Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The Milty Wilty in Wautoma, Wisconsin January 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:26 AM
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UNTIL ABOUT A MONTH AGO, I’d never heard of the Milty Wilty.

In fact, I’d never been to Wautoma, the small, central Wisconsin town that is home to this old-fashioned drive-in. But my husband and I were driving through Wautoma, moving our second eldest daughter to eastern Wisconsin, when I spotted the Milty Wilty. For sure there’s a story behind that name.


The Milty Wilty, which I photographed while we were driving through Wautoma, Wisconsin..

If the drive-in had been open, we would have pulled in. But it’s closed for the season.

You can bet that next summer, when we’re passing through Wautoma again, we’ll stop at the Milty Wilty for a treat. According to several online reviews, the1947 diner serves rich and creamy, light-as-a-feather custard ice cream in huge cones.

I expect the place will be hopping with locals and tourists lining up for that custard or a thick, creamy shake.

My cousin Bev lives in Wautoma. She says the area lakes draw the rich people (OK, she may not exactly have said “rich people,” but that’s what she meant) from Milwaukee and Chicago. I believe her. I saw lots of fancy houses along the lakeshore on the edge of Wautoma.

But I also saw that vintage Milty Wilty along Wisconsin Highway 21. And, honestly, it’s down-home places like that small-town drive-in which appeal to me more than any lakeside McMansion.

You can’t put a price on nostalgia, on a place like the Milty Wilty.

IF ANYONE HAS BEEN to the Milty Wilty, feel free to submit a comment. I’d love to learn more about the drive-in, including how it got its name. Do you have a favorite Minnesota (or Wisconsin or other-state) drive-in? Submit a comment, too. I’m always looking for interesting places to visit when I’m on the road.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “The Milty Wilty in Wautoma, Wisconsin”

  1. Doug Says:

    Cool ..we are surprised we missed this diner when we took the puppy north to play in the yonder. Will try it come spring. We sometimes stop at “The Spot” in Kenosha before we dog it back to Chi-town.

    Nice Post


    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Once you’ve been to the Milty Wilty, report back, Doug. Thanks for stopping by the drive-in via Minnesota Prairie Roots.

  2. Bernie Says:

    I have never even heard of that town.
    My favorite drive in is in Duluth. A and Dubs. The best burgers and onion rings a gal can ask for.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wautoma is a town of less than 3,000 in central Wisconsin. It’s kind of a summer tourist town and in the heart of Christmas tree country, according to my cousin who lives there. I want to spend some time there. My cuz promised me a visit to a Mennonite shop in the country. I think she said Mennonite and not Amish.

      As for A and Dubs in Duluth, I’ve never heard of it, so I appreciate the tip. I’ve been meaning to visit my friend Jane and her family there and this drive-in sounds like an eatery I would enjoy.

      The Lakeview Drive Inn in Winona, Minnesota, has THE BEST homemade root beer.

      And the Dari King in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, serves delicious rhubarb shakes and sundaes when rhubarb is in season.

      Readers, let’s here about some more good drive-in restaurants.

  3. Geneva Archer Says:

    Ran across your blog about the “Milty Wilty” and wanted to let you know about “Sally’s” – a “walk up to the window and order” ice cream spot in Florida on A1A just north of Ormond Beach. It’s housed in a small old wooden building complete with a screen that closes the order window. My husband and I were just driving one night along the beach and kinda went a bit far (we live in Jacksonville) and saw Sally’s. We stopped to get an ice cream cone and found that they make their waffle cones fresh daily. So light, crisp and delicious! If you’re ever in the neighborhood………

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      First of all, thanks for stopping by cold and snowy Minnesota Prairie Roots.

      As for Sally’s, that sounds exactly like the type of place I would love. Thanks for sharing the tip. Although I’m not planning a trip to Florida, many Minnesotans escape there in the winter. So, listen up, northerners. You may want to put Sally’s on your list of places to visit. If you stop there, I’d like a report.

  4. Linda cizek Says:

    I used to work as a car hop at Milty Wilty’s in the early 80s. At the time, it was owned by Milton Sommers (Milt) and he ran the business along with his wife, Audrey and daughter Cindy (I believe there was another daughter, but I can not remember her name). It was an amazing spot as a high school hangout or for summer tourists. The golf course across the street was a big draw, as well as Silver Lake for boating and Fish lake for fishing. What a wonderful place to live. Miss it heaps!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots with that additional info about the Milty Wilty. Do you think they will give a discount to anyone named Audrey, like me? I hope to stop there this summer on a trip to eastern Wisconsin via Wautoma.

  5. Cynthia Reimer Says:

    I just found a postcard of the Milty Wilty, decided to look on the Internet and see if it was still there, and found this blog. I was a camp counsellor at Hiwela on Round Lake in the late 1960s. On our one day off, we used to pile as many counsellors into the old camp station wagon as it would hold and head for an ice cream treat at the Milty Wilty. It was a taste of heaven, looked forward to all week! Great memories.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories of the Milty Wilty, Cynthia. I hope to stop there for a treat the next time I’m in Wisconsin and it’s open. When I do, I’ll be sure to take lots of photos.

