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16 of the BEST Restaurants in Appleton, Wisconsin by a Local

As someone who grew up in the Appleton area and lives here now, I’m sharing my list of the best restaurants in Appleton, Wisconsin in today’s post!

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is go out to eat in Appleton. We have some wonderful restaurants and bars!

I’ve eaten at almost all of the local restaurants at one point or another, but there are a few I am still meaning to try. And this list ONLY includes places that I have personally dined at and recommend.

I also promise to update this list frequently as I try new places and revisit my favorites. So, I promise this list will always have the most up-to-date opinions on Appleton’s best places to eat! From where to get the best fish to where to find the best fine dining and Mexican… this list has it all.

If I missed your favorite restaurant in Appleton – let me know in the comments at the end of the post. (I’m always looking for an excuse to go out to eat!) I’m also more than happy to answer any questions about these restaurants as well. Enjoy!

Also, apologies ahead of time, but as a true Wisconsinite, I am a beer drinker and not a cocktail connoisseur. So, it’s safe to assume that all of these places have a great beer selection, but I can’t comment on their cocktails. Sorry!

Best Places to Eat in Appleton, Wisconsin by a Local

Rye Restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin
Rye Restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin

Rye – Best All Around {$$-$$$, Upscale, American cuisine}

Rye is my personal favorite restaurant in Appleton right now. Every time I’ve been here over the years the food has been AMAZING, plus the waitstaff is always kind and helpful. They update their menu frequently, based on what is in season. They do have a couple of staples, though, that I love – such as their Mushroom Ravioli and Ahi Tuna Tataki. They have wonderfully unique and tasty desserts too. (I’m making another trip here soon just to try their Goat Cheese Cheesecake!)

I also love the atmosphere here. It’s located within the Copperleaf hotel and has a cozy, upscale feeling without being stuffy. The bar also offers great people-watching of downtown Appleton out its windows. During the summer, they also offer outdoor street dining (which I love too).

This is a great place for a date night, celebrating an anniversary or birthday (it’s personally where I’ve been going to celebrate mine), and for dining out with friends.

Sangrias Mexican Grill Fresca Bowl.
Sangria’s Mexican Grill Fresca Bowl.

Sangria’s – Best Mexican Food {$$, Casual, Mexican cuisine}

The best Mexican food in Appleton is a hotly contested topic. We have some amazing (and authentic) Mexican restaurants in this area! However, Sangria’s is by far my favorite place to get Mexican food in Appleton. I haven’t tried everything on their menu yet (but I’m working on it)… and I have yet to have something that I didn’t absolutely love. My favorites are their Aqua Tacos and Seafood Chimis.

The restaurant has a fun, upbeat atmosphere. It’s a converted house that has quite a lot of room inside. It is almost always busy (for good reason) – despite its rather large size. So, be prepared to wait a bit or be sure to make a reservation. They also have a great outdoor dining area during the summer.

This is a great place to go with a group of friends or to take your family.

Side note: A lot of people and articles recommend Antojitos for Mexican food (which is just down the road from Sangria’s), but I’ve eaten there a couple of times recently and have not been impressed with the food or service. Plus, the wait time was crazy long. I, personally, recommend Sangria’s over Antojitos.

Draft Gastropub – Best Atmosphere {$$$, Casual, American cuisine}

Draft is a relatively new gastropub in Appleton that has hit the ground running. This place is a favorite among locals (myself included), and it is always busy. (They’re pretty much tied with Rye as “best all-around restaurant” in my book.) While this is deemed a gastropub, it goes beyond your traditional burgers and fries and does have an inventive and classy menu selection. I can go here and make a meal just on their appetizers. I have had all of them but the pretzel and love them all! They also have great steaks and craft pasta dishes.

The atmosphere here is one of my favorites in Appleton. It’s cozy and fun, and it’s a place where you can show up dressed casually after a day of running errands…or wearing a cute dress and heels, and you won’t look out of place either way (as a style blogger, I thought I’d mention that – as I’m typically overdressed when I go out, but I don’t feel out of place here).

