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.
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
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: PB&J / Not so much
ENTREE RANGE: $1-6