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Pilot Getaways: Mark's EastsidePilot Getaways: Appleton, Wisconsin

Fly-in dining in Appleton, Wisconsin

Editor's note: We asked the GA travel experts at Pilot Getaways to share some of their favorite fly-out destinations. This article originally appeared in the Pilot Getaways magazine. Want more? We've secured exclusive AOPA members-only discount pricing for a subscription.
Located less than 20 miles north of Oshkosh, Appleton International Airport, formerly Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW), in Appleton is a popular stop for EAA AirVenture-bound pilots.
  • Appleton Airport is only 16 nm from Oshkosh, so it enjoys many aviation activities during AirVenture, like this low fly-by of Dan Gryder's DC-3 accompanied by Nanchang CJ-6As and Yak-52s flown by Red Star Pilots Association pilots. Photo by George A. Kounis.
  • Mark'€™s Eastside serves Bavarian specialties such as tasty burgers piled high with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and German mustard. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Tabbert Photography.
  • Over the years, the Fox River has powered the region's numerous paper mills. Today, recreational boaters and fisherman ply its waters. Photo courtesy of Fox Cities CVB.
  • Crosses, triangles, and other Masonic symbols were built into the architecture of the History Museum, which was originally a Masonic lodge. It now hosts exhibits of Appleton natives Sen. Joseph McCarthy and magician Harry Houdini. Photo courtesy of History Museum at the Castle.
  • Harry Houdini Exhibit at the History Museum. Photo courtesy of History Museum at the Castle.

Subscribe to Pilot Getaways at a special AOPA members-only rate.They’ve tied down at Maxair, the FBO that has been around longer than the airport. (Maxair was located at the prior airport site on Ballard Road in the 1950s; it moved to the present location when ATW opened there in 1965 and is now an on-demand Part 135 charter operation.) In 2011, ATW was one of ten airports selected by the FAA to participate in an initial Sustainable Master Plan Pilot Program. The airport’s new general aviation complex is one of the most modern in the U.S., with a Net Zero Energy building that is consistent with the current goal of having the entire airport being carbon neutral by 2030. The building has geothermal heating and cooling; in-floor radiant conditioning; photovoltaic solar panels; high performance glazing; natural ventilation; occupancy sensors; rainwater capture systems; and advanced-efficiency insulation, mechanical, and electrical systems.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the celebration of the area’s German heritage; about half of the residents proudly claim German ancestry. Their homeland’s influence is evident, from polka masses at church to traditional cuisine and beverages. Have a hankering for authentic knackwurst or Wiener schnitzel? Mark’s Eastside, a handful of miles east of the airport, will satisfy your craving.

Before or after your meal, you can visit a variety of museums (see What to Do). In one, find out how magician Harry Houdini escaped from contraptions such as a Chinese water torture cell. Appleton offers interesting attractions all year long.

Flying There

In wintertime, clear blue skies are common and contrast with white snow on the outlying farmland. Few hazards are in the area. The Volk East MOA, 21 nautical miles west, is active intermittently by notam. Flying in from the east-southeast, you’ll need to either fly across Lake Michigan or skirt the edge of it. The lake crossing is generally 45–70 nm; ice normally covers only half of this big water. The Minnow MOA is over the southern part of the lake; check notams for activity.

Flying in from the south is rather uneventful except during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh when the skies are particularly busy. Follow the AirVenture arrival procedures and contact the Platinum Flight Center FBO at 920-738-3034 for up-to-date ATW information such as reporting points.

Aerial view of Appleton International Airport, formerly Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW), facing northwest. Photo of Outagamie County Regional Airport.

When the ATW tower is active, Class D airspace applies. Tower operations change seasonally; check the Airport Facility Directory for hours. Snow removal vehicle operators monitor CTAF. Two well-maintained runways as long as 8,000 feet are served by multiple instrument approaches, including two ILS approaches.

