Food & Drink

The Best Fried Cheese Curds in Wisconsin

Published On 08/23/2016 Published On 08/23/2016
The Horse & Plow
The Horse & Plow | Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

The Old Fashioned

Madison

The Old Fashioned on Madison's Capitol Square is known just as much for its cheese curds as it is for… well, Old Fashioneds. You order by number at this spot, and these guys fall at lucky No. 13… which is what you’ll be feeling when these beer-battered beauties arrive at the table. They tend to be small curds, which makes them great for tossing them in your mouth like popcorn -- and you'll eat them just as quickly.

The Wisconsin State Fair | Flickr/Connie Ma

Wisconsin State Fair

Milwaukee

Yes, they're only available 11 days a year, but the cheese curds at the State Fair are amazing. For the best, look for the Hot Wisconsin Cheese cart that's always parked on the north end of the cream puff building. They have a light, crisp batter coating, and there's always a line, so they're fresh. What better way to celebrate America's Dairyland than with some deep-fried cheese?

Titletown Brewing Company

Green Bay

This brewpub serves up some of the best curds in Green Bay, where cheeseheads reign supreme. Renard's Cheese in Sturgeon Bay provides the curds, which are fried here in a light, puffy batter. They're served with tomato sauce for dipping, which is superior to ranch in almost every way. These are perfect for soaking up all the beer you tried on the brewery tour.

The Horse & Plow

The Horse & Plow

Kohler

Located inside The American Club hotel in Kohler, this sports bar serves up what may be the best cheese curds I've ever had. The big curds are fried in a beer batter coating that's substantial enough to hold the melted cheese in, but light enough that it just melts in your mouth. All the little crispy batter bites are great for dipping in the homemade buttermilk-based ranch.

Courtesy of OSS Madison

OSS

Madison

While WI is the land of cheese, it's also the unofficial home of the bratwurst, so naturally, we put them together all the time. The encased meat emporium of OSS churns out some puffy, crispy curds that are best when dipped in Sriracha mayo… just try not to top your sausage with cheese curds, I dare you.

Courtesy of Lakefront Brewery

Lakefront Brewery

Milwaukee

Lakefront's beer hall might be best known for its Friday fish fry, but the curds should not be overlooked. The curds come from Clock Shadow Creamery, the first urban cheese factory in Wisconsin, and are fried in beer batter -- duh -- flecked with pepper. They’re perfect with the live polka music in the hall.

Mullins Cheese

Knowlton

You can't get much fresher than frying cheese curds right at the source. This cheese factory produces tons of curds, many of which get fried and served up in its retail shop. Thin, crispy batter barely contains the cheese, which is so fresh it often still squeaks in fried form (let them cool down a bit for optimal squeak). Bonus: you can grab a foam cheese can koozie and fresh curds for the road.

Courtesy of Milwaukee Brat House

Milwaukee Brat House

Milwaukee

You can get a full-on cheese meal at the Brat House: beer cheese soup, cheese curds, and a Usinger's brat topped with cheese. The curds have a light batter coating, and are topped with Parmesan... because what better way is there to garnish cheese than with more cheese? Plus, you can also get your curds tossed in buffalo sauce here. Mmm.

CurdGirl

Curd Girl

Madison

Food carts are a big deal in Madison, and this cart, serving only fried cheese curds, is in high demand. The batter around the curds is fried until it's a deep golden-brown, with super-crunchy little bits and pieces. Homemade sauces for dipping include ranch and Sriracha aioli. Find them on the Square at the farmers market.

Flickr/tiny.tussle

Culver's

Sauk City (& other locations)

You're never far from a cheese curd in Wisconsin thanks to Culver's, our homegrown fast-food empire. They don't take the typical shortcut of using regular cubed cheese like you might expect from a fast food place; they actually use Wisconsin cheese curds, specifically from LaGrander's Hillside Dairy in Stanley. And you know what? They're pretty darn tasty. I especially like the fact that they mix white and yellow, which makes for a fun guessing game on boring road trips.

