Last August, Don and I were driving through Western Montana, when we decided it was lunchtime.
We drove into downtown Missoula and before I could search the internet, we spotted this neon sign. Oxford! It sounded like a classy place!
The old building on the corner of Higgins & Pine, looked classic. The flowers were pretty, the awnings looked nice and the artwork in the windows seemed... more curious than classy. There was a parking space, so we went for it.
As we approached, we noticed a few men sitting on the sidewalk, in the shadows. Hmm? There was also a neon "24 Hours ATM" sign in the window. Hmmm? We paused briefly, but headed in.
More Bar Than Cafe
We could tell right away that this place catered to more drinkers than diners, even at noon. There were actually 2 at the bar when we entered. I snapped this pic later.
As we stepped inside we were greeted right away. Not by the guy behind the bar in the leather vest, but by a woman sitting on a stool in front of a gaming machine.
No Turning Back
It suddenly felt rude to change our minds. We had been welcomed in, by a smiling woman who looked like she'd been "gaming" for hours.
Besides, we were intrigued by the all the stuff in the long narrow room!
On the Floor and On the Wall
There was a line up of gaming machines, but there were also great vintage photos on the wall.
There were images of loggers and miners and other working men. Men who might have come to the Oxford 100+ years ago. Evidently The Oxford moved to this location in the 1950's.
There were other glowing things, besides electronic gaming machines. There was an old pinball machine and a jukebox.
There was also a stuffed bison staring down. He actually needed a glowing spotlight. It was dim in the saloon.
This nice guy behind the bar eventually greeted us.
He said it was fine to take his photo. However, the guy sitting at the bar swiftly moved out of the way. "I'm supposed t be at work!"
The old saloon seemed to have a little of everything. Above our fellow with mustache and vest, there was a case filled with old Remington and Winchester rifles.
I know little about guns or gambling, but I do know about diners. We walked past the bar and found ourselves at a totally different kind of counter.
There was no wall dividing the large space.
The drinking bar, just seemed to turn into an eating counter.
There were just about as many stools at the dining counter as there were at the bar.
The classic diner stools were lined up on a little platform. As Don got ready to sit down, he got a compliment on his "Death Valley Park" t-shirt.
We had fun studying the menu. Since The Ox, is open 24 hours, the menu offered everything from scrambled eggs to ribeye steaks.
Too bad we couldn't order from the "Old Menu". We could have ordered Brains & Eggs or Sardines or Beef Liver Sandwich! Actually the names of the foods were even better. "Yodeling T-Bone" and "Chippee in the Mud".
Watching the Cook
Watching your food being cooked can be fun, or just plain awkward, Nothing uncomfortable here. We had the best time watching Dang cook our food on the grill.
atI complimented Dang on her shirt (with ox!) and we 3 were soon gabbing. Turns out Dang is from Thailand. She had to write her name on her order pad, before I could get it right. I showed her pictures of our son and DIL's Thai wedding. We told her they were in Thailand at the moment. Dang told us where she was from... I should have had her write it on the pad.
Breakfast & Lunch
Don ordered corned beef hash and fried eggs. The hash came from a can, but it was still pretty tasty. Dang told us she usually works behind the bar or in the office. The cook was sick, but she did a good job!
I really wanted just a good old grilled cheese, but I felt like a Cheapo, ordering a meal for $5.50. I upped my order by adding ham. Why do I over think things? A half sandwich ended up being the right amount.
When we first stepped into The Ox, I felt a little hesitant. But by the time we were at the dining counter, we were relaxed and happy. Our chat with Dang made all the difference in the world.
Dang seemed more proud than stressed, when she told us she works 6 days a week. I didn't ask how many hours. Hopefully not in the wee hours of the 24-hour business. I read later that there are no keys to the doors, because they never close. I wish I'd heard that earlier, so I could have asked about that.
Dang said her husband had worked at the Ox for 40 years. She gestured to the bar and said he was the owner.
I hope I got that bit of info right. Our communication was a little choppy. I could be totally wrong on this.
All our chatting slowed down our eating. I asked for a box and loaded in a half sandwich, an egg and half off the hash. Even though we were traveling. Then I asked if I could take Dang's photo. She smiled agreed and told us she was 56. I gasped and refused to believe. "35 maybe!"
Then Dang insisted we get a photo of the 3 of us, together. She flagged down the woman who had greeted us earlier from the gaming machine. Then Don and I tried to say thank you in Thai. "Sawadee Khan?" we struggled a little and Dang laughed and correct us. There was a bit of bowing thrown in. We loved our time with Dang!
We headed off with our leftovers. Not knowing what we'd do with them.
We said good bye to Dang's hubby, near the door. Never got his name. What a fun stop!
We stepped out into the bright daylight and noticed 2 men sitting against the wall, near the side entrance to The Ox.
Without knowing their situation, Don chose to at least offer them our leftovers. Luckily they looked pretty appetizing in the box.
I headed for the car and Don returned, empty handed. At first the old and young man (father & son?) looked confused.
Don tried to explain diplomatically, that we just couldn't finish our lunch and they were welcome to have it. He popped the lid and the young guy suddenly seemed pleased. "I'll try it!" They both thanked Don and the young guy complimented Don's Death Valley shirt. 2 compliments in a day!
We headed back on the road feeling pretty wonderful. We had a couple of good people encounters and we didn't have to waste any food. Everyone we met, gave us a little something to smile about!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.