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“Lost our party reservation, mishandled entire experience”
Review of The Highball

The Highball
Ranked #648 of 3,850 Restaurants in Austin
Cuisines: American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Bar Scene
Dining options: After-hours
Reviewed 11 August 2012

This is a letter I wrote to management regarding a party reservation last week. It describes our experience in detail. I have since received an apology from the Highball management and promise to have $100 in gift cards sent for future use, but I am still posting this as a cautionary tale:

"I booked my husband's birthday party for Saturday August 4th, for 2 hours of bowling and 1.5 hours of karaoke, starting at 9pm. I made the reservation on July 5th, a month before the party, to ensure availability. I received a confirmation from someone named Dani in reservations, and confirmed with her on Friday August 3rd, as well as asked some questions about the reservation.

When we showed up at the venue at 9pm on August 4th, I went to the reservation desk where a young man checked the reservation book and told me he had nothing in my name for the night. I tried to explain that I made a reservation, confirmed it, etc, etc - he did not seem interested or sympathetic in the least, but said that someone will go get the manager and I need to discuss with her.

I stood at the reservations desk waiting for the manager to come out for over 20 minutes as our guests began to arrive and I had nothing to tell them other than to get a drink at the bar. A couple of times during those 20 minutes I tried again to talk to the guy at the desk, but he told me that there's nothing he can do, that this is all above him, and to just wait for the manager.

When the manager finally arrived, she was very apologetic, but she confirmed what I already suspected; that our reservation had been lost and that there was no availability for bowling at all that night. She mentioned that this is not the first reservation to be misplaced - in fact, not the first one even that night - and that Dani had been "making their lives a living hell". She told me that the best they could do for us was to set us up in dining until a karaoke room opened up at 11pm, and that the management would comp some drinks and not charge us the room fee for karaoke. In the meantime, we were to stand around the bar and wait for our table.

Our group (about 18 of us at this point) milled around the bar for the next half hour. Eventually I asked the guy at the host table when we can expect to be seated, and he said our table was ready and took us over. So, we finally sat down about an hour after we arrived. We were given a long narrow table which is not at all suitable for mingling, but rather for dining, which none of us intended to do. My husband had to essentially walk around the table for an hour to make sure he got to talk to all his guests and thank them for coming.

The service at the table was poor. We had one waitress for the entire table and had to hail her every few minutes. At one point, a martini I ordered arrived in a whiskey glass which had visible smudges on it. I did not see it placed in front of me on the table, and when I asked our server if my drink was still coming, she pointed to the whiskey glass which was about a 1/3rd full, and said that this was it, they just ran out of martini glasses. She looked very exasperated when I seemed uncertain that I should be drinking this, and said "it's the same amount, it's just in a different glass". I had no intention of drinking what was served, but at that point I was not going to argue.

Eventually the manager returned and informed us that she made a mistake and that the karaoke room would actually not be ready until 11:45, not 11 as originally promised. So, to sum up, our group was asked to stand around for an hour, and then sit around a long table in the middle of a crowded dining room for another 2 hours. The alcohol bill for that portion of the night came out to just under $400, of which $100 was comped. So we ended up paying $300 just to stand/sit around for 3 hours waiting to start our party.

The karaoke portion of the night was fine. No drinks were comped this time, and we ended up paying another $300. I must not have heard last call announced, but as I was walking down the stairs on my way out, someone literally grabbed my drink out of my hand (and one from my friend) and told us very rudely that we need to leave right now. We were essentially shoved out the door and the door locked behind us.

So, with everything that happened, our group ended up spending about $600, with the Highball comping about $170 (100 dollars in drinks and $35/h for karaoke room). As we waited for our cabs outside and talked about what happened, we were all completely appalled by not only the initial incompetence of the reservations department, but also by how the situation was ultimately handled."

