Brat Stop exterior sign

Brat Stop

Wisconsin loves brats, and Kenosha’s “World Famous” Brat Stop is among the best places in the state to enjoy them! This iconic location has been in business since 1961, when it was pretty much the only major place to eat along the rural U.S. 41, newly-minted I-94 at Highway 50. And they sell a ton of brats every week – literally.

The Brat Stop has long been heralded for its bratwurst, beer, cheese, and family-friendly atmosphere. It’s a large place, with a bakery, bar, music stage for live entertainment, huge TVs, pool, video games, rides for kids, and event space at their banquet facility, called the Parkway Chateau. Their Beer Garden is open whenever the weather allows; the food – they have a full menu – is fantastic, the beer selection is impressive, and you can get everything from a wide variety of cheese, baked goods, and Wisconsin accoutrements. This is makes is a perfect stop for people coming up from that place known as Illinois.

Brat Stop Details

Brat Stop is open 365 days a year and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with bratwurst of course being the top seller. Other popular Brat Stop dishes include Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, Broasted Chicken,  their Reuben on Dark Rye, Pizzas, and the Brat Stop Prime Rib Dinner. Breakfast incorporate bratwurst.

The Brat Stop is a Live Music Venue, Too!
The Brat Stop’s huge bar is well-stocked and ready for shows, from local bands to national acts like Slaughter, Lonnie Brooks, The Charlie Daniels Band, Cheap Trick, Sugarland, Trace Adkins, Theory of a Deadman, and Jackyl. Check out their music lineup here!

The Brat Stop’s Cheese Mart opens at 8 a.m. with the rest of the place, and generally closes at 10 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. on weekends. The products, and custom-made gift boxes, are available for shipping. Over 100 different cheeses, all from Wisconsin, are available. We’re talking Cheddar, Swiss, Brick, and specialty cheese, along with cheese spreads.

Like all good Wisconsin places popular with visitors, there’s a large selection of apparel, glassware, souvenirs, Brat Stop memorabilia, Cheesehead hats, and Bears and Packers merchandise – with this location SO close to Illinois, the proportion of Bears to Packers fans is such where they cater to both – with a lean towards the Green & Gold, of course. It’s definitely a fun place to catch the Packers-Bears and Brewers-Cubs (or White Sox) games.




The “World Famous” nature of the Brat Stop has led the likes of Bette Midler, Michael Jordan, and Steven Tyler to stop in. Sports announcers in town – for either Chicago or Milwaukee teams – tend to drop in when they’re traveling between the two cities.

The Dairy State Cheese & Beer Festival – a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha – is held there every April. There’s a Toys For Tots fundraiser held each December, and a Polar Plunge for Special Olympics each winter, where they set up a pool outside.

As you travel to or through Kenosha, the Brat Stop is a MUST stop – a definite State Trunk Tour favorite! You’ll find it right along Highway 50 just west of the busy I-41/94 interchange. Enjoy!

Address:
12304 75th Street (Highway 50)
Kenosha, WI
(262) 857-2011
Website

Mars Cheese Castle


One of our favorite places that just screams “Wisconsin!” is the Mars Cheese Castle. This Wisconsin cheese shop, deli, bar, bakery and more is popular purveyor of cheeses, meats, hot sauce, bakery, and Wisconsin kick-knacks is a widely recognized landmark on the busy Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, with its iconic sign beckoning travelers.

Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, along I-41/94 and Highway 142.

Its new building, completed in 2011, finally makes it look like a castle. It didn’t for its first six decades.

Originally opened in 1947 along U.S. 41 and what was Wisconsin Highway 43 (today’s 142), the Mars Cheese Castle catered to travelers in search of a variety of cheeses and other local foods as they entered or left the state. Still a family business, Mario Ventura, Sr. started it up and added on as they could: a deli counter, a sandwich shop, a bakery, a bar, a gift shop… all of these were tacked on to the original building. He and partners built not only a successful travel stop, but a brisk mail-order and later online business, shipping cheese, sausage and other products from Wisconsin to locales all over the country. Their home brand of spreadable cheese is called “King of Clubs”, and a large tub of it with Town House crackers are available for enjoyment at the bar at all times.

