Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City, Wisconsin

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Let’s say you’re taking a trip to the Red Wing area, and you plan to take in a local lunch in nearby Bay City, Wisconsin. The Saturday hours for Bay City’s River Bay Cafe are 11am-10:30pm. This publicly affirmed contract with the dining public is not, unfortunately, enough to guarantee that you won’t drive down to Bay City on a fine spring Saturday afternoon and discover a hand-written “Open @6PM” sign unceremoniously taped to the inside of the restaurant’s front window.

Thus: Back to the little river village’s main strip, where Flat Pennies Ice Cream stand beckons. Little more than a cottage set up next to an old Soo Line caboose, the four-year-old Flat Pennies shop has, once you enter, a neat, clean inviting sort of cabin chic thing going on.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

When we arrived, owner Jim Ross was working the counter. Ross is rightfully proud of his shop’s soft serve ice cream, which is made in house — unlike the gummy soft serve available at Chinese buffets and fast food restaurants around the country, Flat Pennies ice cream has a smooth dairy richness to it. It tastes, in short, like real food, not a cold, soft, edible food-like product. We sampled and were pleased with a Flat Cow ($2.39 for a 3 oz. size), vanilla soft serve ice cream topped with caramel, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and devastatingly cute little cow sprinkles. A jumbo hot dog cost $1.89 and had a satisfying snap and good flavor to it; a bratwurst ($2.09) wasn’t Wisconsin’s finest — it needed a bit more snap and spice — but was far from lousy.

All told, the house-made soft serve and charming interior go a long way for a roadside stop in small-town Wisconsin. This, plus a charming outdoor sitting station at which to leash your pets and chomp down on a cone or sundae, makes for a nice warm-weather diversion.

BEST BET: The Flat Cow is a fiercely charming sundae.

Flat Pennies Ice Cream
Ice cream stand in Bay City, WI

W6442 Hwy 35
Bay City, WI 54723
OWNER: Jim Ross
Mon-Fri 10:30am-8pm
Sat-Sun 10:30am-9pm
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: PB&J / Not so much

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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