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Thank elenessa2002
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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27 - 31 of 40 reviews

Reviewed 31 July 2012

I will start by saying that I have been a devotee and a strong advocate of this place since a couple months after they opened. So much to love, right? The early-sixties bowling alley atmosphere was not a facade -- the Highball has a fine kitchen, REAL bartenders, good service, a sweet set of bowling lanes, an (until now) unwavering refusal to splatter the walls with televisions.
I dropped in on a Sunday afternoon, late July, for a cocktail. The ambient music, which had never, ever been a problem previously, was suddenly an aural assault. You know -- the kind of rap that has to pass a certain bar -- no fewer than 5 droppings of the f-bomb per song, hear dat? The kind where harmonic content is totally banished, unless perhaps a pattern, two chords max, repeated totally mechanically to the point where you are pleading for it to stop, akin to Chinese water torture. Aghast, I went to the host stand and inquired, pointing overhead to the loudspeakers, what the hell is that? The lady on duty replied, "Oh, I thought we should mix it up little." After about an hour, my thirst was slaked and I left, but the musical genre never varied. I periodically queried Soundhound to see what in the name of Bejeelzebub the creator of some particular piece could be, and there was one name that came up three times. So, I can only conclude that this was a preset playlist, and that the playlist's master happens to be keen on a particular artiste, intent on cajoling the customers of a unique retro-sixties classic-cocktail updated-diner-menu jewel of an establishment to acquire a taste for a kind of music that spews with rage and hostility. And by the way . . . the NO-TV dictum? The screens over the ends of the bowling lanes were showing live coverage of the Olympics. And not a single customer was exhibiting any interest whatsoever. Well duh, they were bowling.
Here's a clue for the management of the Highball. Thank the creators of the venue's concept for the "screw TV" policy. If the broadcast of the Olympics were on-screen because an employee took it upon themself to satisfy their own desire to follow the 100 meter mixed-backstroke-dogpaddle event, find them and fire them. If the choice of "what the background music programming should be" is no longer what fits with the theme of the venue and has changed to "this is what we the twenty-something employees want to hear," then there is a disconnect in the way the place is being managed. An apalling one in actuality -- sufficient to drive away a core of the customers who have supported this place since it first appeared. I hope someone there is listening.

Thank dj_dyspeptic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 July 2012

One of the best bars I visited in Austin, the Highball features an awesome menu and fantastic cocktails and other bar offerings. The bartender, Gypsy, was particularly welcoming and although extremely busy, took time to get the name of each of her customers and to provide super service. This place has a whole lot goin' on, from music to themed parties to bowling, all in the same joint. The only down side is the fact that parking is a challenge largely due to the co-existence of the Alamo Cinema Drafthouse in the same shopping center. But hey- a cab is good idea when you visit this place because they pour some good drinks and I didn't see anybody leave after having just one...

Thank petrus1966
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 June 2012

Put on your get ready for a surprise shoes, the Highball is a fun place! We went expecting the unusual, having been drawn there by a local poster for a live theatre re-enactment of South Park, the comedy cartoon show. Arriving about 6:30 PM on a weeknight, we were seated right away, but the tables soon filled up. (Happy hour from 5:00– 7:00; over 30 brews on tap, cocktails both standard and trendy.) The décor is 1950’s, “two steps up from a diner”, tuck & roll metal flake upholstery, circular booths. We read about the “vintage bowling’ on the web site, and there it was, an 8-lane, late 1950’s bowling alley – the real thing, with the simple game lights and ball return back up the gutter. (Bowling for 18 and older, “This is a bar, after all”, our server said. $20 per hour per lane up to 6 bowlers; table service. Make a reservation.) We ordered smoked brisket quesadillas, served with avocado slices – every bite excellent. The web site bragged on their fried chicken, so we ordered it, too, but it took a long time (cooked to order). However, as we shared the first plate we played a game of checkers and enjoyed our drinks- free board games available – a nice touch. Since our chicken order was long in coming, we were moved into the entertainment space (100+ seats, small tables & booths) as the play began. The room was full; the play, hilarious. The Highball features a variety of entertainment- call or check the site a night or two before you go. Private Karaoke lounges are available for a modest fee per hour by reservation or on demand. Very close to excellent evening: the food was slow and the service scattered during happy hour. However, the Highball is definitely worth a visit for couples or a party.

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Thank David M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 April 2012

Wow - this place truly has it all - bar, restaurant, bowling, and private karaoke rooms! Drinks were so-so, karakoe rooms could use a little updating, bowling looked very cool.

Great place for a social event.

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Thank Caltex77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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