Appleton, Wisconsin, located approximately 100 miles north of Milwaukee and 30 miles southwest of Green Bay, makes the perfect Midwest road trip destination. It sits on the Fox River and features big-city conveniences plus the warmth of a small town.
Of course, one of those big-city amenities is the food. When you think of Wisconsin food, things like beer, dairy products, and supper clubs come to mind, and Appleton offers all of them. I chose these amazing restaurants to try in the greater Appleton area because they highlight something iconic about the Wisconsin food scene. They are listed randomly.
Thank you to Fox Cities, Greater Appleton, Wisconsin, for hosting my stay. All opinions are my own.
1. ACOCA Coffee
Located in downtown Appleton, ACOCA Coffee, known for sustainable sourcing and custom blends, roasts its coffee beans in-house in small batches, ensuring the freshest coffee possible. In addition to coffee, while they serve breakfast all day, they also offer lunch. First, order at the counter and then take a seat in various settings — high-top or standard tables or a living room setting with couches. The décor includes exposed ductwork, distressed concrete floors, and vibrant artwork.
What To Order At ACOCA Coffee
ACOCA’s version of avocado toast features sourdough bread toasted with chunky avocado spread topped with red pickled onions and garnished with everything bagel seasoning. They serve it with a dill pickle spear — yes, even at breakfast. It’s surprisingly tasty as it cuts the fat of the avocado. They offer it with their ginger-infused fresh fruit cup.
Another favorite is the Belgian waffle with whipped salted butter and maple syrup sprinkled with powdered sugar. This dish also comes with a fresh fruit cup.
If you’re craving some of those Wisconsin cheese curds, they offer a half-pound of deep-fried white cheddar cheese curds with a choice of dipping sauces.
Pro Tip: Arrive early to avoid metered parking, which begins at 9 a.m.
2. Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse
Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse is so popular that Appleton has included it on their Fox Cities Originals list, ranking it among the best restaurants in the cities along the Fox River. The list highlights local businesses across the Fox Cities, emphasizing the region’s originality and overall experience.
Located in the Hilton Appleton Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton, the restaurant is as much of a museum as a steakhouse. It showcases over 400 items of Coach Lombardi’s memorabilia, including images taken by Vern Biever, the Green Bay Packer’s famed photographer. The restaurant also features a Brunswick-style bar serving craft cocktails and an extensive wine list.
What To Order At Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse
If you’re looking for some gluten-free options, Lombardi’s offers a variety. They feature hand-selected steaks from local farms. You’ll find everything from a 22-ounce porterhouse or a filet mignon to a 32-ounce bone-in tomahawk ribeye. If you want a more straightforward choice, try the 8-ounce wagyu au poivre burger with truffle fries.
Pro Tip: Lombardi’s Steakhouse only serves dinner.
3. Mark’s East Side
Mark’s East Side is another Fox Cities Original. While Mark’s East Side’s Friday night menu with all-you-can-eat fish fry or Mark’s Steakhouse Steaks, its lunch and dinner menus offer an exciting combination of German flare in their “A Taste of the Old Country” sections. You’ll find a large selection of schnitzels, Germany’s most loved cut of meat, where they cut the meat from the leg and pound it thin to ensure it’s tender.
What To Order At Mark’s East Side
I couldn’t decide, so I had the Bavarian combination plate: a smoked pork chop, wiener schnitzel, German sausage with Düsseldorf mustard, and escalloped apples. This menu section is an excellent place to start if you aren’t familiar with Bavarian cuisine. Pair it with some craft beer, and you’ll think you’re in Bavaria.
If you don’t try one of the German selections, check out one of the house specialties, like the chicken cordon bleu. This dish features grilled chicken breast topped with ham, Wisconsin Swiss cheese, and their special hollandaise sauce. It’s served with a choice of two sides and freshly baked bread.
4. Mondo! Wine Bar
Located in downtown Appleton, Mondo! Wine Bar is home to the periodic table of wine, a system developed by the owner, David Oliver, to help guests select which wine is best suited for their tastes. The Mondo! Periodic Table of Wine is a visual map to help you find a wine perfectly suited to your tastes.
The venue features a retro Mid-Century Modern vibe and offers cheese boards featuring Wisconsin cheese. In addition to drinking wine at the restaurant, you can purchase it to take home.
What To Order At Mondo! Wine Bar
We enjoyed a snack of the housemade 12-inch thin-crust pizza. In addition to the traditional cheese or pepperoni pizza, Mondo! offers some specialty pizzas, including a vegetarian version with a garlic spread, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes with a tri-blend of cheese.
Pro Tip: Check the events page on their website for their monthly free wine tasting.
5. Hop Yard Ale Works
Established in 2021, Hop Yard Ale Works is one of Appleton’s newest brewing companies, and it focuses on small-batch ales and wood-fired pizza in a relaxed atmosphere. They don’t have servers, so order at the bar, and they’ll deliver your pizza to the table.
