A Late, Last Toast to the Glockenspiel


A man wearing lederhosen plays an accordion at a German bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota

I never told you about the Glockenspiel, did I?

You never heard about the time my wife guzzled beer from a dirndl-clad glass. She had on pretzel glasses. We watched a group of four take shots off a … what was that thing, a ski? I think that thing was a ski.

I never tried to walk you through its interior. I never counted the nutcracker statues, or tried to pronounce the words on the dozens of beer steins. The bar was your crazy uncle’s garage: there was no sense to its layout, stuff just went where it fit. Mirrored beer signs, plastic Bavarian flag banners, decommissioned tap handles, it didn’t matter. Just scoot and insert.

It was a busy bar. If you didn’t step carefully, you’d get bumped by a dancing couple or derail an accordion player. It never ran short on excitement. It was the last stop on the 7th St. bustle tour. It was a great place to perfect your clinking, drinking, and side-stepping.

Now, it’s gone.

A woman raises a glass of beer at a German bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota

It disappeared the way a cartoon character would if it just quit being drawn in mid-episode. Who’s to blame? A lease quibble, of course. The owners of the building, some acronym conglomerate, offered them what the Glockenspiel ownership said was a skunk lease. I don’t know real estate. I only know I was crushed when I heard.

I’m not going to pretend I was there every night, or that I knew everybody by name, or even that I was a member of their mug club. I can say, however, the parties were musts. The customer base was a community, not a clique. Everyone was pleasant at Glockenspiel.

I can say we had, I don’t know, a dozen pretzels? I never got to tell you about the pretzels. I mean, they’re pretzels … but the mustard! The mustard, if you got enough in one bite, would make tears and clean out your nostrils. They had some of the finest mustard you could find on this side of the Rhine, and boy did it make you thirsty for beer.

One time, I had a bratwurst with ham in it. Oh mein Gott!

A bratwurst with sauerkraut and ham at a German bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota

I never got to tell you about our bartender. We had the same one every time, a wrecking crew of one named Janae. I’m pretty sure she was secretly Dr. Manhattan; she kept our glasses and conversation topped off as if we were alone at the bar, only she did that with 15-20 people at once. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a clone of herself working the dining room, and another one extracting the alcohol from the W3 gas cloud. She never got behind. I’ll never understand how she did it, because Glockenspiel’s not there anymore.

Glockenspiel’s not DEAD dead — the catering business lives on, so you can still buy the meat they were always raffling off and my wife never won. I’m hoping they re-open someplace else … but, for now, the merry bar with the big mural you could never quite see because there were always people in front of it is now closed. The ski is not sliding shots. I don’t know where you can get ham on a bratwurst anymore. Any bar owner with a working brain is gutting the safe to bring Janae on board.

For now, all that remains of the Glockenspiel experience are pictures and plastic souvenir steins. It’s a damn shame.

Decorations at a German restaurant in Saint Paul, Minnesota



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