Brat Stop Inc.
Located at the unofficial Gateway to Wisconsin, just five minutes away from neighboring Illinois, is Brat Stop Inc., a roadside landmark for food, fun and entertainment. Since 1961, Brat Stop has been welcoming travelers and Wisconsin natives alike, and no visit to Wisconsin is complete without one of Brat Stop’s famous bratwurst “brat” sausages.
“Beer and brats are inextricable parts of the German settlers that made roots here in the 19th century,” shares Gerald Rasmussen, now president and owner of Brat Stop. Bratwurst is of German origin; brat means fry and wurst pertains to sausage.
The Rasmussen family has been an active player in Wisconsin’s regional cuisine for decades. The family started Rasmussen’s Cheese Market before Brat Stop, and local cheese remains a strong facet of the business today.
While Brat Stop has grown considerably over the years, from cheese market and sausage maker to a full-service restaurant, tavern, deli and banquet hall, the same dedication, care and family traditions remain.
“Around 1961, when our father was having difficulty making ends meet in the business, my brother and I decided to go work for him,” recounts Gerald, who was a mere 19 years old at the time. “I was working as a laborer for an auto manufacturer and my brother worked for Snap-On Tools.”
In 1963, Gerald bought his brother out and began running the market full time. “I eventually changed the name to Brat Stop and the company incorporated in 1967,” he tells.
Dinner and a show
Over the years, Brat Stop has grown from 1,200 to 46,000 square feet, building a reputation for great food and loads of fun to go along with it. “We’re the destination station for tourists and locals,” says Gerald.
Located just five minutes over the Wisconsin-Illinois border in Kenosha, near the intersection of I-94 and Highway-50, Brat Stop caters to more than 450,000 visitors a year at the popular stop.
“The 60-mile radius surrounding Brat Stop encompasses Chicago and Milwaukee and there are about 10 to 15 million people in this area,” notes Gerald. “The traffic between the two cities generates a great deal of our customer base. There are a lot of sport fans, too, from the Chicago Bears to the Green Bay Packers and the Cubs/Brewers games; we do an awful lot of sports-related business.”
Many sports, political and entertainment personalities have stopped at the Brat Stop, from Michael Jordan to Phil Jackson and Al McGuire to Tom Arnold, Steven Tyler to Bette Midler, Tommy Thompson and Russ Feingold. “‘The Best Damn Sports Show’ was even filmed here once,” reveals Gerald.
Since 1965 Brat Stop has hosted live music and many well-known national acts. Stars by the likes of The Charlie Daniels Band, Cheap Trick, Foghat, Styx, Eddie Money, 38 Special, Trace Adkins, Tracy Byrd, Jo Dee Messina, Neal McCoy, Chris Cagle and Sugar Land have all graced the Brat Stop stage.
“Many of these undoubtedly stayed a little later than planned just so they could sample another Wisconsin institution - The Friday Night Fish Fry,” reads Brat Stop’s website. “From our breakfast menu to pizza, deli, appetizers and a full dinner menu, there is something here to satisfy everyone. Our weekend specials feature the best prime rib and broasted chicken dinners.”
Brat Stop now offers catering for larger functions in The Parkway Chateau, a banquet hall that was added in 1998. The premiere banquet facility includes meeting halls for private and corporate events. “We can accommodate up to 600 guests at a time,” shares Gerald.
A classic combination
Brat Stop opens at 8 a.m., and Gerald says the restaurant often stays open until 1 a.m., 365 days a year. The shop has been serving up the classic beer and brats combination for more than 50 years.
“Our bratwurst is made to our specific all-pork recipe by a sausage company in Milwaukee,” notes Gerald. “To accompany the brats you obviously need beer and we buy it from the majors and lots of small breweries. As the craft beer scene has exploded Brat Stop has become a watering hole for beer buffs.”
But if you sadly can’t make it out to Kenosha for a classic beer and brat bite, Brat Stop will ship it directly to your doorstep. The company has a full online retail store where customers can select from a range of brats – Cajun, jalapeno cheddar, smoked, garlic and onion; the list goes on and on.
“Don’t forget to add some mustard, sauerkraut, red cabbage and fresh buns to complete your order,” adds Gerald.
After 55 years in business, Brat Stop is keeping traditions alive as a major influence in its community. The business also regularly supports a variety of local charitable organizations, such as MDA, the Boys & Girls Clubs, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and many more churches, schools and Little League teams.
“Stop by for our Polar Plunge special fund raiser for Special Olympics, Saturday, February 7, 2015,” Gerald says proudly.
For bona fide Wisconsin cuisine and the best regional flavors, visitors have been stopping by the brat at Brat Stop Inc. for decades.