Upon entering the doors to Gather Americana Restaurant & Deli, you are greeted by live food posed on the wall as art. Fresh, fragrant super-foods, jauntily sprouting in rustic seed boxes, their colorful shoots waiting their day of edible adornment on someone’s lucky plate.
The next thing you see is the magnificently inviting hearth that is central to Gather’s down-to-earth, welcoming space. The meandering curved bar with ample seating beckons next, beautifully designed for conversation. The site opens further with additional fireplace-view seating, complete with an adjacent atrium space infused with natural sunlight.
According to John Chastain who co-owns Gather along with Pamela Hull, guests from larger cities such as Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Seattle often tell them that Gather reminds them of their favorite hometown restaurants.
“We didn’t plan it that way. We’re humble small-town Midwesterners with a passion for local food. But we appreciate the comparisons. The Fox Cities are our home. Our mission is to elevate the farm-to-table movement here by enhancing access to natural, locally grown food. We want to help you lead healthier lives, but we also believe that balance plays a key role in our lives.”
And they freely admit to having delicious fun in the process.
“Certainly we have exceptionally crafted food with a local, natural bent. But we also created a beautiful bar with 24 craft draft beers, a nice wine program and a wide array of spirits. We offer craft cocktails, some great comfort food and a bar munchie menu among the best around.” Hosting all variety of gatherings, including business networking events, after-work happy hours, romantic dates, neighborhood get-togethers, events like yoga ‘Poses & Pints,’ community support group meetings, organic baby food maker field trips, health care organization recruiting functions, a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony, and more, Gather’s focus on hospitality is evident.
Says Chastain, “We want people to feel welcome here for any reason at any time. We don’t plate politics.” Whether customers desire a full-range comfort food dining experience, appetizers and craft cocktails, a wine flight experience with a variety of sampler plates, or simply wish to stay all day sipping coffee while using the free Wi-Fi, the door is open at Gather.
“We’re not just a restaurant,” emphasizes Chastain. “We’re a platform for soul food and community connection.”
While the food is comforting and sustaining, so is the business approach. Gather’s community partnership vision and philosophy is apparent in every facet of their operations and culture.
Over the course of their recently celebrated one year anniversary of being open on Appleton’s west side, owners have partnered with more than twenty different local farmers, growers, dairies, and bread artisans. A true farm-to-table restaurant and deli, they source from food producers who are committed to natural, sustainable methods.
Intimately connected to the community, it’s a common occurrence to see Gather’s owners and chef frequenting the Appleton Downtown Farmers Market, baskets in hand, personally hand-picking the season’s freshest and best offerings.
Learning the art of creating beautiful, healthy meals using whatever was seasonally available was something Executive Chef Ryan Keranen learned from his mother as a young boy. “We always had a family garden growing up, mom canned fresh produce, and I was taught how to properly filet a fish when I was nine.”
“What grows together goes together,” says Keranen.
Later fine-tuning his culinary chops with coastal California gigs where the farm-to-table movement was happening in a big way, Keranen took in all the learning opportunities he could. He also took in the lush natural surroundings that fed his spirits as much of the food he loved to work with.
“Eating is very sensual. So is the cooking process of food. Before you eat it, you smell it. Visually, your take in the variety of colors and shapes. You hear the sounds of tongs hitting plates and the sizzling pans, awakening the senses. Texture is felt with the hands and mouth. And, then, of course, there’s taste.”
“I’ve been looking for someone like Ryan for a long time. He has the ideal combination of skills and ability to implement our farm-to-table mission in delicious and skillful ways,” says Chastain. “Believe it or not, I found him on Craigslist.”
Gratefully, there wasn’t a missed connection. Taking traditional fare to new heights of the culinary experience is something Keranen does instinctively. Not only is Keranen an intuitively creative cook, he’s also passionate about health and wellness. This ambitious chef not only wants to expand people’s culinary experiences, but also their minds. “Being focused on the heart and soul of farm-to-fork philosophy, you learn the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and prevention of chronic diseases.”
Keranen says he loves teaching what he knows and embraces the “open kitchen” concept. “Guests are welcome and encouraged to ask questions and see how our kitchen operates. We love showing people what we do and sharing what we’ve learned with the community.”
Gather’s most popular menu items include Mushroom Ravioli, their Ridiculous Burger, and a grass-fed tenderloin. They also offer several vegetarian and vegan choices with plans to add more.
Intrigued yet? Gather in! Gather to… appreciate, celebrate, share, remember, salute, savor, embrace, pause. That’s what guests are encouraged to do via the vivid framed outdoor photography on the walls by local Wisconsin artist Kathy Westover of Westover Photography.
Art is everywhere you look and part of the very spirit of Gather Restaurant and Deli. It’s about living beautifully, healthfully, and sensually. And it’s about having fun while you’re doing it.
“We’ve also begun our weekend jazz series featuring Lawrence University’s Hobey Tucker and cohorts, and other local artists such as Erin Krebs, Christine Granatella, Bob Levy, and Patty Krych. The room was built for this. Great acoustics, music that soothes but doesn’t dominate. This completes the ambience equation for the night.”
Chastain says he wants to expand their array of live music offerings, broadening the mix to include anything in the Americana realm. Food offerings will continue to grow, too. There is talk about plated brunch, possibly with live music, being offered soon on weekends, and they are also further developing their menu’s large plate vegetarian options.
Gather is a undeniably a restaurant with big ideas. Sounds like a recipe for success.
Gather is located at 213 S Nicolet Rd in Appleton, just south of the Fox River Mall. Reservations are accepted for all party sizes.
They also have two rooms available for events for up to fifty people, with audio/visual capabilities. Call (920) 750-7290 or go to their website gathereat.com or Facebook page for more information.
Living artFULLY in the heart of Wisconsin firstname.lastname@example.org