Frio Mexican Treats

by Jamie LaFreniere


Frio Mexican Treats
131 West Wisconsin Avenue, Appleton

It’s tough to frequent restaurants during the pandemic shutdown, but with the summer sun comes a need for frozen treats. Luckily, Frio Mexican Treats in Appleton is ready and willing to fight the heat and satisfy your cravings. They have outdoor and indoor seating, or you can take your treats to-go.

Owner Hugo Ramirez has been part of the Appleton community since 1998. He got his introduction to the area when visiting his brother, who was here for school. The area offered them safety and peace of mind that they weren’t used to in their hometown.

“I wanted to bring something of my Mexican heritage to the area and educate people about different cultures,” says Hugo.

“We opened with nothing, but we make it happen somehow. We didn’t have enough budget for the large ice cream machine I wanted, so ours makes a quart every 30 minutes. With the quantity we make, I’m here until midnight or 2 a.m. just to get it done.”

He first learned how to make gelato and then began experimenting with new flavors and ideas. “You start with something people are used to and then give it a little Mexican twist,” says Hugo. “Everyone loves s’mores, so we just add marzipan, Mexican chocolate, and Mexican caramel, and people love it!”

Hugo carries on family tradition with Chocolate Abuelita, just like his grandmother used to make. You can find plenty of fun flavors like Baileys and Nescafé, Mermaid Chicle, Avocado, and Mexican chocolate chip.

The highlight of the menu is the churro bar! Each sundae comes with two large churros and you can try different flavors like cookies and crema, apple pie, s’mores, Fruity Pebbles, or my favorite, Mexican Mocha. Cheat Day gets it all done in one with ice cream, Heath bites, Cinnamon Crunch flakes, hot chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and two churros.

They offer plenty of other treats, like shakes and cones, but don’t forget about the non-frozen option of Elotes, or Mexican street corn. The corn is roasted, taken off the cob, and mixed with different ingredients like butter and cheese, and then you can add in whatever you like from the menu including Doritos, Sriracha, or hot Cheetos.

COVID-19 presents challenges to any business owner, but Hugo is delighted by the community support he is seeing. “I think people are changing to support more small businesses because they realize what we bring to the community.

“Where there is struggle there is opportunity,” says Hugo. “That’s what I like about small businesses, because you can be creative and make it happen somehow.”

Hugo is hoping to be a part of the Appleton community long term. “I take memories from my childhood where I would get ice cream with my parents. Now, you pass those places and they aren’t there anymore. I want for people to say to their kids ‘I will take you to a place my father took me when I was a child.’”

Start your own family traditions today by visiting Frio Mexican Treats on Wisconsin Avenue. Current hours are Wednesday/Thursday/Friday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from Noon to 9 p.m.

Chef and owner Tony Nguyen spent ten years cooking throughout Europe, in Prague, Paris, and Berlin, before moving to Appleton five years ago. His goal for this, his first restaurant, was to give Appleton something special and diverse, combining fresh, healthy, and clean ingredients into tasty Vietnamese cuisine that pays homage to his mother, an expert chef whose love and sacrifice Tony remembers with every dish.

On a recent visit to Tony Nguyen, my dining companions and I started off with Vietnamese coffee, a sweet drink served cold or hot; an avocado Boba tea from the extensive list of flavors; and a coconut smoothie with subtle, not overly sweet flavor. In addition to the smoothies and Boba tea, the restaurant offers wine, beer, and a full bar specializing in tropical drinks. (Tony Nguyen recommends the Brother John.)

We moved on to an appetizer sampler featuring crab rangoons, summer rolls, and our favorite, the pork dumplings which are very gently deep fried for a lovely contrast with the tender, savory pork filling. The summer rolls were bursting with fresh flavor, and each one had a whole shrimp and a crispy rolled wanton “stick” inside for a rather different take from most spring and summer rolls I’ve tried.

Tony Nguyen’s entrée menu offers something for everyone, whether you’re familiar with Vietnamese cuisine or totally new to it. Try the Pho, or go for fried rice, lo mein, entrees featuring beef, chicken, pork, and seafood, or something from the enticing list of Vietnamese street food. There are also many vegetarian offerings. Tony Nguyen says that the dishes he would recommend to a first-time visitor are Pho, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and Bo Ne (sizzling beef).

Entrees range in price from $8-$20, and the portions are large enough that most people will walk out with leftovers to enjoy later.

Taking Tony’s advice, I ordered the Vietnamese pancake, and it was presented so beautifully, I almost didn’t want to eat it. Almost. The pancake, entirely new to me, was a crispy, wafer-thin crepe, made from rice flour and turmeric, and stuffed with vegetables and pork. The dish was so good it made me want to try every item in the Vietnamese street food section of the menu.

Other entrees we sampled were the teriyaki tofu and the house special scallops. Both dishes were expertly crafted stir fry served with steamed rice and an abundance of color and style. Every dish we tried at Tony Nguyen was a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; from 12-7 p.m. on Sunday; and closed on Tuesday.