I’ve been longing for a perfect paella like this. Properly seasoned and cooked with fresh veg and halal chicken. Where can a girl find this in the States?
It shouldn’t have taken me so long to start a blog, but better late than never. Developing my love of food in the Appleton, Wis., restaurant scene definitely made me feel spoiled. When I started at 13 years old, there were only a handful of restaurants that could be deemed fine dining. About three to five years later there was an explosion of businesses around the area, which completely changed the look of the downtown. So many people wanted to own a restaurant. Unfortunately a lot of these businesses never lasted more than two years. Why? Because the people who opened the restaurants didn’t work in a restaurant. They thought it would be fun to open a place because they like going out to eat and being served. You can’t be served and serve at the same time. Before they knew it, owners had overhead costs of 30 percent more than what it should be, and because they quit their day job and emptied their savings, they were broke. I always thought, for this area at least, the people who knew not to open a restaurant were the ones who worked in one.
Today Appleton has a decent variety of flavors. To my surprise, there’s been an increase in sushi bars and Japanese steakhouses. In the past few months three establishments have opened their doors to Fox River Valley clientele. TJ’s, Sapporo Sushi and Osaka offer great flavors with their dishes, but it’s nothing that can separate them from Katsu-ya, Nakashima’s, Koreana, Far East Sushi or Fugi Sushi. For a city of 73,000, eight of these restaurants are enough. Luckily they’re fairly spread out.
Mexican and Spanish restaurants (yes, there is a difference) are plentiful, too. The similarities in the menus are incredible, so much so that I feel like I’m at the same restaurant no matter where I go. One place that has set itself apart from the rest is Lolita’s. Without knowing it, this place gave me my favorite Saturday morning meal. Setting up a tent at Appleton’s farmers market, Lolita’s offers homemade guacamole, made-to-order carne asada and the best breakfast burrito around. I’m talking potatoes, chorizo, cheese, a perfectly fried egg and hot sauce wrapped in a soft shell. What’s not to love about that?
The city also has a dusting of Italian/Mediterranean restaurants to round out your dining options.
But what about Green Bay? If you compare the number of dining options to Appleton, I think Green Bay has a fewer amount. But whereas Appleton may have more locations, Green Bay has some quality restaurants. Take my favorite haunt, St. Brendan’s Inn. This true-to-form Irish hotel and restaurant offers a menu that the meat-and-potatoes-only diner can break bread with someone who has a more discerning palette. The atmosphere is always cozy and inviting. You also have your higher end steakhouses like Black & Tan and Republic Chophouse where guests will feel comfortable enjoying a four-course meal or simply sitting at the bar with a cocktail.
Green Bay isn’t without its comfort food either. I’ve adopted a new love of Soul Food thanks to Art and Soul Cafe, and places like Al’s Hamburgers proves that if you like what you do and do you it well, you’ll last forever. This humble burger joint has been around since the mid-30s and while the city has built itself up around the greasy spoon, it remains true to itself.
So who wins? For now Appleton can hold its head high as the winner, but it shouldn’t get too comfortable at the top. I foresee a restaurant boom in Green Bay’s future. With Schreiber Foods Inc. HQ and a Hyatt going in downtown, I think the area will up its game. I can’t wait to see what happens!
*Next time I’ll introduce you to a new restaurant opening up in Titletown called Syrah. I have high expectations, but I think they’ll be met.
Until then, roam around the world, friends!