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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Pie and Scandinavian Diner food in Osseo, WI
13804 7th St
Osseo, WI 54758
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.)