Platinum Flight Center (which replaced Maxair several years ago) now occupies a new, modern, energy-efficient building on the south end of the airport, east of the approach end of Runway 3. For parking directions, call Platinum on Unicom 122.95 MHz. The new facility offers a comfortable pilot lounge, flight planning room, and heated hangars. A concierge staff assists with catering, ground transportation, or tickets to area events. CAVU shares the building and is an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school, 920-738-3031. Platinum has a courtesy car, and numerous cab services and rental car companies are located at the airport (see Transportation). A ramp fee of $20 per 24 hours for singles and $30 for twins applies. One night’s ramp fee is waived with 20-gallon fuel purchase for singles, 30 gallons for twins. Full service Jet A and 100LL fuel are available daily 5 a.m.–9 p.m. (after hours fuel add $75 call-in charge and $75 per hour service charge). The self-serve facility is by the south end T-hangars adjacent to the new ramp. The front desk is open Mon–Fri 7 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat–Sun 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m., 920-738-3034.

ATW is extremely busy during AirVenture and Green Bay Packers home games, and Platinum provides a reservation form on their website for parking. Grass and remote hard surface parking during these events generally costs a one-time fee expected to be around $30. Courtesy parking shuttles transport guests to and from the Platinum lobby. Shuttle schedules and rates to EAA grounds and hotels will be available in Platinum’s lobby or on their website. On the Area Information page, click "EAA Airventure at ATW Airport," and then click "Shuttle from Platinum Flight to the EAA Airventure grounds" under “EAA Airventure Made Easy.” There’s talk about implementing on-field camping during AirVenture; check Platinum’s or the airport’s websites for details as they emerge.


The Fox River, which flows along the southern border of Appleton and north to Lake Michigan, has shaped the area’s history. Early trappers and traders used it to transport goods. In the mid-1800s, European immigrants set up farms and used the river to create grazing land for dairy cattle. The river also powered the region’s early industries: lumber, flour, and paper mills.

During the late 1920s George A. Whiting, an area paper industrialist, funded the first airport facility. With mills scattered throughout the Fox River valley, the area continues to be a leading producer in the paper industry. Foundries, manufacturing plants, healthcare, and education also play key roles in today’s economy. The Lawrence Institute (now Lawrence University) was chartered in 1847, the same year Appleton was settled. This liberal arts college, with an accredited Conservatory of Music, maintains a key downtown location perched atop a bluff overlooking the Fox River. Many performances are open to the public.

Museums, galleries, and theaters have cropped up providing industrial Appleton with a mix of cultural and historical venues. The Fox River still maintains its importance, though the emphasis is now on recreation. Shoreline trails and trestle bridges add year-round waterside hiking opportunities.

Where to Eat

The upper Midwest supper club conjures up memories of hearty comfort food, ample libations, salad bars, and Friday fish fries. Family-owned since 1967, Mark’s Eastside pays homage to this nostalgic type of destination dining. Grab a courtesy car or hail a taxi for the six-mile drive to Mark’s; simply get on Wisconsin Avenue and head east.

Family-owned since 1967, Mark's Eastside  touts 'tastes of the old country.' Photo courtesy of Jennifer Tabbert Photography.

An unassuming storefront masks the fine dining experience inside. Labor-intensive details like preparing homemade sauces and popovers, cutting thick steaks by hand, or aging Sauerbraten eight days in marinade before cooking landed owner Mark Dougherty the Wisconsin Restaurant Association’s 2010 Restaurateur of the Year award, as well as 2012’s Best in the Valley and Golden Fork awards. A heavy emphasis on Bavarian cuisine is a nod to the area’s German heritage.

German décor is sprinkled throughout the establishment; a fine collection of beer steins sits atop an aquarium in the bar area. True to supper club tradition, the salad bar, replete with pickled beets and homemade soup, is also found in the dimly lit bar. At lunchtime, guests may choose to eat in here, but by late afternoon it is too full of patrons enjoying highballs and cold drafts. If you don’t have to fly, try an “old-fashioned” cocktail. Nearly everywhere in the world this drink is made with a bourbon base, but in Wisconsin, brandy is king. Add in bitters, sugar, soda, a muddled orange slice, and garnish with olives for a mix of salt, vinegar, spice, and sweetness that’s vintage supper club flavor.

Bow windows provide a brighter atmosphere in the adjacent dining room; the window seats are festively adorned with seasonal decorations. The lunch menu consists of soup and salad bar, $8.95, and a variety of sandwiches and salads. The German pork sandwich smothers sauerkraut, caramelized onions, German mustard, and Swiss cheese atop slow-roasted pork; it is served with house chips and a pickle, $8.95. Save room for schaum torte, a melt-in-your-mouth homemade meringue shell filled with vanilla ice cream and berry topping, $4.50.

