CheeseHaven: Documenting My Effort to Explore Every Weird Cheese Shop I Can Find

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

First things first: Would you eat chicken & waffles taffy?! I was both fascinated & horrified by this giant basket of flavored saltwater taffy. I bought a few pieces... & was pleased to discover that they taste fully of syrup & not at all of chicken.

Where did I find such a terrible & delightful candy, you ask?


So let's back up a little.

I love cheese. Thus, it follows that I love stores that sell cheese. One of my favorite cheese chops, of course, is Grandpa's Cheese Barn, which is advertised on dozens of highway signs from here to Columbus. I've been a handful of times since my first visit in 2015, & I somehow love it more with each visit.

While I was in Lakeside, OH, for a retreat (yes, the same Lakeside I visited two weeks ago!), I decided to stop at CheeseHaven on my drive home. Would it live up to Grandpa's? Would it sell cheeses I'd never tried before? How much money is too much money to spend on cheese?

You really can't miss Cheese Haven because, as you can see, its signage is... pretty bold. I'm actually, like, pretty impressed by it. Some graphic designer got to have fun with this place!

As you can imagine, CheeseHaven specializes in cheese, but it also sells all kinds of other stuff, like smoked meats, old-fashioned candies, jellies & jams, booze, etc. Their mouse logo is equal parts creepy & adorable, as evidenced below.


One thing I don't love about Cheese Haven is that they have a strict one-sample-per-customer rule. When I say "strict," I mean, "strongly worded signs indicate this rule but no one enforces it, so I still had three samples because how else will I know what I want to buy?!"

Rebel that I am, I tried the ghost pepper spread - it was very hot - but I bought the blue cheese spread instead. So good. I like it with pretzels, though, instead of the Saltines they offered.

Mike loves smokies, so I came close to buying a pack of them as I perusedCheeseHaven's extensive meat offerings. I couldn't decide which to go with, though, & then I remembered that, you know, we live within walking distance of the West Side Market, where we can get them all the time!

I didn't buy this pumpkin butter only because I already have a jar of pumpkin butter at home. Per a recommendation from the owner of the Tremont General Store, my new favorite fall treat is pumpkin butter on vanilla ice cream. Have you tried that? It is incredible, go do it right now. I'll wait.

How was it? Delicious? Good.

So I didn't buy more pumpkin butter, but I did buy CheeseHaven's Blueberry Bourbon Jam, which I have a feeling will be amazing with goat cheese.

Like any good food-centric novelty store, CheeseHaven features a case of weird sodas, including a few really disgusting-looking ones, like "Pimple Pop" and "Martian Poop." I've never tried a strange soda, but for some inexplicable reason, I'm always sort of endeared by cases full of bizarro flavors.

Don't forget the booze! Cheese Haven has a whole section of beer, as welll as weird alcoholic offerings like Kinky liqueur & Bitch wine - & a few extraordinarily Southern flavors & varieties.

All of the booze is kept in a special section, designated by a strongly worded (& grammatically incorrect) sign. This is where you'll find wine & gifts, some of them jokey & vulgar. Even at age 34, sections like this always feel excitingly taboo to me. Anyone else?! It's like sneaking into the back room of a video store!

Finally, as evidenced by that giant taffy basket at the top of this post, CheeseHaven sells tons of candy - though visitors are advised not to let their kids loose in that section, for obvious reasons.

They have tons of taffy, in nearly every flavor imaginable (& some I never would've imagined, like, say, chicken & waffles). I grabbed a couple taffies apiece in pear & caramel apple. Seasonal, right?

I was also fascinated by some of the weird, old-timey candies I found - stuff I'd never seen or heard of, despite having explored plenty of stores like CheeseHaven & other old-fashioned candy shops. I'll say, that Goo-Goo Cluster sounds pretty delicious, doesn't it?

Either the giant jawbreakers are super popular or not popular at all; I can't tell. Did they sell out, or did they not have many to begin with? Either way, all that remained in this basket during my visit was one sad, crumbled jawbreaker that surely won't break anyone's jaw, given that it's in tiny pieces.

That jawbreaker photo brings me to another strange thing about CheeseHaven, which I suspect is the result of my having visited during the off-season: The Lakeside area is heavily touristy & a very popular destination for summer travelers - but in the colder months, the crowds thin way out. Though CheeseHaven was still very busy when I visited, many of its shelves were less than half-full, which made it feel... well, slightly abandoned, despite heavy foot traffic. I wanted moooooore of everything!

All in all, though, I was glad I stopped to check out CheeseHaven, if only to say I did - & to snack on my goodies on the hour-long drive back to Cleveland! I'm less pleased that I somehow spent $60 at a cheese store in the middle of nowhere, but the heart wants what the heart wants, I suppose. 

Are there any cheese stores near you? What's your go-to purchase at kitschy shops like this?

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