My wife and I were heading back from a weekend in Milwaukee when we spotted this building on the side of Interstate 94, just outside Madison: MOUSEHOUSE. My wife lost it. I had already driven past the exit, but bet your caboose I backtracked at the next exit. That next exit was nearly five miles up, but no matter. We had to see what was inside the MOUSEHOUSE.
Take a moment and imagine what you might see if you actually stepped into a mouse house. Maybe you’re just picturing the plastic cage from the Mouse Trap board game. Maybe you’ve mentally drawn up some opulent mouse mansion, with a mouse tennis court in the back yard and a mouse music studio in the basement. Either way, it’s got cheese in it, right?
There’s a lot of cheese at this mouse house, too. Mousehouse Cheesehaus has been at it since 1988 serving cheese, fudge, beer, socks that make your legs look like Clay Matthews, and I’m serious: cheese. Their website mentions delivery. It mentions a phone number, 1-800-52-MOUSE. It mentions a catalog, and it suggests they’ve got a secret stash of cheese they’ve been aging 15 years or more.
Before you even reach the cheese, before you even have a chance to scoff at Green Bay Packers merchandise, the front door leads you into a small heaven of fudge. I was almost drawn into a slab of Snickers cheesecake with chocolate and caramel squiggled all over the top. The peanut butter chocolate bars were another temptation, an artfully-done mixture of light and dark browns. It looks like the head of your coffee might look when the barista is trying to show off. I’d like to see them try baking it.
Beyond the fudge display is what will probably feel like an escape room if you’re a cheese lover. Which flavor of cheese curds do you buy? They’re priced at $5.50 per bag, but four bags are $20. Do you need four? Where are the blocks of 15-year-old cheese? How many cheese spreads can you have sample before you embarrass yourself?
And then you see a sign behind the deli counter advertising Igor’s Classic Grilled Cheese.
Wisconsin State Law prohibits leaving a business without having an Igor’s Classic Grilled Cheese is there’s an Igor’s Classic Grilled Cheese to be had. I’d have to look up the exact law, but I’m sure it’s in there someplace. My wife and I shared one in the parking lot before we skipped town – or at least that was the plan. Instead, I marched right back inside and ordered a second one.
Igor’s Classic Grilled Cheese isn’t a feast for the eyes, because there’s nothing on it but cheese: no f*cking ham, no f*cking tomatoes, no f*cking noodles, no f*cking confit, no f*cking foie gras. Just cheese. A small pond of cheese forms when the two halves are pulled apart. Each bite is filled with the stuff, just gooey enough that you wonder how you look trying to chew it. You look great, don’t worry. The sandwich doesn’t burn your mouth, even with all that molten cheese, and bites perfectly. Toasty. Not burnt, bready, or crisp. Just toasty. I didn’t meet Igor, but I picture him very happy.
To answer a previously-asked question: you need four bags of cheese curds. They’re the good kind, big, blocky, and they make your teeth squeak. If you’re looking for spicy curds, you’re in luck! They sell four different flavors of spicy: jalapeno, wasabi, sriracha, and ghost pepper.
If spicy food isn’t your thing, the ghost pepper cheese curds will hurt. Even if it is, you might find your eyes watering and maybe your nose running after a few. You’ll go in for more anyway. They’re fantastic by themselves as a snack, but I went next-level. I began melting them on top of the chicken bacon patties I buy from Bonngard’s Family Meats down in Cottage Grove. Three curds. Hold the condiments.
The only bad thing I can say about them concerns their use of the Comic Sans font.
Not to be completely outdone, the fudge drop-down on their website lists 11 different fudge types. Mustards, jellies, jams, maple syrup and honey are also available. So is something called “beer bread.” They advertise Wisconsin’s finest cheese; and we were given no reason to doubt that claim.
If you see it, and it’s pretty tough to miss, stop. Don’t second guess yourself. Pass by, and you might be looking at a long drive back once you come to your senses.
RELATED: While you’re on the road in Wisconsin, keep an eye out for Frankie’s Pub in Sheboygan, and Kurt and Jo’s Eats and Treats near Wausau. Some clean-up edits were made after this article’s publication.