Apps & Sides

some of the more interesting side dishes out there beyond the curds, wings, and rings

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Takoyaki, Shanghai Bistro – The golden brown shell gives way to a warm, doughy interior packed with chewy, mildly smoky hunks of octopus.

Does anyone still get excited about French fries? It’s not like the old days when every other restaurant patron would look at his or her waitress with wide eyes and gasp, “You have French fries here?!? That is so exciting! I will take six orders!” No, after many years and many lacerated potatoes, the side dish stranglehold of the French fry is overdone and soggy. So what tasty foodstuff will amble up to the entrée sitting upon your next restaurant plate and completely blow your mind? What innovative appetizers will rise up to conquer your taste buds? Several local restaurants serve some creative contenders.

SHANGHAI BISTRO - TAKOYAKI • Shanghai Bistro’s Takoyaki appetizer features a plate of five flash fried, crispy octopus dumplings. The crisp, golden brown shell gives way to the warm, soft, and doughy interior packed with chewy, mildly smoky hunks of octopus each speared on a toothpick for easy eating. The dumplings are served with a thick, tangy Japanese mayonnaise (called kewpie sauce) and the light-as-air crunchy texture of bonito, flakes from a cousin of the mackerel. This tangy octopus treat meets your table for $6. – Tyler Griggs

DAS BIERHAUS – SCHNITZEL STRIPS • There’s another reason to stop at this authentic Bavarian brewery and beer hall than just the fantastic, fresh brewed beer. To complement the boot or stein filled with your beverage of choice, order another of Das Bierhaus’ genuine, mouth-watering treats – their Schnitzel Strips. Whether alone, with their dipping sauce, or on a sandwich, these hand-breaded and seasoned pork strips are prepared fresh daily. And you can taste it. Biting into this world-class delight reminds you of your favorite homemade cooking mixed in with European old-world charm. You just can’t miss it. The crispy strips of heaven run for $9. – Ashley Dziuk

FISCHER’S ON THE GREEN – CREAMY GORGONZOLA FONDUE • This Altoona mainstay of steak and seafood recently ramped up their “small plate” menu with 15 unique appetizers ranging from bruschetta to escargot. But one of their most popular is the Creamy Gorgonzola Fondue. The gooey sensation is comprised of four different cheeses (but heavy on the gorgonzola – hence the name) poured on a platter with toasted and buttered French bread stacked in a criss-crossed pattern. Dip in and enjoy this formidable starter that’s like a Lincoln Log cabin residing in the state of Bliss, USA – population: you. The gooey awesomeness is yours for $7 (or half off during happy hour). – Trevor Kupfer

DUNCAN CREEK WINE BAR & GRILL – TEJAS SHRIMP AND BEEF WONTONS • Mexico meets Asia in this intercontinental appetizer that will leave your mouth, if not the world, a little richer. First up is the Tejas Shrimp – two black tiger shrimp seasoned in the Creole and Hispanic traditions, stuffed with a blend of cheeses, and wrapped in rich, wood-smoked bacon. Not to be outdone, the two deep-fried Beef Wontons are stuffed not only with a load of steak filling, but a fair amount of fresh ginger and garlic to boot. To top it off, the plate is served with both a Dijon dipping sauce for the wontons and a citrus chutney for the shrimp. This appetizer has had such success at this Chippewa Falls eatery that the items have likewise appeared on the entrée menu. International cross-promotion has never tasted this good, and for a mere $9. – Matt Ledger

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