Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring the magic of Appleton, Wisconsin November 7, 2013

IN THE PAST THREE YEARS, since my second daughter moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, to start her job as a Spanish medical interpreter, I’ve enjoyed exploring the Fox Valley area south of Green Bay and an hour west of Lake Michigan.

I remember my first visit to downtown Appleton, where this building is located, and my surprise at seeing tall buildings located there.

I remember my first visit to downtown Appleton, where this building is located, and my surprise at seeing tall buildings located there.

Although I’ve tried to convince Miranda to relocate nearer than 300 miles from her hometown, I understand why she’s reluctant to leave Appleton. From my observations, this metro region of some 236,000 residents in 19 communities along the Fox River appears to have a lot going for it in a landscape and lifestyle that can change quickly from urban to rural.

A farm place in the middle of urban housing on the north edge of Appleton, in Grand Chute if I'm correct.

A farm place in the middle of urban housing on the north edge of Appleton, in Grand Chute if I’m correct.

This is a busy and growing region, but one which has not lost its rural roots connection.

A display outside a downtown Appleton gift shop.

A display outside a downtown Appleton gift shop.

Although I’m not much of a shopper, there’s an abundance of shopping options from the Fox River Mall to one-of-a-kind local shops in the heart of an historic downtown. Plus, Appleton has a fantastic farmers’ market, which I’ve perused twice.

Cheese shops. Check. I’ve been to Simon’s Specialty Cheese and Lamers Dairy.

Ethnic and other dining choices abound in the Appleton area.

Ethnic and other dining choices abound in the Appleton area.

Great places to eat, too, like the best pizza accompanied by on-site brewed beer at the Stone Cellar Brewpub and delectable Indian cuisine at Sai Ram. Whenever my brother-in-law Marty, a long distance trucker, travels to Appleton, he’ll phone Miranda and she’ll pick him up and they’ll go to the Stone Cellar for pizza.

Now showing at The Trout Museum of Art, a collection of Katharine Hepburn's costumes.

Showing until December 15 at The Trout Museum of Art, a collection of Katharine Hepburn’s costumes.

On our most recent trip to Appleton, we not only celebrated my husband’s birthday at the Stone Cellar, but earlier in the day explored nearby High Cliff State Park and afterward checked out the Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen exhibit at The Trout Museum of Art. Appleton offers plenty of cultural opportunities at places like the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (which I have yet to visit and which my daughter wishes had more affordable ticket prices) and Lawrence University.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to visit the Trout. The museum’s name has nothing to do with fish, but with Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout, who gifted 150 museum quality works of art and left a $1 million endowment. I was excited to see the Trout Collection.

But it was not to be. Apparently I misunderstood the information on the Trout website and the only collection shown was Katherine Hepburn’s costumes on loan from the Kent State University Museum in Ohio. Now if I was into film and Hepburn and fashion, this certainly would have held my interest. But I am not, nor are my husband and daughter. We breezed through the exhibit in 30 minutes under the scrutinizing watch of a security guard. When I asked if there was more to the Trout, the man at the admissions desk said we’d seen it all.

OK, then. To add to my disappointment, no cameras were allowed inside the Hepburn exhibit. I rather expected that, but I was hoping otherwise.

The recently revamped Houdini Plaza, a central gathering spot in downtown Appleton that features summer concerts, etc.

The recently revamped Houdini Plaza, a central gathering spot in downtown Appleton that features summer concerts, etc.

I settled for shooting photos outside the Trout of the beautiful new Houdini Plaza, honoring escape artist Harry Houdini who called Appleton his childhood home. A permanent exhibit on Houdini is housed in the nearby History Museum at the Castle, where I once saw an interesting Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.

I wish we’d gone to the Castle to tour the current temporary exhibit, Food: Who We Are and What We Eat. That might have been entertaining considering I’ve spotted green and gold brat buns at Festival Foods in Appleton.

If I’ve learned anything in the past three years about Wisconsin, it’s that Wisconsinites like love their beer, brats and Packers.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Details on Houdini Plaza.

