Big Momma’s House: Volume I

There is a tendency among Lawrentians to assume that the City of Appleton is an uninteresting place, leading many to rarely leave campus. With my experience as a “townie,” this column seeks to profile spots in the city to burst your Lawrence bubble, while also giving side-by-side comparison with my eponymous mom’s home. 

It’s that time of year again: the time when the pitter-patter of intoxicated feet sings through the quad, and a time when the number of people in Appleton who wear overalls skyrockets. Welcome back, Lawrentians. 

For those of you who are new to campus, you may have already heard of the Lawrence bubble. In general, Lawrentians keep to campus and Appleton likewise mostly ignores its most accoladed institution. It was not always this way; our ancestors once lived in cohesive, caring communities. But, technology has split our modern world into pockets and cleaved college and community in two. This is still a huge tragedy; the Lawrence bubble can quickly become limiting, and it swindles students out of all this town has to offer. 

We need some way to eliminate these bubbles, and I know just how to cure it. Being a townie, I know all the ins and outs of this place, and I’d like to be your Appletonian Aladdin. You see, I’ve got a secret list of top spots, underrated-yet-can’t-miss places where the intrepid can always find a good time. Here’s the kicker: I’m ready to share this list with you for the low, low price of only $59,000. What’s that? Your tuition is already paid? Then step onto my carpet and away we go!

If quality eateries were volcanoes, Appleton would be a certified hotspot. But, like volcanoes, it can be hard to find them. Sometimes they lie dormant and are easily overlooked. Make no mistake, though, as we are living in the Ring of Fire. 

Our two gastronomic geysers for today are small and unassuming establishments with food quality that is off the charts. One block north of the College Ave. Walgreens, on the corner of Richmond and Franklin squats My Lee’s Egg Roll House. Probably the least-known eggroll place in Appleton, My Lee’s is run by My Lee, a Hmong businesswoman who has been profiled and featured in the Appleton Post-Crescent. The eggrolls are homemade and delicious, and the Boba tea resembles a milkshake more than anything. The rangoons are 50 cents each, which is almost calculated by God to buy for $4.20 the perfect amount of food to fight the munchies. My Lee’s may not have the widest menu, but they know what they do and do it well.

Another spot that has great food is actually in Menasha, or Appleton South (for those familiar with the Appleton high school system). Pull up to the house across from the park and you will be greeted by my mom with a hug and a smile. I will not go too much into how my mother’s cooking is better than everyone else’s. Suffice to say, the menu is always varied, always delightful and usually enough for a group of eight to twelve.

So, which is the better spot? This is a tough decision. For one, My Lee’s is very close to campus, whereas my mom’s house is about a 12-minute drive away. My Lee’s has crazy good Boba tea and eggrolls, whereas my mom has booze and popsicles. My Lee’s is open all day, whereas my mom’s is not (I really hope I don’t have to ask y’all to not go there when nobody is home). And, I have to be honest, my dog hates strangers and will bark at you through the whole meal. 

Should we compare the service? Absolutely not! I would never compare My Lee to my mom (yikes). But, in the end, good old mom will offer you free food and an overstocked fridge along with the opportunity to take my dog out to pee. My mom’s house wins this round by a hair and a prayer.