Double Take: Cheesin' in Kenosha

8/24/2017 - Gary Eckstein & Nancy Davies

Cheese Tour Kenosha Wisconsin
Cheese Tour Kenosha Wisconsin
Cheese Tour Kenosha Wisconsin
Cheese Tour Kenosha Wisconsin

C-H-E-E-S-E. That’s how we spell LOVE in Wisconsin. Two of our community blog writers recently set out on a quest to explore cheese in the far southeast corner of Dairyland. Read on to take a tour of cheese in the Kenosha Area, as told by two cheese-loving bloggers.

Gary:  I was raised on a dairy farm near Wisconsin Dells and milked cattle and goats. My dad, sister, and brother-in-law worked at the cheese plant in Portage. I was the number one ranked participant on my high school dairy cattle judging team. I spent four years in the Future Farmers of America. My biography is thoroughly infused with bits and pieces of fromage. Curds run through my veins – I’m a true Wisconsin cheese guy. I’m game for pretty much any cheese - Camembert, Manchego, Feta, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gouda, Edam, Camembert,  Brie, Roquefort, Stilton, Gruyere, Camembert  (even if it is a bit runny) – I’m in, you don’t have to ask twice. I’ll even nip at Limburger when feeling a bit puckish.

Nancy: A pro when it comes to cheese puns, I am simply a woman on a quest to figure out all the different cheese to enjoy in our area. I’m going to get in front of this and say how dairy you think what I’m writing here is cheesy. It IS about cheese, but I don’t believe this post will grate on you; quite the opposite. I just love Cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Cheddar (of course), Parmesan, Swiss, Mozzarella, Bleu, Artigiano, Provolone, Farmer’s Cheese, Bread Cheese,  Basil & Olive Oil Cheese, Blueberry Cheese, Expresso & Lavender Rubbed Handcrafted Cheese, and so many more. It’s so Gouda, wouldn’t you agree? I curd go on listing cheese types, but I want to share with you where to find really good cheese so you can join in my passion.

Mars Cheese Castle

Gary: Visiting Mars is an experience, not just a shopping trip. It is far more than a place to taste samples. If you haven’t seen it, it is literally a building designed like a castle. Recent renovations to the interior have incorporated some very classy castle designs – a handcrafted pergola in the dining area and medieval great-room theme in the beverage department, among them. Mars has an incredible selection of foods, beverages, souvenirs, a bakery department, and an awesome restaurant – even a bar. It’s very easy to spend an hour or two at this shop/attraction/restaurant/landmark! My dairy-farm family met us there for dinner recently and wholly approved of the customized grilled cheese sandwiches and loved the homemade coleslaw. Pro Tip: Don’t stop with just fresh cheese, be sure to check out the restaurant and bakery for their cheese creations. The grilled cheese sandwich is world class.

Nancy: When I say, “Kenosha” to people, inevitably those who don’t live here but have traveled on I-94 immediately mention Mars Cheese Castle. With more than 70 years under their belts, this family-owned icon of cheese and Wisconsin beers has welcomed visitors to Dairyland. You may be surprised, or like me a bit disappointed, to find out that the building is not actually made of cheese like the wheel of cheese depicting the building's image that we recently saw (darn it! Check out the photo above though!). However, it is absolutely filled with cheese – approximately 800 different varieties are available for purchase. They even have a trained, expert cheese monger who knows all the different cheeses, their flavors, how to handle and store different cheeses, how to cut the cheese (sorry, that pun was unintended), and so on. Challenge: I dare you to go and not take home more than one variety of cheese. Try, you won’t succeed.

Brat Stop

Gary: For a great lunch or a night out, AND a nice cheese and deli counter, I recommend Brat Stop. This is another cheese shop with a restaurant, bar, music venue, volleyball court, and an adjoining banquet facility. Easily the best atmosphere for a Cheese Party (and they do have one of those in the spring – Dairy State Cheese & Beer Festival!).  This is a humble cheese shop with a rocking venue attached. Pro Tip: The fried curds here are awesome.

Nancy: Brat Stop is well-known to Wisconsin travelers and locals alike, and no stop at the Brat Stop is complete without a visit to their Cheese mart. They’re open seven days a week, 365 days a year, so any day is a good day for cheese. Plus, you can also enjoy a good brat and other delicious delights in their restaurant/bar area, such as deep fried cheese curds (I’m in heaven!) and a jalapeno cheddar-wurst brat! Challenge: Try eating just one cheese curd. It can’t be done.


