The Highball Faces Year Long Closure, Does The Goodnight Measure Up?

The Highball Austin Closed for Renovations

Searching for a substitute to The Highball

This past week marked the last we’ll see of The Highball for at least a year, while they complete renovations that are part of the Alamo South Lamar complex takeover.

What will Austinites do in the interim?

As a faithful patron of the Highball, I’m taking it upon myself to find out.

What Makes The Highball So Great?

I first want to quantify what it is that I love about The Highball. My most frequent visits there rotate around special stage events like Tittie Bingo and the Mystery Sing-Along, both orchestrated by The Action Pack.

I have a hundred embarrassing videos from their exquisite private-room karaoke booths, and I’ve brought every out-of-town guest to their bar area to eat delicious food, all the while listening to the dulcet sounds of bowling pins topple. Are the drinks expensive? Sure. But the vibe of The Highball cannot be beat.

New Kid on the Block

The Goodnight at The Village on West Anderson

The Goodnight recently opened in The Village on W. Anderson

The most obvious temporary replacement for The Highball is The Goodnight, a posh-looking bar+ on West Anderson. Like The Highball, it’s a full-service bar and restaurant, and it prides itself on the wide array of games it provides: bowling, ping-pong, poker/blackjack and billiards. It just opened and is still offering lots of free games to entice people to come regularly.

The ambiance is nice. The centralized bar is a good hub, and there are two areas set apart for private parties of eating or drinking. The poker and blackjack tables are a nice touch. But to prevent actual gambling, there are some pretty hinky rules about financial restitution after you’ve cashed in your chips.

The Goodnight Austin Cocktail Menu

Creative and delicious cocktails abound at The Goodnight

Like The Highball, there are sections for each activity. But The Goodnight has a lot less seating overall, so overlap becomes more necessary.

One of my visits there was on a Friday night. My girlfriends and I, desperate to sit, sat on one of the bowling couches. It was large, oblong and – at the time – empty. No fewer than three different employees came over to tell us that the empty couches were reserved for not-yet-arrived bowling parties. The third server did offer us seating in a different area, thankfully. As girls in heels, if we can’t sit, we won’t stay to drink.

After subsequent visits, it seems that this first experience is indicative of The Goodnight’s constant disconnect from the soul that kept us patronizing The Highball, despite its high prices. Sure, I love that Mad Men-era hipster decadence, but I’ll be thrown off if I feel like I’m also getting fleeced.

Playing Pâté-Cake With Us

The Goodnight Austin Charcuterie Plate

$14 Charcuterie — pâté-o-riffic

I recently ordered The Goodnight’s charcuterie plate at $14. It was a bit scant, food-wise, for a pricey dish, and I would’ve loved an explanation of what was on the plate. There was pâté, and a tiny bit of toasted baguette, considering all the spreadables to choose from. We asked for extra bread and got it, but were shocked when we received the bill and discovered we’d been charged an additional $2 for it.

At The Highball, we always felt like we were taken care of. We were recognized as regulars, and there was a feeling that management had instilled on the very competent waitstaff that all customers were to be taken care of. It’s more than bringing drinks quickly or being friendly; it’s a willingness to accommodate.

The staff at The Goodnight are certainly friendly, but the sentiment of accommodation seems to be missing. Sure, they were willing to find a regular table for my mother who can’t sit at bar chairs. But when a friend went for lunch, they refused to make him a milkshake, insisting it was “only on their dinner menu.” Even their wall-mounted Breathalyzer costs money! If you’re drunk enough to pay money for a Breathalyzer test, you’re too drunk to drive home.

Fortune Telling

The Goodnight Austin Zoltar

Zoltar says: “You’re really going to need that ATM more than this fortune”

So kudos to The Goodnight for their efforts. In the future, there will be even more games: skeeball, shuffleboard! But they’ll all cost additional money, and I don’t imagine there will be enough space for free events like Tittie Bingo. Without those and things like karaoke and good care, The Goodnight is a poor substitute for The Highball.

You don’t need a dollar to ask Zoltar if I’ll be a regular at The Goodnight. I’m not inspired to afford it.

I’m keen to find more bars like The Highball to check out. Please feel free to recommend them in the comments section below!

 

Chart Comparing The Goodnight to The Highball

Laura Darby is a New Yorker who came to Austin looking for sunshine and music. In real life, she works with chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo and infiltrates the Internet with digininjitsu. You can follow her breadcrumbs at LauraDarby.com.

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  • Marty

    I enjoyed this article…but other than rumor and/or conjecture, who said the Goodnight was TRYING to be a Highball replacement? In any case, you make several valid points in your comparison, but there are two reasons I actually like the Goodnight more than Highball:
    1.) Location
    2.) Not as much of a hipster feel
    These two may very well go hand in hand, since my observation has yielded that most hipsters live south of the river ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/amalthya Laura Darby

      As someone from not-Austin originally I do feel like a proper bar that also has food and bowling was something I hadn’t experienced before I came here and went to the Highball. So no, Goodnight isn’t trying to BE the Highball but it is certainly working off a similar model :)

      And there are no hipsters at the Goodnight mostly because I don’t think they can afford to be ;)

  • Love Austin

    They both stole from a non Austin native, Lucky Strike. It’s really apples and oranges to compare the two, but the Goodnight is not more expensive than Highball. Just a different crowd. That’s good for some and not for others. The Goodnight certainly doesn’t have less soul than the Highball, but that’s not saying much in my opinion. I prefer The Goodnight but that’s just my preference. The deciding factor for me is an infinitely friendlier staff who actually seems to appreciate my business. The Highball staff never seemed to care much if I stayed or went.

    • Austinot

      Good perspective @201c37f67abd939753ea81c2152f39e0:disqus appreciate you taking the time to comment. We don’t claim to have the be-all-end-all opinions and are always up for a good discussion. I haven’t been to either the Highball or the Goodnight yet, but they both sound like great places to check out. Having said that, I know that our contributing blogger @twitter-2969321:disqus has great taste and is pretty on point. Guess I’ll have to go for myself to check it out. ~ Eric

  • Valarie

    Was super excited when the Goodnight opened- The customers seemed super friendly- people have even shared the pool table for couples doubles .
    Meanwhile it felt like the staff went out of it’s way to ignore me. Upon entering one Tuesday at 4pm the ‘hostess’ didn’t greet or offer to seat my friend and me- after we requested a table she appeared really ‘put out’. We finally received waters and then waited another 10 minutes before deciding to leave since an actual waiter never came to take any drink or food order. It didn’t seem like the private party of 8 should’ve been the only customers getting service. Cute pool balls for the bowling alley. Missed the helpful service at Highball- always trying to accommodate karaoke rooms and bowling lanes- and great happy hour deals. Goodbye Goodnight.

    • http://twitter.com/amalthya Laura Darby

      Yea, that was EXACTLY my experience. The Highball was so GOOD to me. I brought my mom there, they made sure we had a karaoke room. They always recognized me and got me a table on non-Tittie Bingo nights. The Goodnight only recognizes my cassssh