Hop Yard’s menu is laser-focused on wood-fired pizza and craft beer, so you may be disappointed if you’re not in the mood for exactly that. Unfortunately, the menu doesn’t include anything else. That said, the pizza and beer are wonderful.
What To Order At Hop Yard Ale Works
Hop Yard changes its pizza menu up frequently. We ordered a Spicy Voodoo Mama when we were there. It featured housemade red sauce with Cajun seasoning, smoked andouille sausage, spicy Cajun sausage, onions, red peppers, mushrooms, smoked gouda, parsley, and Voodoo Sauce. I liked that there was zip and flavor in the pizza without it being overly hot with spice.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to find a singer accompanied by his guitar. The entertainment added to the casual, fun afternoon.
Pro Tip: The kitchen hours are different from the taproom hours, so check the schedule before you arrive.
6. Carmella’s An Italian Bistro
Carmella’s offers authentic Italian cuisine in a modest, European-style setting, and the stars are simple, fresh, and local ingredients. Using locally grown and made ingredients, they source their meats from Haen Meats and dairy products from Lamers Dairy. In addition, artisan Wisconsin cheesemakers create many of their Italian cheeses. Their wine menu showcases Italian wines, and you’ll find craft beer from throughout the United States.
What To Order At Carmella’s An Italian Bistro
A favorite here is the chicken scarpariello with Italian sausage, hot cherry peppers, and lemon butter served over linguine.
7. Houdini’s Escape Gastropub
Named for the world-renowned magician and performer, Houdini’s Escape Gastropub offers a magical (pun intended) and family-friendly pub and grill atmosphere. The beautiful brick patio with three fire tables keeps you warm if you want to dine outdoors.
What To Order At Houdini’s Escape Gastropub
You’ll find a variety of Asian dishes on the menu, like their pork potstickers — fried or steamed, served with a sesame soy glaze or the ahi tuna crunch, seared rare and served with slaw, pickled ginger, and a wasabi and sesame soy glaze. You’ll also find zucchini noodle pad Thai tossed in Thai peanut sauce finished with cilantro and lime.
8. Basil Café
Basil Café offers authentic Asian cuisine that tastes like an Asian grandmother made it. You can order delivery or takeout or dine in for their beautiful ambiance. A favorite is the Pad Thai-Rito, where you choose the protein, then they top the dish with cilantro, green onions, and freshly roasted peanuts, then wrap it in a large spring roll rice paper wrapper. It comes with a side of creamy peanut-coconut dipping sauce.
What To Order At Basil Café
You’ll also find some Vietnamese cuisine on the menu, with dishes like Bánh Xéo, a Vietnamese crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork, scallions, and bean sprouts. It is served with a side of lettuce, mint, cilantro, basil, the house carrot-daikon relish, and house sweet and tangy vinaigrette. The menu indicates items that can be made gluten-free; however, they aren’t a gluten-free facility.
9. Stone Arch Brewpub
Stone Arch Brewpub started when Tom and Steve Lonsway, a father-and-son team, studied abroad in Britain and wanted to bring their newfound passion for high-quality, handcrafted beer back to Appleton. So they opened Stone Arch in a historic building built initially as Outagamie County’s first brewery and have now cemented their place in history as Wisconsin’s oldest continually operating brewpub.
Best known for its underground, stone cellar atmosphere, guests can sit and enjoy locally sourced, English-inspired pub food. Stone Arch is also famous for its in-house brewery, and visitors can try local favorites such as Stone Arch’s honey wheat, pilsner, and vanilla stout — all crafted by time-tested brewmasters. For those under 21 or who want something nonalcoholic, Stone Arch serves its famous handcrafted gourmet sodas, including root beer, vanilla cream, and orange cream.
What To Order At Stone Arch Brewpub
Our appetizer was the cheese curds, handmade in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The curds are cut into cubes and made with a batter featuring Stone Arch Scottish Ale, then deep-fried. They’re served with ranch and marinara sauces.
Another dish I enjoyed was the mac and beer cheese. It starts with cavatappi pasta and a blend of four artisan cheeses combined in a beer sauce — a Wisconsin classic, beer and cheese. Next, they add bacon and andouille sausage and serve it with garlic bread.
Pro Tip: While this restaurant is on the building’s lower level, there is an elevator for easy access.
You’ll find Tempest tucked away at the end of the street, on the ground floor of a multi-story building, within walking distance of the Marriott Courtyard. Tempest serves Olympic Coffee Roaster from Washington, offering an innovative selection of hot and cold beverages like the chili hot chocolate and the butterscotch and sage latte. The menu is seasonal, so you may not find those items on the menu when you go, but I’m sure you’ll find something equally delicious!
At Tempest, the tiny details make the difference. They measure the espresso to a tenth of a gram and bake all night to ensure you’ll have freshly baked morning muffins and cookies. The seasonal menu is to ensure quality and freshness. They make most items in-house from scratch, including the housemade vinaigrettes for salads and syrups for waffles. They also use the local Lamers Dairy for their dairy products. They source the bread and pastries that aren’t made in house from the Thunderbird Bakery in Oshkosh.
