GO, SEE, EXPLORE: John’s Drive-In Root Beer in Waukesha


john's root beer

Go, See, Explore: A neighborhood Root Beer Stand can bring lasting memories.

When you find one of those local spots that takes you back to simpler times, you feel a need to revisit it again and again. That is how John’s Drive-In Root Beer in Waukesha makes our family feel. A simple, tiny root beer stand sits in an unassuming location off of 164 and Arcadian in Waukesha. If you don’t know it is there from stumbling upon it as we did ten years ago, you probably heard about it from a long-time resident of the town. In business since 1937 and at its current location since 1962, John’s Drive-In Root Beer has been slinging chili dogs and mugs of ice-cold root beer for decades.

Every time we finish up a hot day of yard work or even for a late afternoon treat on a fall day, we load our family in the car and head over to John’s Root Beer for a root beer frosty and a snack. You heard me. A Root Beer Frosty is a delicious blend of John’s famous root beer and vanilla ice cream. A unique walk-up stand with only three or four employees nestled cozily inside greet you with a friendly smile to take your order, and if you are a lucky kid, you are offered a sweet-tart sucker for good measure.

When I think of the fondest memories in our list of places we have implemented into the everyday experience of raising our kids in Waukesha, John’s Drive-In Root Beer has been a great go-to spot. Whether we sit and relax while our kids have played, or do a quick stop and grab, or sit there to reflect on a big decision over a frosty mug of root beer, John’s has offered a place to do all of that.

Initially opening as part of the A&W franchise in 1937, they were approached by A&W in 1972 to put in a grill, and the owner refused. A&W pulled out of the franchise, and the drive-up was renamed to what we now know as Jon’s Root Beer. With its orange and brown exterior and variety of food like pulled pork, loaded cheese fries, sloppy joes, and of course chili cheese dogs, John’s fills your tummy and your need for simple nostalgic times.

As a family that likes to explore and find new things, it is important to us to support small businesses like John’s Root Beer. If you take a Saturday or Sunday to drive around your town or the next town over, I am sure you will find little gems you never knew were right around the corner from you. Whether it is a store to find yarn or boutique clothing, or a new place to meet up with old friends, small businesses need people like us for support.

In a time when small businesses have taken a huge hit, owners rely on word of mouth and social media mention and continued patronage like no other time. Stepping out of the big box and into the smaller one not only fuels their success but it opens our eyes to the less touted craft of small business owners.

If you are out and about exploring your neck of the woods, don’t forget to spread the word when you find a gem or less traveled spot in your town. Please share your experience on social media with a hashtag or, even better, buy a gift card and give someone you know the opportunity to enjoy a new (or old) place with their family or friends. Whatever you do, get out and GO, SEE, EXPLORE!


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