D.Rough and I were in downtown St. Paul for an event that only offered tiny bites of food (delicious food, but small). Afterwards, we thought we’d grab a bite to eat at Ox Cart Ale House. D.Rough had been there before, but she loved it and kept telling me I needed to go. I have been looking forward to this for a month or two, so it worked out.
The inside is darkly lit, but not in a dive-y way. It’s just sort of homey and comfortable, which is nice since it’s new. It’s in the ground floor of a parking ramp in downtown St. Paul, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but somehow, you never really notice that you’re sitting underneath a bunch of cars and concrete. You totally forget when you realize they’ve got a pretty comprehensive beer list, featuring a ton of Minnesota beers.
The food menu is also really pretty awesome. One of those places with a handful of items from each category, rather than 25 things that you can’t ever decide on. Generally, that means the things that ARE on the menu are going to be good. D.Rough had had the cheese curds and raved about them, so we had to get those to start with. She got the fried chicken sandwich and I got the catfish – it was either that or these awesome sounding wings with a plum and spicy sauce on them (I’ll get those wings some other time).
The cheese curds are pretty special. I’ve had a LOT of curds in my day, but these were an advanced version. They’re a cornmeal batter curd, which is awesome, but then they’re served with this spicy honey. Sounds weird, but it absolutely works. The honey has some charred scallions or peppers or something in it, but don’t be alarmed – it isn’t painfully hot. It’s just some extra spice in a normally sweet condiment. And it’s killer on these curds. I have a feeling we will ALWAYS be getting these curds when we come here.
D.Rough’s fried chicken sandwich isn’t a standard chicken sandwich. It’s in that same cornmeal batter that’s on the curds, so it’s more like a chicken made with fried chicken than a boring chicken sandwich. Super crunchy and not heavy. They’ve got some spicy aioli on it, as well, so that makes it pop. It was pretty darn good.
My catfish was pan-fried and then covered with beech mushroom and this incredible chili-lime sauce. I’ve never had fish with this kind of Asian flare to it, but it was wonderful not just good, but really awesome. The bed of spinach it was on was a really nice accompaniment to the crunch of the fish and the heat from the chili-lime sauce. I was pretty excited about this catfish. I think it might be the best catfish I’ve had, if that tells you anything.
The bottom line is this place is worth the trip downtown. I know people complain about parking and driving and such, but suck it up and go here. Like I said, it’s IN the parking ramp, so just pay the $5 or whatever to park there or find parking on the street. Just go.
Top 5 things about Ox Cart Ale House
1. Cheese Curds
2. Chili-lime Catfish
3. Beer List
4. Fried Chicken Sandwich
5. Their rooftop patio opens next summer and should be awesome!
Bottom 5 things
1. The menu changes from time to time, so you may not always be able to get your favorites (is that really such a bad thing? No!)
2. It can get crowded on days when there are St. Paul Saints baseball games – just a warning