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Cheese Shops from Chicago to Lake Geneva, WI

I will be traveling from downtown Chicago to Lake Geneva, WI by car and would like to know if there are any chow worthy cheese shops in between or in Lake Geneva. I am also interested in any cheese factories/tours within a 90 minute drive of Lake Geneva if there is such a thing.

Thanks in advance

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  1. I've lived in the Lake Geneva area more than 40 years and am the daughter of a dairy farmer, so I'm pretty plugged in to the "dairy scene" here. Good local cheese here is limited. That may seem like a contradiction, but farmers in this area sell their milk for bottling not cheesemaking. Still, in this day and age, you think someone could truck more good stuff in!

    Best bet is The Cheese Box on Wells in Lake Geneva. (not downtown; closer to the high school). Building has a quaint old feel; don't let that put you off. Inside are the nicest people with good cheese (best cheese curds around) and they will ship, too. You may think the selection is on the small side, but try it and see what you think.

    Roses Fresh Market is in downtown Lake Geneva across from the new Tuscan Grill (former Ryan Brauns/former Cactus Club). Roses Fresh Market is a newer, trendy store and they have some "gourmet" style cheese; also very friendly people, too.

    A little further afield in downtown Delavan (about 25 minutes) is the Brick Street Market. They specialize in artisan cheese, including Carr Valley and Hook's.

    Depending on what route you are taking, there is always good ol' Mars Cheese Castle just off of I-94 in Kenosha County. If you are going to LG via I-94 to Hwy. 50, you would need to stay on 94 and go north a ways. Mars built a new castle last year near the old location because of the highway reconstruction project, so they are saying they are "Bigger and Better."

    Lastly , don't rule out certain grocery stores. The Frank's County Market (aka Piggly Wiggly) in Elkhorn (20 minutes) has some good speciality varieties, perhaps not "chow-y" enough for some people but I was pleansantly surprised. The Sendik's in Brookfield (near Milwaukee, about an hour) has a "cheese cave" (actually a refrigerated room with a sliding door) with some excellent aged cheddar.

    Cheese factories/tours - You will not find cheese factories in this area. You need to go further west to the Monroe/Green County area, which is a good two hours.

    9 Replies
    1. re: shaja

      Instead of Mars, go to Woodmans. Far cheaper prices. If you go to Sendiks in Brookfield, also make the time to go to Brennans for a great cheese selection.

      1. re: exvaxman

        Thank you both for the recommendations. I am very excited on my first trip to Wisconsin to immerse myself in so much cheese! If you have any restaurant recommendations for Lake Geneva, I would greatly appreciate it also. Thanks again.

        1. re: BellaDonna

          What are you looking for in restaurant recommendations (price range, cuisine, size of party to be accommodated, fine vs. casual, etc.)?

          I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but this part of the state isn't really known for cheese. That said, you should be able to find something enjoyable at the places exvaxman and I recommended. I hope you enjoy your trip and your visit!

          Speaking of cheese, I have to sing the praises of the Grandview Restaurant in the Geneva Inn for the most delicious baked brie appetizer I had there the other night. It was served with ciabatta crostini and a heavenly ginger-apricot sauce. The flavors just came together in the most incredible way. Even Mr. Shaja liked it, and he doesn't like brie!

          1. re: BellaDonna

            Bella Donna, I can't recommend Simple Cafe enough. It's only open for breakfast and lunch and slightly off the beaten "tourist" path in LG (about 4 blocks north of the main drag). Locally sourced, seasonal and a nice variety of different foods (the Korean breakfast bowl and chorizo burrito are personal favorites). Also one of the only places in the area that serves Milwaukee's wonderful Alterra Coffee.

            On a nicer scale, the Brissago at the Grand Geneva resort serves delicious Italian food. They fly many of their ingredients in on a weekly basis directly from Italy.

            Shaja, that baked brie at Grandview is deeeeeelicious. I could pass an entire day sitting by the windows there, staring at the gorgeous view and eating that sauce with a spoon. :)

            1. re: BellaDonna

              As far as restaurant recs, I have heard good things about Wakefield's. Disclaimer - I have not been there yet.

              http://www.wakefieldsoflakegeneva.com/

              1. re: Fowler

                Wakefield's is in the former Kirsch's space. Kirsch's closed over the summer in 2011 when the owner retired. Wakefield's opened in late 2011. I haven't heard anything about it yet, so I am interested in checking out your recommendation.

                1. re: shaja

                  New chef as well. Rick Starr is no longer there.

              2. re: BellaDonna

                Just got back from Lake Geneva and had a wonderful dinner at the Baker House. Really excellent grilled grouper that was a special that night. Had fun with the hats and the sundown toast - good mini-desserts, too.

                Had dinner at the Geneva Inn one night. Very good filet and just so-so salmon. The black forest ham vinaigrette on my salad was unusual but delicious and I had a chocolate hazelnut dessert that I am still dreaming about.

            2. re: shaja

              Updating to say that The Cheese Box has been closed. The owners have retired.

            3. Here is an article about a cheese factory opening up in Milwaukee - Maybe for your next trip.

              http://onmilwaukee.com/dining/article...

              If you get a chance to go further north in the future, these folks are my favorites:
              http://www.henningscheese.com/index.html
              They have been on food network in the past.

              If you want to go further north on another trip, please post another request.
              I'm sure the board has lots of favorites. (as well as sausage/brat outlets, etc).