Ordering a beloved food is a simple way to travel back through time, but sometimes there's an opportunity to transcend memory. That's what awaits at Mickey Lu Bar-B-Q in Marinette when I order its "charcoal broiled" butterburger.
Situated on Hwy. 41, barely a mile from the bridge to the U.P., Mickey Lu's beckons diners with an "EAT" billboard and neon nameplate that reads "BAR-B-Q." A tall chimney suffuses the surrounding air with smoke and longing.
Founded in 1942, just two years after the original McDonald's opened, Mickey Lu's built its legend over the following seven decades through commitment to its original principles: fresh-made burgers grilled over an open flame, priced cheap and prepared fast. The restaurant's unchanged décor and relic of a jukebox stocked with oldies complete the mid-century reverie.
The burgers themselves are throwbacks, their smaller size recalling an era of more modest portions. But you can't stop at just one. Accompanied with cheese and the standard array of condiments, they glisten with a melted pat of butter, sealing their Wisconsin provenance. Fries aren't on the menu (no fryer), but they're not missed amidst the handmade malts and sundaes.
Fast food is often a convenience at best, a hurried stop on the way to a destination, but Mickey Lu's has eclipsed that origin, and makes clear how the American burger conquered the world.