There is a tendency among Lawrentians to assume that the city of Appleton is an uninteresting place, leading many to rarely leave campus. This column seeks to profile spots in the city to burst your Lawrence bubble, while I use my experience as a townie to give them a side by side comparison with my eponymous mom’s house.
Oh Lawrentians, will your suffering ever end? Are you to never find release from that bone-headed behemoth draining our school dry? Bon Appétit has taken everything from us. Sprecher’s, swipe sharing, Snapple and steak Saturdays have all fallen victim to Bon Appétit’s vendetta against the letter “S.” I have heard your cries and seen your posts on the meme page. There are righteous souls out there who will fight for you, stage a protest next week for you. And, my own contribution will be to provide you with the very best alternatives to Bon Appétit that Appleton can provide. This is the story of the Fox River Valley’s culinary heavyweights: Mihm’s Charcoal Grill and my mom’s house.
“This is decadent.” My friend took another bite of his burger, butter and grease dripping down his fingers. It is 8 p.m., and I am sitting in my crappy, homemade romper across from my friend who I managed to drag along with me — let us call him Marvin. I look down at my own burger, still whole and ready to drop into my gut, feeling the cool leather of the booth on my butt cheeks as my romper rides up far too high, and realize maybe I should not have worn something so liable to come apart at the seams to this restaurant.
There is only one way to describe Mihm’s: well-oiled comfort food. They serve classic American fare such as burgers, shakes and french fries. Everything on the menu can in fact be sorted into those three categories: burgers, deep fried appetizers and shakes. It is the sort of food your boomer parents swerve into the exit ramp for when they see a billboard advertising a ‘50s style diner on I-43. But unlike those other burger bars, Mihm’s is a boutique. Everything about it screams so; they do not accept cards, they use a charcoal grill, it is notoriously difficult to find the right street to turn down and they are impossible to stumble onto by accident. Picture the eponymous mansion from David Mitchell’s “Slade House,” with 90% less soul sucking monsters.
Reviewing this place is not hard. If you are a vegetarian, you will hate it. Otherwise, it will be your new favorite food. It is small, it is artisanal and most of all, it is greasy. Grease is the new Lamp.
On the other side of the world — let us be honest, Appleton is our world — is my momma’s house. I recently received some hate mail directed towards my mom’s house concerning the most recent article about Monkey Joe’s. We have some big Monkey Joe’s fans at this school, and these people were enraged that Monkey Joe’s was beaten by my mom’s house. Some even questioned how great my mom’s house could really be. I will not tell you that these people are mentally inept baboons because I already told them that in my response letters before promptly throwing their letters in the trash. The trash at my mom’s house, it should be noted, is much smaller than the trash at Mihm’s, which occupies a whole dumpster. Mihm’s is a boutique burger bar, but they still produce enough trash to fill a truck and that taints the ambiance a little bit.
Mihm’s lacks both the hardwood floors and the crusty shag carpet of my mom’s house. Therefore, it also lacks also the excitement that comes when moving from one to the other, especially when sock surfing. Sock surfing with your burger is just one of the many things you cannot do with your burger at Mihm’s that you could do at my mom’s house. You could also play “Super Mario Galaxy 2” while eating a burger or shower while eating a burger, to name two great options. And, while you could cry while eating a burger at Mihm’s as well as my mom’s house, you will face far less judgement at my mom’s house.
Both Mihm’s and my mom’s house have their drawbacks. Neither are on Uber Eats and they are both hard to find; Mihm’s in a saucy, flirtatious way that is designed to cultivate a private and loyal coterie of fans, my mom’s house because she says I should not put its location in a newspaper. But, Mihm’s falls short in just enough areas to give my mom’s house the win, and I thank God there are far fewer Mihm’s fans to make a stink about this than there were Monkey Joe’s bros.