The Cheeze Factory in Baraboo creates globally inspired all-vegan fare

While Baraboo might be located in the heart of America’s Dairyland, it is also home to one of the state’s only all-vegan restaurants, the Cheeze Factory.
Nasi Goreng
Courtesy of The Cheeze Factory
Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish

While Baraboo might be located in the heart of America’s Dairyland, it is also home to one of the state’s only all-vegan restaurants, the Cheeze Factory.

The restaurant originally opened 29 years ago in a converted cheese factory in Wisconsin Dells before relocating to Baraboo four years ago. “We opened as a vegetarian restaurant and everyone in the area was sure we were making a huge mistake to open a vegetarian restaurant in the middle of Wisconsin Dells at that point in time, they thought it was not a very smart thing to do,” says head chef Sage-Louise. “But we proved them wrong and for the next 25 years we became very popular among the locals and tourists.”

After years of serving vegetarian food, including dishes made with eggs and cheese and desserts made with “lots of butter,” the Cheeze Factory transitioned to all-vegan in 2014 says Sage-Louise (which is when the ‘s’ in the restaurant’s name was replaced with a “z”). “I had watched a number of documentaries about how animals were treated in factory farms and I was horrified.”

Born in France, Sage-Louise grew up in Montreal, Canada, and spent a lot of time traveling the world before coming to the United States where she worked in restaurants in New York, Colorado and New Mexico. “In all the years I was searching for fulfillment, I loved working in restaurants, food was something that was very compatible with my way of being, but I always felt like just a career was not enough,” Sage-Louise says. “Even though I had a lot of success throughout my career, I never felt gratified or fulfilled.”

In 1991 Sage-Louise moved to Wisconsin to work with a teacher of the spiritual group, A Course in Miracles — where she found her current community — part of their spiritual practice includes not eating any meat or fish. Although she never considered becoming a restaurant owner, that is what she did when she and the other co-founders decided to open the original restaurant in its original location in 1992.

Now located on Oak Street in downtown Baraboo, the Cheeze Factory features a variety of plant-based menu items. “The only important thing about the kind of food that we do at the Cheeze Factory is that it tastes really good,” Sage-Louise says. “I’m not a purist about one particular thing and a lot of dishes come about by being inspired by what is in season, what is left over, or an idea a customer will give us. It’s quite a mixture of how we live.” Nasi Goreng, a staff favorite, is an Indonesian fried rice dish made with garlic, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, sesame oil and sweet soy sauce. Another house speciality, the Bangalore Bowl, features lentils seasoned with garam masala. “We cook from an array from different international dishes because many people in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa don’t eat meat every day. There are lots of fantastic vegan dishes from around the world,” Sage-Louise says.

Sage-Louise also enjoys having plant-based “fish” sandwiches and “chicken” fingers, on the menu. “We do find that a lot of folks would love to be vegan they just don’t know how to do it or how to begin,” Sage-Louise says. “When a customer comes in and tastes those ‘chicken’ fingers or ‘fish’ with tarter sauce and we tell them… go to any supermarket and get this stuff and take it home and you have a point of reference from which you can see it’s not as intimidating as they initially thought. I would love to see more people welcome the idea of eating more plant-based food and I want to make it easier for them.”