Norske Nook in Osseo, WI

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you drive 90/94 with any regularity, you know the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI — you may not have eaten there, but you’ve seen the signs and heard the chatter and backchatter about its regionally famous pies. What the pre-decline Betty’s was to the North Shore, Norske Nook is to northwestern Wisconsin, a mecca for those who believe in tender, flaky crust and well-balanced, properly seasoned fillings. From standards such as pumpkin and blueberry to more exotic flavors such as raisin pies and sour cream raspberry, Norske Nook does more than offer dessert options — it offers a veritable pie smorgasbord.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Helen Myhre (who founded the restaurant in 1973) sold the place in 1990, ushering in a Dark Age of bad pie and a declining regional reputation. If you visited the restaurant in the early ’90s — as I did — you were probably staggered by the gap between hype and execution.

Happily, recent years have seen a return to individually hand-rolled crusts and old standards for excellence (despite a burgeoning franchise that has seen the Nook spawn four new regional locations, including one across the street from the original.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A blueberry crunch pie (winner of a National Pie Championship award) was a marvelous piece of work. Cinnamon permeated the small berries that comprised the filling, perfectly complementing the pie’s brown sugar-driven crunchy topping. You don’t think of a blueberry pie as having multiple dimensions or depth of spice, but here you have it: Moreover, it worked. Brilliantly. Put this sort of a topping and filling into high-quality crust, and you’re in business.

And a raspberry sour cream pie was marvelously rich and smooth, balancing dairy with fruit and sweet with tart; like most (if not all) of the pies sold at the Norske Nook, it’s evidence of aggressive trial and error to bring added depth and proper proportion to a deceptively difficult realm of baking.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Food at the Norske Nook is nothing to write home about, but not particularly disastrous, either; soup and sandwich combos are adequate and a reasonable value, and there are some interesting things done with lefse that merit commentary.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Creating a lefse “wrap” stuffed with meatballs, gravy, and potatoes isn’t necessarily heart-healthy or sophisticated, but it certainly fills the belly of a road warrior and lays down a nice salty bedrock upon which to drop a slice or two of world-class pie.

Norske Nook
Pie and Scandinavian Diner food in Osseo, WI
13804 7th St
Osseo, WI 54758
715.597.3069
HOURS:
Mon-Sat 6am-8pm
Sun 8am-8pm
BAR: None
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: No / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5-12

(The Norske Nook has other locations in Hayward, Rice Lake, and Eau Claire, plus a Scandinavian gift shop / sandwich shop across the street in Osseo.)

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of a book about Minnesota sandwiches and the people who eat them, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a daily video blogger for CHOW. His latest book is a guide to the food and restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul called the Food Lovers’ Guide to the Twin Cities. Norton has written about food for Culture: The Word on Cheese, Salon, Gastronomica, Popular Science, Saveur.com, Minnesota Monthly, and City Pages (as a weekly restaurant reviewer).

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6 Comments

  1. Jason Walker07/14/2009Reply

    I stopped this weekend at The Pie Place just outside Grand Marais and it was great. The banana cream was topped with real whipping cream, the crust was flaky and delicious and my wife’s blueberry/sour cherry filling was phenomenal. The place was a little odd vibe-wise but worth it for the great pie and lack of crowd.
    I have never been to Betty’s Pies because you can tell just by the number of cars in the parking lot that the place is no good. They’d need an army of bakers to whip out that many homemade, quality crusts and fillings. Every time I’ve driven by it looked like there were at least 100 people there. Not for me.

  2. We never miss a chance to stop at the Nook! Hence the slowly growing Flickr set of pie photos – aficionados are welcome to add theirs too.

  3. We’ve been stopping at the Nook for years, but I’ve noticed the quality slipping lately. I was extremely disappointed in my pie I had there last month

    When we go up to the North Shore we skip Betty’s and head to the Rustic in Castle Danger or the Pie Place in Grand Marais. Even if we go for breakfast, I still get pie!

  4. Found myself here over the weekend. Lunch was forgettable but the chocolate mousse pie was excellent, and I saw the tallest meringue I’ve ever seen…it had to have been 5 inches tall (not counting the filling underneath).

  5. I’ve been eating at the Norske Nook for about twenty years now, always stopping on trips between IL and ND, and while their pies still taste good, their food no longer appeals to me. They have taken a lot of traditional farm food off the menu and replaced it with the fad of the moment (lefse wrap?).

    The last time I was there I got authentic mashed potatoes. I know they were authentic because: a) they had lumps in them, and b) the lumps were cold uncooked potatoes.

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