Mars Cheese Castle
How often are you able to visit a castle when you're traveling through the Midwest? Not very often.
I've been to a couple bed and breakfasts modeled after castles. And I've been to the Schaumburg location of Medieval Times for their dinner and tournament. But, there's only one cheese castle - the Mars Cheese Castle.
The store dates back to 1947, but this is the third location. The current location was built in 2011 after a road project to expand the highway required the building to relocate a few yards away. The large sign remained.
Ever since I was a teen, Mars Cheese Castle and the nearby Brat Stop have been mandatory stops on a visit to Wisconsin. You just can't return to Illinois without a car full of cheese. The new location is more than double the size of the previous store.
When they rebuilt, Mars Cheese Castle became even more of a destination - it includes a large cheese room, a wine room, a bakery, aisles of gourmet sauces and condiments, a huge beer cooler, a restaurant serving up sandwiches, bratwurst, soups and of course, cheese curds. At one end of the building is a tavern where you can sit and sip a craft beer, including their own signature brew that is produced for them - the Mars Red Pale Ale. What's really cool is that you can order a beer in the tavern and take it with you while you shop. Let them know you're going to browse the store and they'll put it in a plastic cup.
I could spend easily a half-hour or more in the cheese room. There's usually a few samples out to try and there are cases and cases of curds and more to choose from. Be sure to get some of their King of Clubs cheese spread. Can't leave without that.
The Mars Cheese Castle sits along I-94 just north of the Wisconsin border. If a stop isn't a tradition for you when you head into the Badger state, it should be.
Mars Cheese Castle
2800 W. Frontage Road