Mars Cheese Castle samplesTheir deli offers an amazing selection of cheeses, sausages, crackers, and other enjoyable consumables; their wine and beer selection is extensive, their gift shop offers every Wisconsin-y thing you could imagine, their market and bakery offers everything from tons of hot sauce selections to kringle; and a State Trunk Tour favorite is a summer sausage sandwich from the deli. The bar even has a “leg lamp” – the kind popularized in the movie A Christmas Story – to add to the atmosphere… the lamps are crafted in Kenosha, after all.

Mars Cheese Castle's bar features a coveted "leg lamp"

The Mars Cheese Castle’s bar features a coveted “leg lamp,” just like Ralphie and the Old Man liked.

Mars Cheese Castle sausage selections

When I-94/U.S. 41 reconstruction began between Milwaukee and Chicago, it was determined Mars had to move to accommodate the new footprint of the freeway’s interchange with Highway 142. The new building opened in 2011 and finally resembles a castle on the outside and all the “regions of Mars” – if you will – are more easily accessible than they were in the original building. It’s still one of our favorite Wisconsin cheese shops.

Mars Cheese Castle sign at nightThe Mars Cheese Castle is open 9am-7pm, seven days a week. It’s easily accessible of I-41/I-94/U.S. 41 at Exit 340 (Highway 142), which is also famous for its “Bong Recreation Area” sign (note: it’s not what you may think.)

Address:
2800 W. Frontage Road (I-41/94 at Hwy 142)
Kenosha, WI 53144
(800) 655-6147
Website




Rock Island Resort


Just north of Merrill along Highway 107 on Alexander Lake (yes, part of the Wisconsin River), “The Rock” has been drawing in travelers since 1928. Today, this bar hosts plenty of bands, offers camping and a boat launch, features a small beach, and has plenty of unique stuff to look at – including on top of adjacent buildings and dangling from boats perched upside down in the parking lot. Yelp categorizes it as a “dive bar”, which is probably one reason we like it. It’s a popular stop for bikers enjoying the 25-mile stretch of Highway 107 that hugs the Wisconsin River between Merrill and Tomahawk.

merrill_therock01merrill_therock02

merrill_therock03merrill_therock04

merrill_therock05

 

Address:
N2737 Highway 107
Merrill, WI 54452
(715) 536-8560
Website

 

Baumgartners in Monroe on the town square

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern


Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern in Monroe is a State Trunk Tour favorite! A cheese shop and tavern established in 1931, Baumgartner’s is a highlight of any road trip, serving up selections of cheese, sausage, beer, and some terrific fresh sandwiches. Our favorite is the brick cheese and summer sausage on rye, especially if you take advantage of their variety of mustards. The house specialty is the limburger sandwich, featuring cheese direct from the only limburger cheesemaker in the United States: nearby Chalet Cheese Cooperative, which is only a few miles up the road.

Baumgartner's brick and summer sausage sandwich

Not the best lighting, but it IS one of the best sandwiches. Summer Sausage & Brick on Rye at Baumgartner’s.

The walls are adorned with murals, maps (check the pins indicating where people have visited from all over the world, especially Europe), and fascinating artwork while up top the ceiling is peppered with dollar bills, thrown up expertly by staff members who know how to incorporate a tack, a little weight, and a strong throw straight upward to help the donated bills stay there. About once a year, Baumgartner’s takes down the money and donates it to a different local charity.

Baumgartner's menu and taps

monroe_baumgartners02-dollars_300

Dollar bills, embedded in the ceiling from skillful employees, hover over you in Baumgartner’s. Each year, the money is donated to a local charity.

A festive atmosphere often permeates Baumgartner’s, as does the scent of Limburger cheese when a hearty soul orders it as part of a sandwich. They have a variety of foods to enjoy, cheese and sausage to buy, and people to meet, as this is a destination for many tourists from around the world. Check out where they’re all from on large national and world maps that adorn the south wall.

Baumgartner’s is right on Monroe’s town square, which hugs the beautiful Green County Courthouse across the street. Minhas Brewery – and its new distillery and wine-tasting room – is just down the street. Highways 11, 59, 69, and 81 all bring you to Monroe and this tasty Wisconsin experience.

Baumgartner's Limburger sign in Monroe

Baumgartner’s Address:

1023 16th Avenue
Monroe, WI 53566
(608) 325-6157
Website




Baumgartner's Cheese Store & Tavern front

The front entrance to Baumgartner’s, a destination for cheese and sausage (and beer) fans from around the world.