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Feast on the view

The Speedway Club is one of the busiest, action-packed restaurants on the scene, but many aren’t aware it is open for business daily. It serves at least 100,000 people per year and during Charlotte Motor Speedway’s upcoming May race events, it will serve 25,000.

NASCAR drivers race or practice on the track daily. A gaping wall of windows offers guests panoramic views of the infield from virtually every seat in the house on the sixth floor of the speedway. Workers liken it to the area’s country club for motor sports. The private club dishes out guest passes to anyone considering a membership, which does have its privileges: world-class networking opportunities, behind-the-scenes access to the track and pit area and a restaurant run by the 2010 American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year.

Michael Rosen, 54, the executive chef for the last three years, has lived in the UCity area since 1999. He recently won two national awards. In April 2010, Rosen captured the American Culinary Federation’s Southeast Region Chef Professionalism Award. In February, he took home the 2010 Charlotte Chapter Chef of the Year Award for the ACF, beating out 30 applicants.

“We’re like a diamond in the rough,” says Rosen. “Instead of golf course, I have a mile-and-half speedway. There are a lot of things going on here throughout the year. We’re like a hidden secret, because there are a lot of people that don’t know we’re here year-round, daily.

“We are a private club but you can come on a guest pass. Just call and ask. We want you to make a reservation. We want you to give us a try and we want you to see what we have to offer. The quality is some of the best you get in the area. It’s fresh, it’s a scratch kitchen. We use a lot of local ingredients and we’re a Certified Angus Beef house. We’re like a city club on top of a bank building. We do quality.”

Rosen has been in the kitchen for years. When he was 13, he landed his first job as dishwasher in an Italian restaurant in his hometown of Miami, where he learned to make marinara. The spring menu features lighter fare. “I use local ingredients because that’s what I like to do,” says Rosen. “We use as much as possible because it obviously helps the local economy and it helps the local farmers. There’s so much farm-to-table going on in the country right now. It’s the biggest thing for a chef to do as much of it as you can do.”

Everything from the kitchen is made from scratch and made-to-order. Micro greens grown by Kate Brun of Harrisburg – of Lucky Leaf Gardens – garnish certain dishes. Brun provides 20 different varieties to the Charlotte area’s restaurant market. Seasonal, local vegetables and fruit come from local farmers, including Barbee Farms of Concord.

“I talk to Barbee Farms at least once a week and I checked with other local farmers to help gauge new menu items for spring,” says Rosen. “We’re a big steak house. We have a huge fan base of our members who love beef. So we’ll do a rib eye steak and we’ll do a filet and we’ll do things like that.”

The restaurant features four seasonal menus for lunch, dinner, holiday and race-day events. Certified Angus Beef steaks are hand-cut in the kitchen. Seafood is caught from U.S. coastal waters and delivered overnight. Gourmet mushrooms are picked and delivered to within 24 hours.

Lunch is served Tuesdays-Fridays. Dinner is Mondays-Saturdays. Brunch is on Sundays. Patrons can visit the members-only club on a guest pass almost any time, but there are restrictions during most major race-day events. The venue’s full bar also is open daily and the club/restaurant hosts Super Bowl parties, holiday-themed parties and viewing parties for NASCAR races throughout the season.

“Anything you see on the marquee, you can be a part of using a guest pass at The Speedway Club,” says Rosen.

The entire operation requires 15 full-time staffers. Part-time workers nearly double the staff during major race events. The team serves the speedway’s seven club suites, handles the concessions and banquet facilities and hosts up to 30 weddings a year, corporate functions and even bar mitzvahs.

Want to visit?Charlotte Motor Speedway’s The Speedway Club is members-only restaurant but offers guest passes to anyone considering membership. 5555 Concord Parkway S., Concord.

Memberships require a one-time fee (ranging from $995 for the family membership, to $7,500 for corporate) and an annual fee (ranging from $250 to $695).

Details or reservations: 704-455-3216 or The Speedway Club.