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The Speedway Inn is a study in contrasts.
Located at 11815 W. Bluemound Rd. in the Town of Brookfield, The Speedway is smack in the middle of a bustling business district on one of the busier streets in the state.
Thousands of motorists drive by it every day ... yet many of them don't know it's there.
In a sea of ever-changing strip mall storefronts and enormous office complexes, most surrounded by sizable parking lots, Speedway Inn is tucked inconspicuously into a one-acre lot. While most of the buildings on the street have modern facades, the Speedway's faux stone exterior looks like a leftover set from "The Brady Bunch."
In a way, that's fitting.
Walking into the Speedway, which has operated as a tavern in 1923, is like walking back in time. The U-shaped bar just inside the front door seats 18 people. There are a few tables scattered in the back room, which houses two pool tables and a Golden Tee golf video game.
Take away the flat-screen TVs, the Web-based jukebox and the constant hum of traffic outside the small windows and it's easy to imagine being inside the place in the late 1950s, when it was visited by Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette and other Milwaukee Braves players.
If time travel isn't your thing, you could easily picture the Speedway being a tavern "Up North," a stone's throw from deer camp or Grandma and Grandpa's cottage. (When the late newspaper outdoors columnist Jay Reed wrote about the mythical "Jackpine Joe's," I always pictured the configuration being similar to the Speedway Inn.)
Although the name would be more appropriate for an establishment located in the shadows of the historic Milwaukee Mile racetrack at State Fair Park, the Speedway Inn lives up to its moniker with an impressive collection of racing memorabilia and photos, much of it from the collection of late owner Ken Reinders, a racing enthusiast who died in November.
The ceiling tiles are painted black and white, like a checkered flag. Street signs proclaim "Mark Martin Dr." and "Dale Earnhardt Dr."
The Speedway Inn is a no-frills place. There are some flavored vodkas and a bottle of upscale tequila behind the bar, but most customers opt for beer, shots and simple mixed drinks.
Conversation flows freely among the patrons, many who work at nearby businesses like Brennan's Market, located across the street, or one of the many car dealerships or retail shops in the area.
"We've got a lot of regulars," a bartender said during a recent visit. "Some people come in from the hotels nearby and a few people just sort of wander in off Bluemound, but I know a lot of people who come in."
The grill at Speedway operates from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the menu is about as simple as you'll find. A hamburger costs $4.50. A cheeseburger is $5, as are any of an array of mozzarella sticks, poppers, eggplant, chicken strips and just about anything else that can be deep-fried. Twelve-inch pizzas are $7.50; $8.50 for a deluxe.
The menus are more elaborate at establishments up and down Bluemound, but the Speedway serves comfort food in a comfortable atmosphere.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.