This is a great date night spot, but the bar area is fun to stop with a group too.

the red ox
The Red Ox Prime Rib.

Red Ox Seafood and Steakhouse – Best Supper Club {$$-$$$, Casual, American Cuisine}

When it comes to supper clubs, Wisconsin has no shortage of incredible places to choose from. Appleton has quite a few too, but my favorite in Appleton is the Red Ox. The food has always been great any time I’ve been here, and I love their prime rib. Honestly, I like their steaks so much I’ve never tried their seafood (so I can’t attest to that). This place also gets busy on the weekends – so be prepared to hang out at the bar or make a reservation.

The atmosphere is exactly what you would expect from a Wisconsin supper club – it feels like home! Some may turn their nose up at the “dated” interior, but in my opinion, it’s exactly how a supper club is supposed to look and feel. I love it!

Great for group outings! The office I used to work in would have their Christmas party here every year, and it was always a great spot for it.

Apollon – Best Greek/Fine Dining {$$$-$$$$, Upscale, Greek Cuisine}

Apollon has been Appleton’s fine dining restaurant of choice for nearly 30 years. This authentic Greek restaurant serves up some incredible dishes with a friendly and helpful waitstaff. I, personally, like their octopus, grilled halloumi, and dolmades for appetizers. For entrees, I always get one of their seafood dishes and have always been impressed. It’s all delicious!

I can’t put my finger on it, though, for some reason I just don’t love the atmosphere at this restaurant. It’s fine dining (the taste and the price tags reflect this), but that’s not the atmosphere you get here. It’s really not that big of a deal, though, and I keep coming back and recommending it!

It’s a great spot for a date night. My husband and I had one of our first dates here over 10 years ago, and continue to frequent it for date night. They can also easily accommodate large groups.

Basil Cafe in Appleton

Basil Cafe – Best Thai {$-$$, Casual, Thai/Vietnamese Cuisine}

Basil Cafe is my go-to dining spot in Appleton. They have THE best food (if you like Thai and Vietnamese that is). Plus, their prices are fantastic. It’s a very affordable night out! love everything about this place – from the coconut-infused water to their Phó to their stinky fruit dessert. It’s all amazing. They also have the best Pad Thai in Appleton. Their Sticky Rice with Durian (stinky fruit) is also a must-try. This fruit smells like a gas leak, but this dessert tastes fantastic (I promise).

This restaurant is HUGE. So, you don’t typically have to wait even if they are busy. It’s a lovely casual dining spot, with great service.

This is a great spot to dine with a group or your family.

Just note, that Basil Cafe closes in the summer, so the staff can spend time with their family. (Typically from mid-June to mid-September.)

SAP – Best Breakfast/Brunch {$$, Casual, American Cuisine}

SAP is Appleton’s go-to spot for breakfast. I’m not much of a breakfast or brunch person, but even I find myself craving SAP’s menu. Their Huevos Rancheros is my go-to egg dish, I also LOVE their Power Bowl (if it’s a little later in the day). They also have wonderful, fresh baked goods that I like to take home and enjoy the next day. (I haven’t tried them yet, because I’m not much for drinks besides beer – but they have some amazing-looking Bloody Marys and mimosas too.)

The atmosphere here is bright and cheerful. The staff are all wonderful here too. It is always busy no matter what day of the week you visit, though! Be prepared to wait.

Family-friendly and is a great spot to meet up with friends.

The Stone Arch Brewpub in Appleton, Wisconsin
The Stone Arch Brewpub in Appleton, Wisconsin

Stone Arch Brewpub – Best Brewery {$$-$$$, Casual, American Cuisine}

As a beer drinker, I LOVE Stone Arch’s selection of microbrews. Their Scottish Style Ale and Oatmeal Stout are to die for. (If it’s hot out, I usually opt for their HAZYrdous Pale Ale, though. Also a good one!)