Details on Houdini Plaza.

Steel, stone, marble and brass comprise the first seven floors of the Irving Zuelke building constructed in  1931. An additional five stories were added in 1951.

Steel, stone, marble and brass comprise the first seven floors of the Irving Zuelke building constructed in 1931. An additional five stories were added in 1951.

I discovered this bronze monument to Civil War Union soldiers near Houdini plaza, tucked between a parking ramp and a building.

I discovered this bronze monument to Civil War Union soldiers near Houdini Plaza, tucked between a parking ramp and a building.

FYI: To read previous posts from Appleton, and there are many, simply type Appleton into the Minnesota Prairie Roots search engine. Also, photo ops on this visit to downtown Appleton were limited given the intermittent rain.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cheers to the Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton, Wisconsin January 18, 2013

I DIDN’T REALLY WANT pizza for lunch. But our daughter insisted that this place—the Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton, Wisconsin—served the best pizza. Or so she’d heard.

Turns out that evaluation was spot-on correct.

I’m no food connoisseur. But when a pizza can match, even surpass, the savory goodness of the thin crust pizzas from Basilleo’s, a 45-year pizza restaurant in my community of Faribault, Minnesota, I’m sold.

The Stone Cellar did not disappoint and, in fact, left my husband, Appleton resident daughter and me raving over the spicy New Orleans pizza topped with andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, red onion, red peppers and Cajun spices.

The beer part of the business is on the right, the restaurant part through the door on the left.

The beer part of the business is on the right, the restaurant part through the door on the left.

We complemented our lunch time pizza with glasses of seasonal pumpkin spice and Stonetoberfest beer brewed on the premises in the Stone Arch Brew House. This is the site of Wisconsin’s oldest continually running brewpub established in 1858 by German immigrant Anton Fischer.

I’m no beer connoisseur either. But I’m always up to trying specialty craft beers. While I wasn’t crazy about the taste of pumpkin in beer, it seemed the perfect choice for an October lunch, early October being the time my husband and I were in Appleton visiting our daughter.

Had I been aware of Stone Arch’s Houdini Honey Wheat beer, made with pure Wisconsin honey, I may have sampled that instead. The beer is named after magician Harry Houdini, who wrongly claimed Appleton as his birthplace. Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary, and, in his early youth, lived for four years with his family in Appleton. (Click here to read my earlier post about the Houdini exhibit at The History Museum at the Castle.)

The exterior of the Between the Locks Mall, where the Stone Cellar Brewpub and Stone Arch are located along with other businesses.

The exterior of the Between the Locks Mall, where the Stone Cellar Brewpub and Stone Arch Brew House are located along with other businesses.

Beer and pizza aside, I love the location of the Stone Cellar Brewpub along the Fox River canal system (which that first brewer, Anton Fischer, helped construct) and the old stone building itself.

Go through the doorway on the left and follow the steps down into the Stone Cellar Brewpub.

Go through the doorway on the left and follow the steps down into the Stone Cellar Brewpub.

To reach the restaurant, you descend into the deep darkness of what is appropriately termed the “Stone Cellar.” I prefer windows and natural light while dining. But this closed-in space with thick stone walls presents the right comfortable feel for a brew pub with a long-standing history in the Fox River region.

A bonus to this whole dining experience comes with the restaurant’s efforts to offer locally-grown, seasonal, gluten-free and (sometimes) organic foods, aiming to offer healthier menu choices. You’ll find much more than pizza here, including the usual salads, burgers and sandwich offerings for lunch and a more extensive dinner menu.

There you go. If you’re ever in Appleton, I’d recommend dining at the Stone Cellar Brewpub.

Walk through these colorful front doors...

Walk through these colorful and detailed front doors…

...into the entry of the Between the Locks Mall.

…into the entry of the Between the Locks Mall.

FYI: To learn more about the Stone Cellar Brewpub, 1004 S. Olde Oneida St., Appleton, Wisconsin, click here. 

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling