It used to be the same in small and mid-sized cities all across the country. Most of the restaurant options tended to play it safe by offering a relatively broad selection of menu items. Although some might be more focused on steaks while another specialized in seafood, they all understood that in order to be successful, they had to cater to the widest possible demographic. The extent of authentic ethnic dining was usually limited to Italian restaurants, pizza places and Chinese food take out locations. In that regard, Appleton, Wisconsin was no different.
Located 30 miles to the west of Green Bay, Appleton saw extensive growth in the 1950's and 60's as people began to leave the city and settle into the suburbs. As the population base grew, so did the number of services being offered, including malls, movie theaters and entertainment complexes. Although there were still some privately owned restaurants that existed, the primary move in dining was facilitated by national chains offering family friendly dining options.
Over the last several years, the number of Appleton, Wisconsin restaurants that have opened that defy the trend of being all things to all people has greatly expanded, specifically in the arena of authentic cuisine. The reason for this is easy to understand. Many of these restaurants are opened by people who are from the second generation. First generation immigrants are typically drawn to large cities where they can more readily find work, housing and a community of other people from their homeland. As they become established and successful, they and their children are just like everyone else. They dream of getting out of the city, of finding some space, or having more land and less taxes. In ever increasing numbers, they find themselves moving to the suburbs.
Such a move would be almost unthinkable a generation ago, and the difference between then and now is driven in large part by the internet and, to a small extent, cable television. People are being exposed to more cultures and different ways of life. In the past, a person had to travel to see what was different in the world. Now the world comes streaming into their homes and onto their smartphones. Greater understanding creates greater acceptance, and it also drives people to look for greater authenticity. No longer satisfied by the "Mexican" food they can get at a fast food place, they instead search out a true Latin fusion restaurant.
With over 300 Appleton, Wisconsin restaurants to choose from, the area ranks as one of the highest when it comes to restaurants per capita. Today people can enjoy foods from all around the world prepared in restaurants right around the corner from them, and as the city continues to grow, so too will the dining options.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com