23.2.17

Dive Bars of the West Side Walking Tour on Thursday 3/2

[The first step is the biggest.]
There comes a time in every epic dive bar tour cycle when one must confront one’s self, look into the mirror, so to speak, and reflect on what one finds. And so I find myself on Saint Paul’s West Side, my home turf. It is here that I have lived for almost four years, and here my roots can be found. My great great grandfather settled down on the West Side Flats when he emigrated to Saint Paul from Switzerland, down on Isabel Street near the present day El Alamo bar. And then my family moved up the bluff, my great grandmother buying the apartment building where generations of my family has lived ever since, just down George street from the Brown Derby bar (now defunct). And so it has gone. These are the watering holes of my ancestors, and I will endeavor to share them with you.

It must be said that the West Side has been monumentally transformed since the days of my great grandmother, a woman who was fond of her cigars and whiskey (so it is told). The old flats neighborhood, a fiercely poor, impossibly diverse nest of streets, was wiped from the earth fifty years ago. Since then, the bluffs and enclaves of the West Side have remained, but missing the connecting tissue — the green stairs, the black bridge, the absent streets — that tied the place to downtown and the rest of Saint Paul. The remaining dives are mostly settled into the slopes leading up from the river, beginning in the nooks that marked the forgotten streams that used to flow North down the hill.

[Ghosts of the old flats are still entombed in the bluff.]
We will begin at the center and walk up the bluff, tracing a loop around the edges of the old West Side. Many of the bars lie on the other side of the city/county line, and one can easily speculate on the reasons behind this trivial accident. This was the wild west, back in the day when Saint Paul’s gangsters had the run of the town, holing up in caves and brick-walled taverns. The West Side is slow to change, quick to smile, and the view is inescapable, gravity just carries you along through the evening.

We will begin at the Cozy Cantina, located just across the street from some amazing Mexican restaurants and markets. From there we will turn to climb the bluff, venturing up up into the West Side night. What secrets lie beyond the edge of the city?

(We will end walk two miles, ending closer again to the Cozy.)

[Not much remains.]



What: A guided historic walking tour of four (4) West Side dive bars, two (2) miles in length
When: 3/2, beginning at 6:30
Where: Meet at Cozy Cantina, on Cesar Chavez Avenue
Why: Because it’s there
Who: Anyone. Bring cash please. Free (but tips gratefully accepted in either cash or beer formats)




[Shadey's, formerly Winner's.]
[Provenance unknown.]
[Tapper's floral arrangements.]

[This one is almost impossible to find unless you know where it is.]

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