At Ox Cart Tavern in Ditmas Park, crusty farming equipment adorns the walls, a reference to the neighborhood's pastoral past. That sounds very "new Brooklyn," but in other ways, Ox Cart feels very old Brooklyn, stalwart in its production of low cost pub food and humble atmosphere, where camo caps and cowboy hats are worn earnestly, caring not an (organic) fig for you or your Bklyn pride.
Around us a dad wrangled his kids after sports practice, telling them to settle down and eat up, and couples of all ages chatted about their days. Clearly the place is popular. We started with the soft baked pretzel ($5), two tubular twists of salted dough. One of the dipping sauces, a cheese, tasted like a soupier Cheez Whiz. The second was a Dijon mustard so sharp actors must use it to cry on command.
Ox Cart Tavern touts its burger board, a selection of topping possibilities with your choice of patties—turkey, beef, and the vegetarian version known as the "ox-less." We went with the ahi tuna burger ($15), served with lettuce, onion, and tomato. Out came a deliciously dry fish steak, along with handcut fries. Can we use the phrase "a hint of lemon" without sounding like society matrons? However you feel about those words, the acid squirt helped. Particularly good were the fries, thick, carby marvels with just a hint of crisp.
Our second entree, the spicy BBQ spare ribs ($13.50), was big, big enough to tip the table slightly in the direction of the eater. Although it had enough spice to keep things interesting, it perhaps did not really warrant the adjective "spicy." Still, you can't beat the price for such a wholesome, tender plate of food.
To finish, we had a sloppy slice of strawberry rhubarb pie ($6) because they were out of the sour cherry. The crust had a bitter, buttery finish that appealed, and the pink insides offered firm fruit cubes.
As our meal went on, the service got spottier and spottier. When you're keeping a wait list on a Wednesday night, perhaps it's time to consider hiring a second server. Just a thought, Ox Cart. Nonetheless, the restaurant serves as a solid go-to spot for those lucky enough to live in or near the gorgeous Victorian manses that populate this neighborhood. With its satisfactory takes on gastropub staples, minus the haughty 'tude, Ox Cart Tavern is best for: a humble Brooklyn date.
Ox Cart Tavern
About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.