The ethnic restaurants in Appleton, for students from larger cities, are pretty few and far between. It’s easy, though, to include Appleton as one of the Wisconsin cities that has a relatively diverse selection of quality restaurants.
In my humble journey across the culinary landscape of Appleton, I have not yet found an ethnic culinary experience in town that has impressed me more than the Mediterranean fare at Apollon.
Located a block from College Avenue on Appleton Street — an easy walk from campus — the small and difficult-to-notice restaurant hardly impresses from the street. The interior, however, adorned with white and blue tablecloths, fine tableware and wall murals, makes a far better impression.
The atmosphere is simple and intimate. The restaurant does not make an obvious effort to create frivolous elegance, yet it retains sophistication and class. The servers are welcoming, friendly and unobtrusive.
My guest and I enjoyed excellent house-made bread and baba ganouche — a Lebanese hummus-like condiment made with mashed eggplant. We then ordered Saganaki, a baked cheese dish impressively finished tableside with flaming brandy and lemon juice. Although it was entertaining and delicious, the cheese was slightly over-browned and difficult to remove from its cast-iron dish.
The salad arrived next, made with standard assorted greens, feta cheese and other vegetables. Two house-made dressings came on the side, and both were decent and even more enjoyable when mixed.
However, Apollon is probably most well known for its Avgolemono soup, which is made from egg and lemon. It is simple yet rich; the tanginess balanced with the creaminess makes a satisfying flavor.
One of the most popular dishes, among many varieties of lamb, is the Lamb Tenderloin Mint, which is prepared in an herb and balsamic reduction. After trying a few other fantastic dishes on the menu in my previous visits, it is easy to see why.
The rich and savory reduction does not obscure the flavor of the lamb, and the accompanying vegetables and grain are cooked to perfection. My only criticism is that the mint flavor mentioned on the menu, which is a traditional compliment to lamb, was not quite noticeable.
The dessert that my guest and I shared was a simple chocolate mousse cake that was well prepared and enjoyed, but overall an unremarkable part of the meal. I recommend the house-made baklava, a more memorable and authentic dish.
The menu offers two different “tiers” of main entrees, which all include bread, soup and salad. The standard $17-24 dinners are certainly enjoyable and less expensive, but the Chef’s Featured Dinners truly showcase Apollon’s culinary mastery — if you are willing to spend $22-32 per meal.
Traditionally, Greek and Mediterranean restaurants serve an unhurried dinner, and Apollon is no exception. I highly recommend that you allow two hours for your meal.
I’ve eaten at Apollon with a time constraint, and rushing the meal significantly diminishes the experience. Also, the staff wasn’t quite accommodating with the time frame I gave. When you do have the time, dinner at Apollon is certainly worth the wait.
Apollon is a perfect place for a birthday or anniversary, or to take family members when they come to visit. The overall experience allows you to slow down, relax and enjoy the great company and food that Apollon provides.