      • Cynthia Reimer Says:

        On my postcard (which I sent to my grandparents), the center section was the part where you could go inside to eat and looked about the same as your photo. On either side (now enclosed in your photo) there were covered drive-in structures. The sign in the same one as in my photo, which has a 1963 copywrite date on it.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        It’s interesting how buildings evolve as times change. I’m going to make note of those changes when I view the Milty Wilty.

        Where did you ever find that postcard of the drive-in? I bet you were excited about that discovery.

        When I was back in my hometown area, specifically in Redwood Falls, MN., I noticed that the sign on the Dari King, a long-standing drive-in (can’t even eat inside), was missing some old signage and some was cracked. I’m wondering if that happened due to a strong July 1 windstorm in the area. I have fond memories of occasionally eating nickel ice cream cones there on summer trips into town.

  6. Cynthia Reimer Says:

    My grandma saved every letter/postcard I ever wrote to her! I found them all when my great aunt died last winter and we cleaned out grandma’s attic. Yes, we found many treasures that I cherish!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Grandmas do tend to save everything, don’t they? And sometimes those things are treasures.

  7. Rusty Bender Says:

    I’ve been to Milty’s numerous times and it’s always a treat. I wish I could offer you some lore but apart from some good times with some good friends and some good food, I have little to say. Make sure you stop in when you get a chance. Not many places like this left. Also, you aren’t too far from Oshkosh. If you make it there stop by Ardy and Ed’s on the south side. Also and excellent place. Oh, and Leon’s in Oshkosh is also great.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      We actually stopped to eat at the Milty Wilty last August. I took lots of photos, but never got them posted. Perhaps when summer rolls around again. I love the charm of these old drive-ins.

      Thanks for the tips on the eateries in Oshkosh. We drive right by that city on our way to Appleton. Next leisurely trip that way, we’ll need to explore more of the region.

  8. Edward Richtmyre Says:

    As one of 7 kids , I can attest to this wonderful place being a fun stop to make, while on a road-trip to see Grampa & Grandma in Plainfield, Wi. Back in the 1950’s through the 1960’s, Dad & Mom would make it a regular stop ! Glad to see it again and not torn down, as so many are no longer there! Me and the family passed through there Sunday , March 18, 2012. A beautiful, warm sunny day, only to find it’s still closed for the season…….. (sigh…..) . Wanted to share the experience with my 2 young daughters. Ended up eating at a Culver’s in Oshkosh…… surely, not the same ! Oh well. We must make it a point to come back again later and enjoy this trip down memory lane, and continue making those special “memories” with my family & friends !! Like my dad did with us kids, packed in a 1956 Chevrolet wagon, I will continue the “tradition” in my mini-van, stopping at this great drive-in !! May it continue always !!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories of the Milty Wilty. I, too, always look for these one-of-kind eateries rather than stopping at a chain. Maybe next time through Wautoma, the drive-in will be open.

  9. Tyler Heid Says:

    Milty Wilty Is great I live in Wautoma and it’s a great little town and it’s grown quite a bit in the last couple of years and Milty Wilty looks a lot better now it got a facelift this spring

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you for the update on the Milty Wilty, Tyler. When we drove through Wautoma at Easter time, the Milty was shuttered and did not appear to have been improved in any way. I look forward to photographing the new and improved drive in and someday checking out more of Wautoma. One of my cousins lives there. It looks like a great community, which I hear swells considerably in population during the summer months.

  10. Mary Says:

    I love Milty’s. We use to stop there when I was little on our way from Milwaukee to Wisconsin Rapids. I did not know at that time that 20 years later I would live a town away and then later still work at Milty’s. The building has changed from the postcard listed above because in 1992 a tornado hit and Milt let his daughter make it into the look it is today. Last year we did a lot of painting and such to the building and some of the playground before it hit 100 degrees out. There has been a mini golf course added in the back just a few years ago. It is a seasonal business about May to Sept. There is no heat in the building so we have to rely on the weather. If you ate there when Milt was still alive you will have the same great tastes today as his daughter uses the same recipes. Hamburgers are pressed by us and grilled to order. We serve custard chocolate and vanilla but we can make malts and shakes in many flavors. My Favorite Martian is my favorite (a green minty shake). Plus they serve a turtle sundae to die for mmmmmm. Pizzas, shrimp, hamburgers, different kinds of fries ……..so much to pick from. You can eat in, order at the windows or let a carhop take your order. We also have t-shirts, hoodies and more. Come join us on Facebook. Milty Wilty and also Milty Wilty Fan Club. On the fan club site we even have trivia while we are open in the summer where you can win a custard or more!!! Y’all join us!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Mary, thank you for this run-down on the Milty Wilty in Wautoma. It’s been awhile since I stopped. I only learned of the Milty Wilty within the past 2 1/2 years, when my second daughter moved to Appleton. Next trip we’ll have to stop, if that trip happens before the September closing.

  11. Rich Saeger Says:

    For the past 5 years I’ve gone every July to perform an Elvis tribute and rock & roll show. I strongly recommend stopping in at Milty Wilty for their great food and vintage 50s theme atmosphere. I always have the greatest time out there. You will be treated with much respect and hospitality from the great crew!

  12. Renae Says:

    I am a friend of a lady (now 83) who worked at Milty Wiltys as a teenager. She has fond memories and remembers the frozen custard as being delicious. We came across your blog as we were looking for pictures of Milty Wiltys. 🙂

  13. […] side of town also has a great ice cream place called Milty Wilty Drive-In. It goes back to […]

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