Posted: May 02, 2017
Where to Eat, Sleep & Buy Parts Near Road America
It doesn't really matter where in the world someone lives, if they're a fan of motorsports or enjoy getting behind the wheel, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin will end up somewhere on their bucket list. OPTIMA Batteries has long been the official battery of Road America, so we've spent a lot of time in and around the area and have gotten to know it pretty well. As such, we feel somewhat obligated to share some of our local knowledge with visitors from afar, who may be making their first trip to this iconic track or may be familiar with it already, but always looking for more information on one of auto racing's very best venues.
One of the great things about coming to Wisconsin, is that the food here is so good at so many different places. In fact, Road America is frequently cited as having some of the very best track food in the world, including local favorites from Johnsonville Brats and Saz's BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. The truth is, your Wisconsin culinary experience should begin before you even get to the track. If you're lucky enough to be driving in from the South, you'll pass through Racine. You should plan on a pit stop at Exit 333 (Highway 20), where you can grab several kringles from O&H Bakery at the Mobil station on the West side of the Interstate. Plan on buying one for every two people in your traveling party and maybe more, if you get almond macaroon, pecan or cherry cheese.
Once you're in or around Elkhart Lake, you probably won't be able to throw a rock without breaking the window of a great place to eat. However, they all tend to get really busy on race weekends. If you're looking for something quick, there is a Subway in Elkhart Lake. If you'd like something quick with a little more local flavor, try either Chester's Drive-Inn or Culver's in Plymouth and be sure to order cheese curds. Plymouth is the town south of the track that you'll find yourself in, when you realize how unreasonably early all the local mini-marts close. It also has other typical chain fast food restaurants.
If you're willing to be a little adventurous, head up to St. Anna and dine at Schwarz's Supper Club. You'll probably need to use your nav system to get there because the country roads outside of Elkhart Lake can get confusing, but it's well worth the drive and easy to find once you're in St. Anna- it's really the only thing there. The dining format is that of a traditional supper club and while they don't take reservations, you can bring a dozen people without thinking twice about it. When you arrive, put your name in for your group (we like to have fun with the locals and use either "Tom Cruise" or "Mario A") and head over to the bar, which is really large. Once there, you can order and eat your appetizers and drinks, while you wait for your table to open up. Once you get into the dining area, you are served quickly and the food is delicious!
If you're reading this on a typical race (NASCAR, IndyCar, SVRA, BRIC, etc...) weekend, hoping to find last-minute lodgings, you probably won't get anywhere close to the track, although it's worth trying a site like AirBnB. As with the restaurants in Elkhart Lake, there are a lot of nice places to stay, but no chain properties. The Osthoff is the biggest, most family-friendly and most-likely to keep your wife or significant other happy, if she's not into the whole racing thing. They also have the most parking space available, which is in can be in short supply in and around Elkhart Lake and somewhat problematic if you're towing a trailer or bringing in a larger vehicle, like a motorhome.
The closest B&B to the track is Taushek's B&B log home, just off the North end of Racetrack Road. In fact, it might be the closest lodging of any kind to stay at near Road America. Just down the road from Taushek's are several properties managed by Country Rentals, LLC. Unlike a lot of area home rentals, these properties are set up with racers in mind. Bringing a semi-truck? No problem. Need sleeping areas for a team of 18? No problem. They have quickly become a favorite of race teams, support staff, sanctioning bodies and TV production crews, because they are so close to the track, able to handle larger groups and can even host large outdoor parties in the evenings. They do typically sell out all the race weekends well before the track gets into full swing, so book early.
The closest chain motels to Road America are again found in Plymouth, where a Baymont Suites sits just off Highway 57 and the Americinn is in Plymouth, just across the street from Chester's Drive-Inn (how convenient!). If you've stayed at those chains before, you know what to expect.
No one likes breaking, but anyone who races long enough will eventually break something. When that happens at Road America, you have several options. Plymouth has an Advance Auto Parts and NAPA, but the NAPA is closed on Sundays and is only open from 8AM to 2PM on Saturdays, while Advance Auto Parts is open every day and stays open until 9PM, except Sundays, when they close at 6PM. Sheboygan has more options, but is about 20 minutes away.
There is another parts option at Road America, that might not be on your radar, if you're not local to the area and that is Mills' Fleet Farm. Locals claim if they ain't got it, you don't need it, but don't tell that to a guy searching for two timing belts for a 360 Modena. They do have a rather large automotive section and also sell important tools like welders, grinders and air tanks. There is also a salvage yard, Rhine Auto, just north of the track, although they don't have weekend hours.
If you're in need of a car battery, we'd humbly suggest OPTIMA products, which are available at most local auto parts stores. Because OPTIMA Batteries are sealed, they can also be shipped to whatever property you've booked for your stay in Elkhart Lake, with rush delivery options available. We also try to bring a few spares with us whenever we come to the track, so if you're in need, look for someone wearing an OPTIMA shirt.