In addition to chops and beef, an expanded German menu is offered at dinner. Start with a Bavarian Scotch egg, a hardboiled egg wrapped in pork sausage, dipped in beer batter, deep fried, and served with Düsseldorf mustard, $4.95. Then choose from a variety of Bohemian delicacies including Weiner Schnitzel, Eisbein (pork hocks), or Kasseler Rippchen (smoked pork chops), German entrées $14–$24. Tasty sides include sautéed red cabbage, spaetzle, or potato dumplings. The dishes are a fusion of tart, spicy, and subtle flavors. Pair them with a frosted mug of Sprecher root beer, made by a Milwaukee brewery which uses local raw honey in their sodas.

The German Catholic population started the fish fry tradition because they were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Wisconsinites tend to adhere to this rule year-round, so arrive early or expect an hour wait. Enjoy all-you-can-eat batter-fried haddock, french fries, coleslaw, and rolls, $14.95. Children enjoy smaller portions or chicken fingers finished off with a scoop of rainbow sherbet, $4.75–$7. Other seafood, beef, and chicken entrées are available.

Mark’s Eastside is truly a throwback in time. Twice-baked potatoes, escalloped apples, and hot Tom and Jerry cocktails hearken back to the days folks didn’t count calories or rush through meals. A testament to its continued popularity, this place is generally always busy. Evening groups of five or more require reservations; lunch or dinner $8–$29, Mon–Thu 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fri 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat 4:30–10:30 p.m., closed Sun, 1405 E. Wisconsin Ave., 920-733-3600.

For a quick bite to eat, the airport’s on-site Café & Pub is located in the main terminal, with, as the name implies, both a restaurant and a bar. Breakfast sandwiches are served on bagels, English muffins, or croissants. For lunch or dinner, pair deep fried cheese curds with a Packer bratwurst. The sausage comes topped with kraut, onions, jalapeños, and Dijon mustard; $4–$10, open 7 a.m.–7 p.m., 920-830-3393.

What to Do

Wintertime high temperatures hover in the high 20s and dip into the single digits at night. If you’re not a fan of cold weather, don’t worry. Appleton offers plenty of indoor activities. Contact the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau for a listing of shops, spas, arts, and amusement centers; open Mon–Fri 8 a.m.–5 p.m., 3433 W. College Ave., 920-734-3358 or 800-236-6673.

Bust of Harry Houdini at the History Museum. Photo courtesy of History Museum at the Castle.

Several interesting museums are found downtown. The History Museum at the Castle exhibits many stunts of renowned escape artist Harry Houdini, who called Appleton home when he was a child. View the tools and use hands-on activities to understand how he broke loose from crates and straightjackets. The building, an old Masonic Temple, is reminiscent of a medieval castle, admission $3.50–$7.50, Tue–Sun 11 a.m.–4 p.m., 330 E. College Ave., 920-735-9370.

Where To Stay

Mark’s Eastside is set among businesses and manufacturing plants. If planning an overnight trip, hail a taxi for a quick, less-than-two-mile ride to the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. Located on College Avenue, it is surrounded by shops, pubs, museums, the Fox Valley Performing Arts Center, and Lawrence University. Football fans will enjoy viewing photos and memorabilia of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, on display in Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse on site. The hotel provides 24-hour complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, rooms $109–$299 (higher rates during AirVenture), 333 W. College Ave., 920-733-8000 or 800-395-7046.


If Platinum’s courtesy car is not available (it’s first come, first served with a two-hour limit; fill it with gas), Fox Valley Cab charges $25 to transport two people from the airport to Mark’s Eastside, 920-734-4545. Numerous rental car companies maintain counters at the main terminal and deliver to Platinum Flight Center. Avis is open Mon–Fri 7 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Sun 9:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., 920-730-7575.

When you fly into Appleton, bring your appetite—Mark’s Eastside prepares delicious Old World delicacies. Walk off the calories later by cruising around College Avenue, checking out the interesting shops, galleries, and museums. Appleton is a quick side trip for those visiting AirVenture, or a wonderful place to visit on its own.— by Patricia Strutz

The new FBO facility. Photo courtesy of Outagamie County.
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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