Thursday, August 19, 2010

Root Beer and Ice Cream Stands

I recently came back from Wausau, Wis., where curling is a PE elective. (I laugh, but I'd be out there sweeping the ice if I were more coordinated, plus the Wiscsonsin State Curling Association is here in Madison.)

A&W Onion Rings

What we don't have are the inordinate amount of soft serve ice cream shacks which dot the Wausau landscape. We don't even have an A&W here anymore, and considering it was our high school hangout in the seventies and our neighborhood hangout in the sixties—yes, I'm that old—it's a shame.

My wild eyed cousin put salt in my chocolate shake long before I developed a taste for sweet and sour at our neighborhood A&W. It had a Bookmobile parked on the corner and fittingly became the place for seniors before it retired and became a rib joint.

I was so inspired by the rash of ice cream shacks in Wausau and the charm of the A&W in Portage (taking the long way to Wausau), that I decided to have a last summer fling and seek out the best drive-in, drive-through, sit-down, take-out ice cream snack shack near or far. I'm hoping there's some lovely Guinness flavored ice cream at Irish Fest this weekend.

"There's an A&W in Port Orchard [Wash.] my kid wants to take me to because it's one of the originals. They make everything there, including their root beer. He says it's like drinking fizzy silk and the head is incredible." --Jodi

I'd long since given up on shout if from the rooftops soft serve (with the exception of the ice cream in the UW Hospital cafeteria - I leave no stone unturned) until I discovered a Wausau Briq's.

Hot Fudge Brownie Briq Mountain

Young Bug here is holding a Hot Fudge Brownie Briq Mountain (3.45/3.39). The fudge was so hot it toasted our fingers through the cup.

Banana Cream Pie Sundae

Bug is holding a Banana Cream Pie Graham Cracker Pie Crust Sundae (3.45/3.95) in this photo. I got a small Zebra soft cone (1.60), a good size, delicious, and 96% fat free. Leave me alone, I'm trying to eat healthier. No feedback on the Brownie Sundae yet, but Bug swears by the Banana Cream. They also have a 1 lb. cone, a variety of Sundaes, Smoothies, Flurries, Slushes, Floats, Whips, Shakes, Malts, Banana Splits, and six packs of Cookie Coolers and Lattes.

"My vote is for CHESTER'S in Plymouth...Best hamburgers and grilled breast of chicken around! Not to mention deep fried cheese curds..." --Sandy

A few people have mentioned the A&W in Edgerton, which one of my cousins (the one who put salt in my milkshake when I was four) thinks is the first one in Wisconsin. I don't have proof either way, so it might be time to dust off some archives at the State Historical Society (or the State Hysterical Society if you've ever heard the pigeons—what an exciting life I lead).

One of the most interesting things about the A&W website is their timeline. It lets you arrow through the first A&W root beer stand in 1919 to 2002 when they were taken over by Yum! Brands, Inc. ("Root beer stand" as in "Why should I give you a nickel for the root beer stand when you throw away milkshakes?" What were we, made of salted chocolate milkshakes.)

A&W Root beer

"...edgerton still has the drive up stalls and the staff bring the food on trays that attach to your window. are there many of those left yet?" --Kandy

This is why you see the Yum! Brand A&W fast food pairings. Somehow the combination of tacos and root beer floats isn't the same as a Flinstone tray on your car window. But I'm always thrilled into taking snapshots like a tourist when I come across an old tyme root beer or ice cream stand. I don't think I've seen an ice cream hut outside of a beach or the Merimac Ferry and applaud Wausau for their many ice cream stands, and every town, medium, small or large for their classic drive-ins and root beer stands.


  1. oooh....settling in for the Jane and Michael Stern style food/travelogue. I like the jelly beans, but it's hard to read the print over them. *sniffle*

  2. Why have I never seen that? Food Channel? Didn't think anyone would tune in as I was tuning up. Just did that in the cafeteria at school last night.
    You can't, even with the big white fonts? No matter, that's just a placeholder til I can figure out the right size with a photo and logo of my own.
    Thanks, Jodi woman!

  3. I gave up on trying to fit a photo all the way across the top. The plug and plop says 990 px, and trying larger sizes or shrinking to fit doesn't work either. So I gave up and went for the candy shop awning look of the template.
    If you or anyone knows what's going on and why the Blogger backgrounds fit, but you can't get urs all the way across, pls let me know.

  4. that hot fudge! Makes me want to go get one now, haha. I cant wait for winter to be over so I can pig out on ice creams again! I know that's not healthy at all but pfft. It's ice cream!! I'd love to share your post to my friends in Foodista if you don't mind. Just add the ice cream widget at the end of this post, and that should do it. Thanks, keep it up! xx

    Cheers from Australia,
    Amy @ Foodista


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