However, Stone Arch goes beyond just tasty brews, they have some of the best pub-style food in Appleton! I’m willing to go on the record and write that they have the best cheese curds in Appleton (I like to dip them in ranch) and their Elk Burger is phenomenal. Their Mac n’ Beer Cheese is also a dish that is so good I literally dream about it – but I’m warning you, it is very rich! Take some home as leftovers and don’t try to eat the whole plate. (Been there done that, my stomach hated me.)

Stone Arch also has a wonderful waitstaff who are always kind and helpful. They also have a really nice outdoor patio and bar area in the summer. Side note: come here before you see a show at the Skyline Comedy Club! Just let the staff know you’re there for the show, and they’ll do their best to speed things along for you.

Fratellos Igloos in Appleton, Wisconsin
Fratellos Igloos in Appleton, Wisconsin

Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant – Best View {$$$-$$$$, Upscale, Italian-inspired Cuisine}

I would say I’ve been to Fratellos more than any other restaurant on this list. It’s been my go-to spot for fine dining since high school – I even went here for prom one year and also went here with my family after I got married at the Appleton courthouse (that’s a long story). While the menu has changed over the years, it has been consistently good, in my opinion. I’m currently loving their Charred Octopus and Butternut Squash Ravioli.

This restaurant also has the best view in Appleton. Its large glass windows overlook the Fox River and the dam, so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of rushing water as you dine. Fratellos is also located in a former historic power plant, so it has a unique atmosphere. Plus, they have a big outdoor dining area in the summer. They also recently added outdoor igloos you can dine in during the winter months. (I have yet to do this, but I love the way they look!)

Great for large groups or romantic date nights.

Scallop Ceviche from Katsu-ya | Photo c/o Katsu-ya
Scallop Ceviche from Katsu-Ya | Photo c/o Katsu-Ya

Katsu-Ya / Nakashima’s – Best Sushi {$$$-$$$$, Mix – Casual/Upscale, Japanese Cuisine}

Katsu-Ya and Nakashima’s are two separate restaurants that have roughly the same menu, but Katsu-Ya’s is located downtown by the PAC and Nakashima’s is located off 41 toward Neenah. They’re both great, but I personally always find myself going to Katsu-Ya’s as it’s more convenient for me.

Katsu-Ya has by far the best sushi in Appleton. Whether you’re a fan of rolls with cream cheese (this is Wisconsin, after all!) or you like the more authentic Nigiri sushi, you’ll love Katsu-Ya either way. I also highly recommend trying their Scallop Ceviche – it’s not a roll, but it’s so darn tasty. Katsu-Ya has great family-friendly hibachi dining as well.

The hibachi area dining is great for families and groups, whereas the sushi dining area is a great spot for couples looking for a quieter night out.

Tony Nguyen's Vietnamese Cuisine Street Tacos
Tony Nguyen’s Vietnamese Cuisine Street Tacos

Tony Nguyen – Best Vietnamese {$-$$, Casual, Vietnamese Cuisine}

I’ve eaten at Tony Nguyen’s a few times, and have really enjoyed the service. But I order delivery from here on nearly a biweekly basis. I LOVE their food. My go-to’s are their crab rangoons, their Vietnamese Street Tacos, their Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Sandwich), and their Beef Pho. They also have great Boba Tea.

Just a heads up, too… I believe these guys are in the process of changing their name to Kenson’s Vietnamese. (Their website still says Tony Nguyen, but DoorDash has them listed as Kenson’s now.) Their menu appears to be staying the same, though.

Bowl 91 Ramen in Appleton is one of the best restaurants in Appleton Wisconsin

Bowl 91 – Best Ramen {$-$$, Casual, Asian Fusion Cuisine}

Bowl 91 has THE best ramen in Appleton. (My friends also swear they have the best Gua Bao.) I personally like trying their different seasonal ramens (their Korean Spicy Noodle is my current favorite), but I really don’t think you can go wrong ordering any of them.

The atmosphere here is vibrant, fun, and casual. It’s a great spot to dine downtown and not spend a ton of money, but still get incredible food.

Great spot to dine with friends before you head out downtown for the night!