Gary: In addition to a great selection, Tenuta’s offers great prices. No one can touch their prices - if you buy a 3-pound block of domestic cheese. They also stock some very nice quality imported cheeses and I’m guessing their prices are some of the best in the Midwest in this category. Tenuta’s is an amazing place with a great selection of beers, wines, liquors, a deli, Italian-American groceries, spices, candies, and even cigars. During the summer months, the store also has an outdoor grill with seating. We love stopping in for a Chicago-style hotdog or Polish sausage, but once a month we go there to stock up on cheese, spices, pasta, and to pick up something from the deli. We really enjoy eggplant dishes at our house and Tenuta’s is one of the few places we can find prepared or frozen eggplant entrees. The deli counter even offers an eggplant with ricotta cheese item…what more could a person ask for? Pro Tip: In the summer, the grilled homemade Italian Sausage is out of this world.

Nancy: My cheese tour wouldn’t be complete without Tenuta’s. Their website states, “Tenuta’s is tradition,” and after more than 65 years, I’d say that’s true. Still family owned, Tenuta’s is one of those authentic Italian deli’s (and grocery and liquor stores) that should be (and is) a destination for those visiting or passing through the county. In the same location where it started, with a few additions and expansions, there’s a nice variety of cheeses to choose from, making it difficult not to take home a grocery bag full. A clear focus on Italian cheese means that cheddar-lovers can try something new. You could buy mascarpone, ricotta, manteche, grana padana… well, you should just go see it all for yourself. Especially because they hang a 250 pound aged BelGioioso brand provolone cheese in front of the deli. Challenge: Try resisting the urge to take your photo with the BIG CHEESE. It’s definitely Instagram worthy. Don’t worry, they encourage photos - says so on their website. So, no need to feta ‘bout it! (Okay, I’m nearly done with my cheese puns).

Upcoming Cheese Event

Gary: Cheese-A-Palooza, a celebration of all things cheese, will take place at Kenosha’s HarborPark on Labor Day Weekend. This event is a great way to wrap up Summer in Kenosha. There are more than 20 food vendors scheduled, six bands with a great variety of music represented, a water show, food related contests, and the beautiful backdrop of Lake Michigan to enjoy. Pro Tip: Admission is free, but bring cash for all the delicious food!

Nancy: If you’re feeling bleu, then Kenosha has just the thing for you. In queso you didn’t know, the 4th Annual Cheese-A-Palooza is taking place September 2 – 3. There will be multiple food vendors celebrating cheese and providing “the goods” for the most ravenous of cheese cravings. There will even be a Homegrown Wisconsin Products area for those who want to celebrate all flavors of Wisconsin. Looking for more? How about a water show, 5K Queso Run/Walk, family friendly activities, and more! Challenge: Run the 5K first and then join in one of the eating competitions! Prove to us how much you love cheese!

Bonus Cheese Location

Nancy: A newer addition to the cheese scene is The Buzz. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit down and enjoy cheese that people bring to you… you know, in a more sophisticated fashion.  This makes Downtown Kenosha’s The Buzz Café a lovely stop. While the café offers sandwiches, coffees and beers, it also has Charcuterie boards that allow you to choose what to include. Fill out the form’s offerings of nine different cheese choices, and voila, you have your own made-to-order meal of cheese, meat, bread(s), spreads, and more. I can Havarti believe how many combinations that can be created! My choice of board includes all nine cheeses. Don’t judge; I put down bread, too. Challenge:  Take your cheese to go and enjoy a walk or picnic along the lake and reflect upon all the cheeses you can enjoy in the Kenosha Area!

This isn’t a comprehensive list of cheeseries (is that a word? It is now!) – there are smaller retailers along the I-94 corridor and in the Western County which offer very nice selections and prices. Now you know some of the tasty places in Kenosha County to find a vast array of cheeses, plus, we’ve peppered you with cheese puns that make brie happy (and hopefully, you as well). Our location as a gateway to Wisconsin has really made Kenosha a great place to experience cheese. Remember, Kenosha is a year-round cheese adventure. It’s time to go forth and dairy on! 

Double Take Bloggers Team Up to Explore One Topic

Gary Eckstein & Nancy Davies

Double Take blog posts feature two members of the Visit Kenosha Community Blog Team sharing their views on a single topic.