Foster Cheese Haus in Osseo, WI

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

When you hear the phrase “Wisconsin road food,” certain words spring immediately to mind: butter. Sausage. Cheese. Heck, “fatty” may just about cover it. “Fresh” is not a word that necessarily suggests itself, and when you think about an establishment calling itself the Foster Cheese House, the chance of “fresh” being applicable goes from improbable to damn near impossible.

And yet: There’s a freshness of approach as well as of flavor to the food at this roadside cheese shop / restaurant / liquor store. (Another point about Wisconsin: mentioning that any given location doubles as a liquor store is basically redundant.)

The cheese house (or haus, sure) has been perched on Interstate 94 at exit 81 near Osseo, WI for a good 20 years. But after changing hands at the beginning of 2009, its design and menu underwent a complete overhaul. The Cheese Haus is now co-owned by Wayne Kostka of Castle Rock Organic Dairy, and his products — milk, cheese, ice cream — take their place alongside the in-house baked goods, specialty liquors, wines, and other Wisconsin food bric-a-brac that fill the spacious shop.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tables are available for in-haus dining, and a simple menu revolves primarily around daily specials (like the beef commercial we spotted during our visit), and staples such as pizza and sandwiches. We sampled an Artisan pizza ($15 for a 12″ pie), which boasted mozzarella, proscuitto, roasted garlic, fresh basil, and oregano. A thin, soggy crust failed to do its job, but the rest of the pizza was smashingly delicious, with a bright, bold herby flavor that complemented the pie’s high quality cheese.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A Foster Grilled Cheese sandwich ($6) was light on its feet and complicated, a real surprise. When you hear “grilled cheese,” you tend to think “toast and a bunch of melted American.” The Foster version puts pickled beets, spinach, and a blue cheese aioli front and center; the crunchy bread and melted white cheddar and Colby are team players here, not the sole attractions.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The fact that there’s good, casual, civilized tableside dining at the Foster Cheese Haus makes it a great option to consider for anyone doing the Minneapolis/St. Paul-Madison haul. But the fact that there’s cheese from more than 10 certified Wisconsin master makers (plus standouts from non-masters such as Crave Bros. mascarpone), a nice alcohol selection, baked desserts and friendly service should make it a mandatory destination for any food lover coming within a 50-mile-radius.

BEST BET: This is going to sound ridiculous, but go with something that showcases cheese. The pizza is a great way to go, but don’t be afraid to pick up a block of aged cheddar or an exotic mixed milk cheese from the likes of Carr Valley.

Foster Cheese Haus
Cheese shop and pizza in Osseo, WI

E10934 County Hwy HH
Osseo, WI 54758
715.597.6605
OWNER / CHEF & MANAGER: Wayne Kostka / Dean Parent
HOURS:
Daily 7am-9pm
BAR: Beer and wine
ENTREE RANGE: $6-15

Facebook Comments

comments

James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

Visit Website

9 Comments

  1. I’ve been receiving Castle Rock cheeses in my CSA this summer. I can’t wait to visit this place!

  2. I had heard tell of this place, and am glad to get the details. Look forward to visiting it soon.

    Fans of the wonderful but, sadly, defunct Native Bay restaurant in Chippewa Falls will be happy to see Nathan Berg’s name resurface. He was the chef/owner of that inspired local-seasonal restaurant on Lake Wissota.

    Now, as a bread guy, I have to take issue with the idea that a “pizza” with a “thin, soggy crust” could succeed in any way–seems to me that’s some sort of weird fondue, not pizza. But then, as I say, for me pizza is great bread enhanced by judicious topping, not vice versa!

    Still, very happy to know they’re up and running, and eager to check the olde haus oute.

    Brett

  3. Hey everyone, A correction or two. I am the new Chef/General Manager at Foster Cheese haus. Nathen Berg has been gone for three monthes now. We have worked out the bugs on the pizza so the crust is awesome! The Mozzarella is organic from Castle Rock Dairy (3 miles up the road), I make the sausage by hand from organic pork, and the combinations are truly unique! The menu changes weekly/daily, and we are sourcing as much product as we can from local farmers and growers. Our cheese selection is sublime with new products coming in daily. I am a chef with 25 + years experience in many fine establishments. We are focusing on really good local product made simply, and in an elegant manner. Killer small producer wine and beer selections, house made charcuterie, organic stuff everywhere. This is truly a unique establishment! Checkit!

    And the only place on Hwy. 94 to get anything edible between St Paul and Madison

  4. A quite pleased (cheesed?) customer 01/03/2010 Reply

    I recently stopped at Foster Cheese Haus for an early lunch with two friends as we traveled across country back to the East Coast returning from Christmas and New Years in Minnesota. Absolutely the best decision of the trip.

    We had the Four Cheese pizza with artichoke hears thrown on extra. The full flavor of Wisconsin exploded in my mouth.

    Their coffee was excelled and repoured by a server right on queue. (btw, One suggestion: when paying with a credit Foster Cheese Haus should give the option of adding a tip to the charge slip. Our service was excellent.

    Anyone driving out from from Twincy to Chicago or locations further East should definitely check this place out. I suggest leaving Minneapolis at around 9-10 am in the morning to arrive in time for a great authentic local lunch in Osseo. It will fortify you against the ravages of cross-country travel.

    BONUS TIP: Buy a pack of beef sticks on your way out. Ask for some samples and try what they’ve got available. We ended up grabbing a pack of 6 teriyaki sticks for the road. My vagrant citizen journalist friend and driving companion devoured his 3 sticks in short order. I finished up my sticks during that difficult in-between times of a cross-country road trip when you’re stuck in an after-midnight limbo winding through the thrillingly complicated and narrow roads in the hills of Pennsylvania.

    -Graham L

    p.s. Jim: there was plenty of space on their bookshelf. You should help them fill out their selection and ship them a box of your books to put out for sale.

  5. This place has the BEST Cheese ever!!!

  6. We had a pizza here and it was the best pizza I have ever had.

  7. RONALD 01/05/2012 Reply

    They have the best pizza from a wood burning oven I have ever had. I was shocked that there pizza was that good (being from Chicago the king of Pizza’s and Hot Dog’s) the place was clean and friendly too.

    You will not regret stopping for a bite to eat. Thank you for a wonderful diner.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. […] is an easy four-hour drive down 90/94, a well-maintained highway studded with some of the finest cheese, liquor, and German food depots in the Upper Midwest. Yet for many locals, it may as well be Ohio. […]

  2. […] Foster, go to the Foster Cheese Haus. The only other thing there is a feed mill. The Cheese Haus is local food, it’s organic, and we […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*