Mars Cheese Castle is the ultimate Wisconsin experience

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Hungry Hound: Mars Cheese Castle (WLS)

Our Hungry Hound says any trip to Milwaukee or Lake Geneva requires at least one stop: the Mars Cheese Castle.

A fixture along Interstate 94 near Kenosha, the castle moved a few yards west during highway construction, and it's bigger and better than ever.

It is as much a part of the cheesehead experience as going to see a football game at Lambeau Field. That giant sign beckons to motorists cruising along I-94. If you pull off the road, you could easily spend an hour, or more, wandering around the Mars Cheese Castle.

"So we've got cheese, sausage, jams, jellies, crackers; we have bread that we make here on a daily basis. We've got everything that goes along with cheese," said co-owner Michael Ventura. "Heavily focused on Wisconsin cheeses, but being a cheese castle, we've got cheeses from all over the world."

So along with pepper jack, colby and cheddar, there are bins full of chevre and aged manchego too. Sausages come in several forms. Usinger's is the biggest brand, as are other local names such as Silver Spring from Eau Claire, a very small part of their wall of mustard.

You could also hit the bar, featuring a number of beers on draught, such as the well-regarded Spotted Cow from New Glarus. And while you're there, chat up the regulars and nibble on the excellent cheese spread with Ritz crackers.

Hungrier shoppers can order from a small kitchen, where they make brats and sandwiches, including their popular reuben, featuring corned beef, Wisconsin Swiss and homemade sauerkraut.

"It's a simple recipe, but it's delicious, it works," said Ventura.

In addition to beer on tap, they also sell hundreds by the bottle, including the aforementioned New Glarus, which has a cult following all its own.

"New Glarus is huge for us," he said.

And to snack on for the car ride home? Some fresh cheese curds, of course.

"Curds are immensely popular, nothing like a fresh curd," said Ventura.

So there's a lot more than just cheese here at the cheese castle, but of course there's beer and brats and cheese curds but a surprisingly good reuben - the secret of course being that Wisconsin Swiss cheese and homemade sauerkraut.

The castle also does a big mail-order business, but there's nothing quite like stopping in for some samples.

Mars Cheese Castle
2800 W. Frontage Rd., Kenosha, Wis.
(855) 352-6277

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