Sai Ram – Best Indian {$-$$, Casual, Indian Cuisine}

Sai Ram has the best Indian food in Appleton. It’s a great place to dine in or order take-out. (Take-out is usually the way I go – it’s so good and great to reheat.) They have a HUGE menu that is very vegetarian-friendly. It’s hard to narrow down my favorite dishes here, but I tend to gravitate the most to their Chicken Tikka Masala and their Chicken Makhani.

Great spot for groups, families, or couples. They also have an extensive lunch special menu.

Best new restaurant - Ellinor in Appleton Wisconsin

Ellinor – Best Pizza/Best New Restaurant – {$$-$$$, Casual/Upscale (it’s a mix), Woodfire pizza/cuisine}

Ellinor is a tiny new restaurant on Pacific Street (near Jacob’s Meat Market) that features an upscale yet cozy dining experience – with all of their dishes being made in a wood-fired oven. Their pizzas are amazing, and I loved their Beef Tartare.

They just opened this May and have been filled to the gills every night since! They don’t take reservations (unless it’s over 6 people), so be prepared to wait a bit. I promise it is worth the wait, though. The food is delicious, the waitstaff is amazing, and I love the cozy atmosphere here.

Great to spot for a couple or a small group. This restaurant doesn’t have too much room to work with, so be sure to call ahead if you plan to come with 6 or more people.

Kountry Bar – Best Fish Fry {$-$$, Casual, Bar Food Cuisine}

Kountry Bar has an Appleton address, but it’s a bit outside the “city” part of Appleton – hence, its name. However, it’s worth the drive! Kountry Bar is the spot to go for Friday night fish (I also like their lightly battered shrimp). My family and I are always in search of the “best fish fry” and Kountry Bar has been winning us over this summer as the best fish fry in Appleton.

The food and service here are awesome, as are their prices. If you stick around past 8 pm most Friday and Saturday nights you can also catch a live band. They also have a relatively new outdoor bar, dining, and stage area that is really nice!

Great for large groups!

Josef’s Gyros & Kabobs – Best Gyros {$, Casual, Mediterranean Cuisine}

Josef’s has the best Gyros in Appleton – heck, they have some of the best gyros period. My family and I tend to do take out from here. The restaurant itself is a very nice spot, though. It’s a cozy little diner located right downtown, Appleton.

We always get their Classic Gyros (small size is plenty big), and I also love their Falafel Pitas. And don’t forget to get an order of Baklava for dessert!

Restaurants I Think Are Overrated

I know a lot of “best restaurants of Appleton” lists include the restaurants below, and yes, I have eaten at these places multiple times… but here’s why I’m not including them in my list.

Carmella’s – this upscale Italian restaurant is one of the most raved-about Appleton restaurants. I have eaten here several times now, and I cannot for the life of me understand the hype. The food is fine, but it is nothing crazy special. Plus, it’s rather expensive. I also find the atmosphere here to be rather odd and uncomfortable. I can’t get out of here quick enough each of the times I’ve been here.

Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse – now, the restaurant itself is cool and filled with a lot of fun Packers memorabilia. (If you want to check out the Packers stuff, though, I’d recommend just grabbing a drink at the bar.) However, I was not impressed with the food or the service at this restaurant recently… especially for their prices. I’m all for paying top dollar for a good steak, but the filet mignon and NY Strip were nothing special. I know finding good steak (and good service) is a challenge right now, though, no matter where you go. So, I will be willing to come back here at a later date and try them again. But as of right now, I won’t be recommending them.

Cena – Cena is on a lot of “best restaurants” lists as well – and for good reason. This restaurant was amazing! However, the keyword is was… Cena is unfortunately no longer open.

Consider this my formal written request to bring back Cena and also Il Angolo Resto-Bar and Pisco Mar. They were all amazing Appleton restaurants that I’m so sad are closed!

Now, I’m curious, what is your favorite restaurant in Appleton? Let me know in the comments!

16 of the BEST Restaurants in Appleton, Wisconsin by a Local

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