What To Order At Tempest
I enjoyed their breakfast sandwich: made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuit, crispy bacon, a fried egg topped with aged white cheddar cheese, and honey butter.
11. Santé Wine Bar & Bistro
Santé Wine Bar & Bistro, technically located in Neenah, is about 10 miles from Appleton but worth the drive. This bistro is a gathering place for wine, cocktails, and small bites in a sophisticated atmosphere. They feature curated wines from around the world. We ordered the frozen rosé, just reintroduced for spring.
What To Order At Santé Wine Bar & Bistro
Our starter was the hummus sourdough toast, a nice change from the typical avocado toast. The chef topped the hummus with cucumbers and a paper-thin sliced radish that was pink from edge to edge. You had to look twice because it almost looked like shaved ham. Then, they topped it with a pinch of spicy salt, which provided a bit of a kick and interest to the dish.
I ordered the grilled cheese panini with tomato soup to continue the Wisconsin dairy theme. The soup was creamy, and the grilled cheese was perfectly toasted to a golden brown.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for Instagram-worthy images, ask for seating away from the pink neon sign.
12. Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant
Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant, located on the site of the historic 1909 Vulcan Hydroelectric plant overlooking the Fox River, is a fine-dining eatery that offers spectacular water views for the perfect romantic date night. It features a tasty array of seafood, steaks, pasta, sandwiches, and pizzas. In addition, the full-service bar features various craft beers, wines, and liquor.
What To Order At Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant
I suggest the truffle shrimp carbonara, which Fratellos makes with wild-caught pan-seared shrimp plus pancetta, peas, and mushrooms in a creamy truffle carbonara sauce, all served over linguini.
13. Antojitos Mexicanos Kitchen And Cantina
Antojitos Mexicanos is a casual, family-owned Mexican restaurant perfect for a south-of-the-border dining experience. It serves all the classic favorites like burritos, enchiladas, and tamales. Try the margarita flight with any four of the housemade flavors.
Antojitos offers a vegetarian menu, and you can quickly identify gluten-free items marked on the menu. In addition, as a family-friendly restaurant, they offer a kid’s menu where your kiddo will likely enjoy the taco.
What To Order At Antojitos Mexicanos Kitchen And Cantina
Try the Que Color? enchiladas. The plate has three corn enchiladas stuffed with either queso, shredded beef, or chicken. Then they cover it with your choice of salsa — green, red, or white cheese sauce. After that, they top it with crumbled queso fresco, onions, and fresh cilantro.
14. Sangria’s Mexican Grill
Sangria’s Mexican Grill features Mexican restaurant favorites with housemade sauces, authentic spices, fresh produce, and specialty margaritas.
What To Order At Sangria’s Mexican Grill
What I love about Sangria’s is the margaritas and guacamole made tableside. You know they’re fresh and can see what goes into these favorites. Of course, I had to try the restaurant’s namesake, the sangria, and I wasn’t disappointed. There are more than half a dozen varieties. The blackberry pom sangria is something to try. Drink servers start with their house red sangria and add blackberry and pomegranate.
15. Stuc’s Pizza Restaurant
While pizza is in the name at Stuc’s Pizza Restaurant, you’ll also find beautiful subs built on a housemade French baguette they bake daily. Also, try the unique flavor combination of the Godfather. It includes pepperoni, Genoa salami, shredded mozzarella, lettuce, green peppers, onions, and mayo.
What To Order At Stuc’s Pizza Restaurant
Of course, Stuc’s is famous for the Chicago-style deep dish pies and New York-style hand-tossed crispy thin crust, so order the pizza in their casual, family-friendly environment.
Opa! Saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, simply because the server flames the cheese at your table with brandy and lemon. And I wasn’t disappointed at Apollon, a family-owned Greek fine-dining restaurant that’s been in Appleton for almost 30 years. Apollon features innovative Mediterranean cuisine and offers an extensive wine list.
What To Order At Apollon
Apollon’s baklava features filo pastry layered with walnuts, honey, and a variety of warm spices, rounded out with a serving of housemade vanilla gelato.
17. Sai Ram Indian Cuisine
Sai Ram offers traditional Indian cuisine with a curry specialty. If you’re a beginner to Indian cuisine, Sai Ram’s menu highlights less spicy dishes and customer favorites. I like the menu’s presentation because even after a month in India, I still consider myself a beginner in this cuisine.
Sai Ram dedicates an entire page of its menu to vegetarian and vegan dishes, so you’ll find plenty of options. However, there are no gluten-free options because the restaurant’s spices are manufactured in a facility that processes gluten.
What To Order At Sai Ram Indian Cuisine
If you order something other than the curry, order the chicken tikka masala. The chef’s special recipe features a creamy sauce made from a spice blend and fresh tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and onions, then finished with cream.
If you want more about Wisconsin’s great food scene beyond Appleton restaurants, check out these Wisconsin articles: