Welcome to Food/Drink Week at Milwaukee Record, brought to you by Third Space Brewing. From May 13 through May 20, belly up and enjoy adventurous, odd, and elaborate coverage of all things edible and drinkable in Milwaukee and beyond.

If you’ve driven into or out of Bay View using surface streets, you’ve almost certainly encountered it. Just beyond the “KK Can Opener” and a number of blocks before “The Polish Moon,” a low-profile sign halfheartedly directs passersby to the parking lot of the Country Maid Inc. factory and corporate offices.

We’ve driven by this low-profile, semi-obstructed sign literally thousands of times through the years and never felt compelled to turn into the driveway. Perhaps it was on account of not being fully aware whether the general public was welcome to visit. Maybe the underlying uncertainty about the factory and its so-called “Retail Outlet” (that we never recalled seeing illuminated on said sign) still being in operation. And yeah, we can’t admit to having many cravings for “Potato Baskets” during our 15 years of Milwaukee residence. To us, as we’re sure is still the case for many of you, the Country Maid factory was a complete and utter mystery.

However, the arrival of Milwaukee Record‘s annual “Food/Drink Week” was reason enough to finally shed some light on this local blind spot. While passing by the sun-faded sign of this unassuming factory yet again last week, we decided Country Maid Inc. and the possible existence of its Retail Outlet Store would be a mystery no more. With an insatiable curiosity and a mounting hunger for discounted dips and pasta salad, we turned into the parking lot to finally see what this place was all about once and for all.

We had no trouble finding a spot in the near-empty parking lot of Country Maid Inc. (1919 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-383-4176). We noticed the Retail Outlet Store was situated in the southernmost segment of the building, with an awning that already made it seem a million times more welcoming to the public than the Klement’s Factory Outlet ever did (R.I.P.). We opened the door and saw…

This. While far from being swanky or modern in its decor, the Retail Outlet Store is indeed open to the general public.

The side closest to the entryway has a couple coolers stocked with full-price soft drinks and a shelf lined with somewhat discounted chips, cookies, and other snacks.

The shop’s northern wall (or window?) is inexplicably stocked with locally-made jewelry, as well as containers filled with condiments, plastic utensils, and napkins. Beyond the jewelry shelf, customers can look out into the lobby of the factory.

Though it wasn’t in use at the time of our visit at around 9:45 a.m. last Wednesday, there’s a food station at the center of the small shop that serves up to-go lunches, which change on a daily basis and don’t seem to repeat from week to week. Beneath the daily special board that’s nestled near the deli case, there’s also a coffee pot.

With all due respect to Country Maid’s selection of soda, jewelry, coffee, and hot bar items, we came with other things in mind: discounted dips, sale-price soups, and bargain basement pasta salad. And we weren’t disappointed.

During this first visit, we took note of an abundance of (what’s known in the Midwest as) “salads” with mayo-rich takes on pasta dishes, slaws, and potato preparations.

There were soups and dips galore.

There was even a stack of $1 dips, including some that were made to be Festival Foods’ in-store brands.

We saw massive containers of desserts that were budget conscious ways to contribute to a spread at a group gathering.

The woman running the store/deli (who went above and beyond in terms of being friendly and helpful) gave us a Deli Pricing Sheet, which gave us a full look at the store’s inventory. Most items are less than $3/pound (with many under $2/pound). In total, Country Maid offers 19 different potato salads, 25 pasta salads, six coleslaw varietals, 15 dips, eight “protein salad” types, a pair of bean salads, six specialty salads, 14 desserts, six “gel blockers” (whatever those are), nine “JFK/Jongquist” products, and 12 bulk package products.

Speaking of bulk products, in a full circle sort of moment, the Factory Outlet Store employee alerted us to the fact we were able to buy Klement’s jumbo hot dogs either by the pound of by the case. We took her up on the offer to once again enjoy discounted Klement’s product, nabbing six honkin’ hot dogs for a scant $3.60. We tried to keep things in check during out first visit, but managed to take home the haul you see above for $11 that consisted of the following: a pound of hot dogs, a pound of Poppy Seed Chicken pasta salad, a tub of cheese and vegetable dip, and five Tamarind candies.

It took 15 years for us to take that turn into the Country Maid parking lot, but we’re glad we finally visited this admittedly odd-yet-affordable little outlet store. Next time we need a 10-pound bag of German Potato Salad, a container of Taco Dip, a box of hot dogs, or a quick homestyle lunch for under $6, we’ll be back.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.