Take a Bite of Road America
Once upon a time in a magical kingdom known as Wisconsin, there lived a race track that was loved by all for its beauty, its speed, its corners and its incredibly close ALMS finishes. The people called this magnificent racing oasis Road America and every year, thousands made at least one pilgrimage to bow down to its awesomeness.
That's all true, but you know the real reason everyone loves it is because of the food, right? I'm sorry, but I can't let a Road America trip go by without recapping what makes it the best race track on the planet: the food (yes… the foliage, Canada Corner, the Carousel, downtown Elkhart Lake and all of that are a close second). Are there any other tracks that have a separate map just for the food stands?
Now, the first thing everyone brings up when you talk about food at Road America is the brat, but I grew up in Wisconsin and ate those things like tic tacs, so we'll move on to some more unique menu items (but, for the record, the St. John the Baptist stand has the best brats).
The spot I frequent most is The Gearbox, located at the top of the hill in the paddock overlooking Turn 14. The Gearbox menu is a little overwhelming, so let me get you started on the right path.
Breakfast. Pancakes, all you can eat, $5. You can't go wrong. These are better pancakes than I've had at most sit-down restaurants. They are made to order and are handed to you with steam rising off the top instead of microwaving pre-made pancakes like I've seen other food stands do.
If you need something more savory for breakfast, you go with the Egger - your basic breakfast sandwich (meat + cheese + egg). But, at The Gearbox, it comes in some ingenious varieties. There's the Weiser Egger, which is THREE meats, and of course… the brat Egger. It's like Wisconsin wrapped inside of a bun.
Now, we're on to the main courses. First item of business: the Gearbox Melt. It's pretty much what happens when a grilled cheese sandwich has a baby with a hamburger. Now that is some tasty offspring.
You're going to want some vegetables to make this a complete meal, and you'll have your pick of about five different potato varieties. You can't go wrong with the sweet potato or curly fries. But, to truly experience Road America, you must get the RGPs - Really Good Potatoes (yes, we are THAT creative in Wisconsin. For storytelling's sake, they were formerly called RFGPs, but it didn't go over too well when the kids asked what that stood for). RGPs are baby red potatoes that have been marinating all day in butter and garlic until they melt in your mouth. You'll be tempted to get these with cheese, but don't do it! I'm not generally one to discourage the use of cheese, but trust me. RGPs are best on their own.
If you're feeling frisky and the line at St. John's is too long, The Gearbox does have some over-the-top brat choices, including The Big Gear (brat + cheeseburger + kitchen sink) and P.O.D. Brat (peppers, onions, dill pickle).
For dessert, it's St. John's all the way. Why? How does a handmade ice cream sandwich sound to you? Two giant chocolate chip cookies with your choice of vanilla, chocolate or mint soft serve. Hell, go crazy, and swirl those flavors in between your cookies, the ladies of St. John's are there to serve. I advise you to grab a spoon, because the last couple of bites get messy.
Having local charities manning each concession stand is what makes the food at RA so great; they're motivated to put out the best food to attract the most customers. I didn't make it to the Elkhart Lake Lions stand, driver's right at Turn Six, with the best grilled sweet corn dunked in butter, nor did I get out to the Plymouth Rotary at Turn Three for a brat on a stick, but there's always next year.
Even though I was still full from a week at RA, on the way to the airport on Sunday I did discover the second-best sporting food in Wisconsin. Helloooo Miller Park! The Gehl Suite had a menu as lengthy as the Gearbox! Thanks Gehl for the view and the food! Now begins the long, slow road to metabolism recovery….