There's not much to see on the highway drive from Akron to Columbus. Both of those places are real places, I swear, but there's nottt a whole lot in between them. It's exactly as you imagine Ohio to be (though I spend much of my life convincing myself exactly the opposite about the rest of the state). It's cornfields, mostly, & farmhouses, & a big outlet mall, &... that's kind of it.
Except for Grandpa's Cheesebarn.
There are signs for Grandpa's Cheesebarn starting miles & miles before you get anywhere near Grandpa's Cheesebarn. It's sort of legendary, even amongst people who have never been there - perhaps especially amongst people who have never been there. If you mention Grandpa's Cheesebarn to anyone from the northern half of Ohio, the conversation is the same: "Oh my gosh, I've always want to go there! I always see the signs, but I've never been."
On a recent drive back from my mom's hometown, Lima - yes, the one from Glee - we decided the time had come. When we reached Ashland, OH, we turned off the highway & down the winding road that leads to Grandpa's Cheesebarn, my excitement building in a display of fairly bizarre & totally uncharacteristic enthusiasm. And then we were there:
Don't worry, there was nobody inside that mouse. I think.
Anyway, I don't know how to begin to describe to you the glory that is Grandpa's Cheesebarn. I guess I expected it to be sort of lame, a podunk letdown after all those miles of signage. I figured it would be small & weird & disappointing.
I was so wrong.
OK, actually, at first, I was a little let down. The downstairs is surprisingly void of cheese, save for this fantastic & massive cooler full of more than a dozen varieties of vacuum-sealed cheesecurds:
But I thought to myself, "This place has 'cheesebarn' in the name. Do you mean to tell me that this is all they've got?!"
And then I realized: There are two floors.
I planned to take photos of the upstairs of Grandpa's Cheesebarn, but I got distracted by eating, well, everything. They offer samples of nearly every kind of cheese they sell, which means you can take baby steps around the entire store, pausing every half a foot to inhale cheddar & havarti & muenster & colby & Limburger & cheddar - &, like, 12 varieties of each. Any cheese you've ever imagined, Grandpa's Cheesebarn probably sells. I checked their website to try to figure out exactly how many, but it doesn't say; my guess would be well over 100.
And if cheese isn't your jam,
What I'm trying to say here is that Grandpa's Cheesebarn is basically the best place in the world. It's a palace. A palace of cheese. We arrived an hour before they closed, & it was not enough time for me to take in its full glory, so I'm already planning a trip back - not a trip where I pass it on the side of the highway & think of it as an add-on destination, but a trip where it is the entire destination.
Soooo who wants to visit me in Ohio? Surely I've convinced you by now that I don't live in the sticks, right?
Whatever, I don't need friends. I've got cheese.