eaten with soup) meant traveling to Milwaukee or Chicago.
“When people decide to move to an area, that’s a big deterrent,” says Tete-Lartey, who decided to open LexMax African Caribbean Market to provide local residents access to these foods. “We didn’t have a critical mass to make it economically viable [when we moved here], but by 2016 we thought there were enough people to give it a shot.”
The market will celebrate five years in business this summer and has proven popular with African and Caribbean natives who live in the region as well as Fox Citians looking for something new or trying to recreate a dish they ate while traveling.
If you are new to African and Caribbean food, Tete-Lartey recommends picking up some jerk
seasoning as an easy entry point. The seasoning can be used as a rub for meats like chicken or pork that can be barbecued or grilled.
Other popular items are the Jamaican patties (similar to empanadas, made in Jamaica and shipped frozen), palm oil, ginger beer, smoked fish and malt beverages.
“The store is a welcoming place and it’s fun to try something new,” Tete-Lartey says. “Who knows, it may become a family favorite and you don’t need to travel a thousand miles to try it.”
Photos by Kacie Mischler Bass