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1. The Old Fashioned Tavern & Restaurant 23 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

Upon walking into The Old Fashioned, you can tell it's a well-loved neighborhood joint: signs for regional beer brands and sports jerseys hang from exposed brick walls, and the old wooden tables are rarely ever empty. The walk-ins only spot is a popular haunt for brunch and dinner alike, boasting a robust beer selection of Midwest favorites like Lakefront and Pabst Blue Ribbon, and lest we forget: some of the best Bloody Mary's and cheese curds (beer-battered, fried to order, small enough to eat by the handful) in the state.

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2. Titletown Brewing Company 200 Dousman St, Green Bay, WI 54303

Situated in the former space of a 19th century train depot, Titletown Brewing Company offers daily tours of their sprawling brick campus and state-of-the-art facilities. After you're done learning about Green Bay's storied brewing history and sampling their handcrafted, European-styled beers, make sure to check out the contemporary brewpub. While you really can't go wrong with anything on the gastropub menu, be sure not to miss the poutine (fresh, thick-cut fries layered with a gloriously gooey beer-cheese fondue) and their legendary white cheddar cheese curds.

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3. Horse & Plow 419 Highland Dr, Kohler, WI 53044

Located within the historic American Club, this casual eatery provides all the comforts of Wisconsin hospitality: warm woodsy environs, roaring fireplaces, and a long bar made from vintage bowling alley lanes. The kitchen serves elevated gastropub fare like bison burgers and pork schnitzel, as well as the standout beer-battered Gibbsville cheese curds with buttermilk ranch dressing -- all of which pair remarkably well with any of the brews from their extensive craft beer list.

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4. OSS 910 Regent St, Madison, WI 53715

This industrial-chic counter service spot takes a modern approach to an old school Wisconsin favorite: the bratwurst. The sausages here are made daily in-house, so you can expect juicy freshness from classic staples like Polish, Italian, and chorizo sausage (and they aren't afraid to accommodate contemporary diets -- gluten-free buns and vegan links from local purveyors are available as well). Beer lovers frequent the South Campus spot for its rotating list of craft drafts and bottles, as well as the addictive, fresh-battered cheese curds, served with your choice of Sriracha mayo, ranch, or mustard.

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5. Lakefront Brewery 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212 (Brewers Hill)

The beers of Lakefront Brewery are a source of regional pride for Milwaukee, and it's easy to see why: in addition to being certified organic, they're also made with hops and barley sourced from the state of Wisconsin and made on-site at the historic Bernie Brewer's Chalet (pro tip: it's definitely worth a tour of the facilities, especially when you can taste the different beers at the end). The sprawling, brick-walled beer hall also features delicious culinary staples like fried cheese curds with garlic ranch dressing and beer-battered Polish sausage with sauerkraut, making it a popular destination for neighborhood regulars and tourists alike.

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6. Mullins Cheese 598 Seagull Dr, Mosinee, WI 54455

In a state obsessed with cheese, Mullins is a household name. The family-owned business is a bonafide cheese mecca, producing artisanal batches of everything from asiago to pepper jack. The counter service retail shop in Knowlton is renowned for its "take and bake" pizzas, cured meats, and most importantly its legendary fried cheese curds. Made on-site and fried to order, these gooey snacks are so fresh that they often squeak when you bite into them; a fun test, although it probably wouldn't hurt to let them cool down first.

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7. Milwaukee Brat House 1013 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203

Milwaukee Brat House marries the city's German heritage with regional tastes, resulting a menu of flavorful sausages (ranging from traditional Polish styles to Midwest variations featuring local cheddar, jalapeno, and bacon), pretzels, and the some of Brew City's best cheese curds (lightly battered, fried to order, and sprinkled with Parmesan, because there's no such thing as too much cheese). It's a popular haunt for beer lovers who want to enjoy a pint before heading to a game at Miller Park or an event at the Bradley Center, as there's a free shuttle conveniently running between the bar and both venues.

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8. Culver's 716 Phillips Blvd, Sauk City, WI 53583

This humble family-owned chain is a Wisconsin staple, offering beloved Midwest fare: frozen custard from homemade recipes, milkshakes, ButterBurgers, and fried cheese curds. The casual counter service spot keeps its culinary eye trained on the local community, sourcing core ingredients from farmers throughout the state to make fast food you can feel good about.