A glop of salsa verde had slid off my chicken wing and went splat on the counter when a man walked up to the bar, and I mean up to the bar: the edge of the counter pushed in his stomach a little, and he stood tall. It’s the way I stand at a crowded bar when I’ve been waiting 10 minutes, but he was one of only two people there. The other was about to chomp into a chicken wing.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, with urgency in his voice. “How do I get to the rooftop?”
“You just go through that door and to the elevator,” said the bartender.
She pointed to a door directly behind him. On it, with with it printed in big capital letters and serifs you could hang a scarf on, were travel instructions to the Ox Cart rooftop.
I’d heard about this rooftop. I’d heard the sun bathes it like it would a blessed ancient city. I’d heard the view of St. Paul from it was like a living magazine cover shot. I’d heard PBR tallboys were cheap.
It was hot, though, and I was le tired. Was I really going to do that right now, today, when I’d already logged 12,000 steps and a Saints game awaited me still?
Of course I was, and let me just say: the last time I had this much fun in an Ox Cart, I was battling typhoid and pulling into the Williamette Valley.
THE BASICS: The Ox Cart Ale House opened last year, and is located just a block from CHS Field on E. 6th St. The city of St. Paul recently discovered they could jack up the price of parking around the stadium and people would pay it. Do what I do: get into the Saints tailgate lot before it’s patrolled. That way, $5 gets you a spot for the whole evening. The Ox Cart website.
There’s this torturous few blocks of sidewalk between the tailgate lot and the heart of Lowertown. In the mid-afternoon heat, there’s no shade to be had and a good hour before the hoopla sets in at the ballpark. It was just me, the crunch of detritus under my shoes, and 100-degree air I nearly had to hack through with a machete.
Why was I even going to the Ox Cart? It’s like six blocks from here!
I went in there for parking change and promised the bartender I’d come back for a beer. When I finally did arrive, 30 minutes and probably three pounds of water weight later, I plopped my soggy ass at the bar and dialed up replenishment: a Steel Toe Size 7 and the special “daily preparation” wings, salsa verde with an avocado sour cream dip.
If you like oxen and carts, this is the place for you. Not only are there pictures galore of oxen and carts, the furniture is dominated by brown tones and coarse textures (you know, like an ox) and square wooden surfaces (you know, like a cart).
The Cart serves up the big-bodied wings, the kind you have to break off at the joints and devour in sections. The verde spiced up the wing nicely, and the cool side sauce balanced it nicely. It tasted, dare I say tropical? It was a pleasant veer out of the norm, that much is for sure.
I don’t articulate beer flavors well, but I’ll simply say this: Steel Toe Size 7 is perfect. The IPA scale shouldn’t go 1-10. It should go 1-7. It takes a 7 for me to drink it so slowly, and reflect between sips.
Why don’t I drink this more? (Sip)
This beer is only $3.50 at happy hour here! (Sip)
I don’t usually pay attention to how my beer pairs with my food … (Sip)
… but this beer and these wings are just DOING IT (Splat!)
I think I’m ready to look at that patio (Sip)
HOW TO FIND THE OX CART ROOFTOP
What you do is you pass through the door that reads TO THE OX CART ROOFTOP, which is just beyond a sign that points at it and reads TO THE OX CART ROOFTOP. Hoofed sticker-tracks lead you up a small set of stairs, but abruptly stop when you step into the ground floor of a parking garage.
Presently, a good portion of the premises is plasticked off and patrons are warned not to step past it. Jigsaw probably has people squirming in torture traps back there, but try to ignore it. There’s an elevator lobby on the the other side of Jigsaw’s chamber, and it does everything short of literally screaming THE ROOFTOP IS ON LEVEL 7.
Go to 7.