Made from scratch
Norske Nook serves up Norwegian-American dishes and epic pies in Wisconsin
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Norske Nook in Wisconsin is legendary for its Norwegian-American dishes and pies, drawing national recognition and happy customers from all over the United States to western Wisconsin.
To learn more, I recently spoke with Stacy Campbell, the general manager of the Kaffe Hus & Gift Shop at the Osseo, Wis., location. She has been with Norske Nook since 2007 and has worked in every location and every section.
Norske Nook was founded as a small café in 1973 by Helen Myhre in Osseo, Wis. Myhre brought her Norwegian heritage and farmwife cooking sensibility to create the home-style menu. She established Norske Nook’s reputation for good pie, and the rest is history.
Jerry Bechard learned the business from her and purchased the restaurant in 1990. He expanded Norske Nook by opening new locations in Rice Lake, Hayward, and DeForest. The Hayward location was sold last year.
Norske Nook’s menu focuses on cozy Norwegian-American dishes and pies with a focus on homestyle cooking with everything made from scratch.
“Norske Nook is all about comfort food. We serve breakfast items all day, as well as burgers, meatballs, and more. We are also known for our lefse wraps. The lefse is made by a local lefse manufacturer, and we do different breakfast and lunch wraps. Each component is homemade,” said Campbell.
“We also do a lutefisk dinner on the first Sunday in December, and people call a month ahead of time to make sure we’re doing it. The menu includes lutefisk, lefse, Norwegian meatballs, sweet soup, rømmegrøt, sandbakkelse, rosettes, and more,” she added.
Then I asked about pie. I first learned about Norske Nook by checking out their book The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes, so I knew that pie was a big deal at Norske Nook. But I didn’t realize that it is a shrine to all things pie.
“We take our pies seriously here at Norske Nook. Everything is made from scratch, from the puddings to the crusts. We don’t buy anything premade!
“Our founder, Helen Myhre, had about 12 pies that she made; now we are up to 74 types of pie,” said Campbell.
There’s a lot of love and attention to detail that go into Norske Nook’s pies, and it’s not just customers who have taken notice: Norske Nook has won 45 blue ribbons (and counting!) at the annual National Pie Championship.
“I’ve been to the competition three times. It’s very intense with hundreds and hundreds of pies entered, and it’s a real honor to win,” said Campbell.
Norske Nook offers a variety of pie options and rotates its selection through the seasons.
Sour cream raisin meringue pie is their most famous. It takes two cups of egg whites (!!), which is piled mile-high and toasted to perfection. There’s something for everyone, with classic two-crust fruit pies, luscious cream pies, and some creative seasonal options, too.
“Every Wednesday is ‘Pie Day,’ and it’s $4.50 for a slice and a cup of coffee. We have our pie calendar done a year in advance, so people know what’s coming. Sometimes we pull pies out of retirement,” said Campbell.
In addition to their delicious menu, Norske Nook also features a wonderful, well-curated gift shop of Norwegian items and Norske Nook fan gear.
“We carry T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, totes for pie, and more. I also have Norwegian sweaters, mittens, and scarves that are handknit by a woman in Norway. Her work puts Dale of Norway to shame! I also have a local woman who does rosemaling, and we carry many of her pieces,” said Campbell.
And for those looking for Scandinavian cooking gear, it’s a treasure trove.
“We have aprons, napkins, the Swedish dishcloths, as well as rosette irons, lefse griddles and sticks, molds for sandbakkels and almond cake, and more. There’s a lot of history in this building, because it’s the original Norske Nook location. I get generations of people who will come in and bring their kids to show them around,” she added.
The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and Norske Nook has not been immune to the challenges.
“We were shut down for only a month, and then we did one month of curbside pickup. That was hard because we weren’t known for takeout. People want to come, sit down, and enjoy their food. It’s a homemade meal. But we did it.
“Each town and county has different regulations for capacity limits and other things, so it’s been really hard. We are short-staffed and have had to cut our hours, days, and menu to keep going,” said Campbell.
When I asked Campbell if there was anything else she’d like to share, she thoughtfully added:
“Norske Nook has something that a lot of restaurants have lost: the home cooking. Most people don’t do that anymore, and we are doing our best to hang on to that. You can tell that our pie bakers and cooks take pride in what they do, from the pie crust to the mashed potatoes and gravy. The Norske Nook is like a family. We’re doing our best to keep going, and I think we will come out of this stronger.”
A hearty tusen takk to Stacy Campbell and the crew at Norske Nook for continuing to share the best of Norwegian-American cuisine and hospitality in the Upper Midwest. I look forward to visiting for a slice of pie soon!
Norske Nook has three locations in Wisconsin: DeForest, Rice Lake, and Osseo. Pies are available for local pickup by calling the location, and certain pies are available for nationwide shipping through Goldbelly.
Norske Nook also has two cookbooks: Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook by Helen Myhre with Mona Vold and The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes by Jerry Bechard and Cindee Borton-Parker, both of which are available to purchase online through the Norske Nook website.
To learn more, visit norskenook.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.