Good food is closer than you think

The front entrance to Bowl 91 on College Avenue. Photo by Yujie Shao.

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Whether you’re new to Lawrence or an old-timer, at some point during the coming school year you’re going to find yourself hungry and bored with the food options on campus, and if you’re in a situation where you find yourself unwilling or unable to cook, I’ve been there too. I spent a good amount of time last year exploring the area and trying out new places to eat in Appleton, and while the Fox Valley might not have a reputation for being a culinary destination, I found that really good food totally does exist if you know where to look. So here are my personal recommendations for the tastiest food for any mood.

If mac-and-cheese Wednesdays at the Commons get your heart racing but you want something a little higher quality and more filling, try MACS Appleton. It’s 100% worth the drive or delivery fee; they serve fantastic, top tier mac and cheese dishes with a jaw-dropping amount of toppings. Loaded baked potato mac? Philly cheese steak mac? You can even customize your own! The best part of eating in-store is the cute little cast iron skillet they serve the delicious, cheesy dish in. MACS is my favorite place to get a really filling meal when I’m feeling down or just plain hungry.

An order of “Tom Yum Yummy” from Bowl 91. Photo by Yujie Shao.

Not everyone on campus has access to a car, so if you’re looking for a quick, easy lunch within walking distance of campus try Erbert and Gerbert’s on College Ave. It might seem like an obvious suggestion for the locals on campus, but this quick solution to a lunch dilemma can turn my whole day around. The store is less than five minutes away on foot, and for a pretty reasonable price you can get a variety of sandwiches, plus delicious soup and mac and cheese. If you’re feeling too lazy to walk there, they also deliver!

Date night? Looking for somewhere with chill enough vibes to wear sneakers but still want to impress someone a little? Try Katsu-Ya! Also located on College Ave, Katsu-Ya has some of the best sushi in the area for a reasonable price (you get what you pay for with sushi) and a sleek bar area. They also have Hibachi and Yakiniku grills for another, different experience. My insider tip is to call ahead, since this place is a favorite locally and gets packed! It’s also conveniently located next to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and makes for a nice meal before a show.

The front entrance to Bowl 91 on College Avenue. Photo by Yujie Shao.

There are plenty of amazing coffee shops downtown and across Appleton, but none that are as cute and cuddly as The Pawffee Shop cat cafe on Casaloma Dr. This is one of my many favorite coffee shops in the area. The Pawffee Shop has a great selection of coffee and bakery items, and once you’ve ordered you can take your delicious drink and enjoy it with some adorable kitties. All of the cats are rescued and available for adoption, so try not to get too tempted to take one home! (Or do! Adopt don’t shop!) This is the place to go if you need some caffeine and some animal therapy. There are also lots of other great coffee places within a reasonable walking distance from campus that are great locations for studying, hanging out with friends, and getting away from the Lawrence busy. Some favorites of mine are Copper Rock Coffee Company – which features not only amazing drinks (I recommend one of their specialty mochas) but also a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and quiche – and Moonwater Cafe, which is a short walk from campus and has great drinks, delicious bakery items, and a cute patio for enjoying the remaining sunny days of fall.

This list is by no means complete, and since I’ve found more culinary gems than you would expect in Appleton, I encourage you also to explore not only these great options, but to take chances on other places around to find your own favorite spots.